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Was new USF football coach Alex Golesh trolling UCF?

He went out of his way to avoid saying the name of the Bulls’ “War on I-4″ rival.
 
USF football coach Alex Golesh seems to be embracing the "War on I-4" rivalry with UCF.
USF football coach Alex Golesh seems to be embracing the "War on I-4" rivalry with UCF. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Dec. 6, 2022|Updated Dec. 6, 2022

TAMPA — If you’re still wondering how new USF football coach Alex Golesh will fit in with the Bulls, consider the three letters he seemingly went out of his way to avoid saying Monday.

U-C-F.

During Golesh’s 20-minute session with reporters, he was asked what he knew about USF before he took the job.

“I coached down the street for a year and saw it from coaching against them,” Golesh said.

Related: Is new USF football coach Alex Golesh the next Jim Leavitt? Or another Jeff Scott?

The school down the street — interstate, technically — is rival UCF, where Golesh spent the 2020 season as Josh Heupel’s co-offensive coordinator. At least some members of USF’s previous staff also called the Knights “the team up the street.

This is visual evidence that Alex Golesh used to work at the team up the street (UCF).
This is visual evidence that Alex Golesh used to work at the team up the street (UCF). [ AP (2020) ]

Golesh tiptoed around UCF again when he was asked about his offense’s speed and schemes.

“We changed a lot from when we went to the previous place to Tennessee,” Golesh said.

Note: He paused two full seconds before saying “the previous place.” Golesh didn’t mind mentioning other previous places by name, like Ames, Iowa (Iowa State), Champaign, Illinois (Illinois), and Toledo.

Being an extremely serious reporter, I asked Golesh as he was leaving whether he had intentionally avoided saying “UCF.”

Silence.

“Go Bulls, baby,” he eventually replied.

Though Heupel doesn’t avoid saying rivals’ names (according to UCF and Tennessee reporters I checked with), Golesh has worked at schools and coaches who do embrace the pettiness.

Related: What if the next USF football coach wins big, then bolts? ‘You made a great hire’

His first college football role was as a student assistant at Ohio State. The Buckeyes famously cross out every M during Michigan week and refer to the Wolverines as “the team up north.”

Golesh’s first full-time jobs were under Tim Beckman, first at Toledo, then at Illinois. When Beckman got the Illini job, he said he had to buy a new orange tie for the occasion. Why? Because when he worked at Toledo, “he had the team burn everything they had that was orange, the color of the Rockets’ main rival, Bowling Green,” ESPN wrote. Beckman called Bowling Green the “team down south,” and vowed to call Illinois’ rival, Northwestern, “the team up north.” He also promised never to wear purple and crossed out a Wildcats logo in the locker room.

Golesh’s next boss, Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, started referring to rival Iowa as “the team out east.”

These types of remarks are common, of course. Florida State coach Mike Norvell doesn’t mention the Gators by name, for example.

But Golesh’s comments (or non-comments) are still noteworthy for his new team and its interstate rival — even if the “War on I-4″ is on hiatus.

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