TAMPA — The infraction seemed benign enough, a mind-slip that normally may merit a warning instead of sweat-inducing toil. It wasn’t as if Jayden Curry missed a lab or a lecture.
Just a lunch. But it cost the veteran USF safety a “strike” in his program’s new accountability system, not to mention a session of rolls, up-downs and other assorted drills designed for deterrence.
“I learned my lesson,” Curry said.
Say this for the new Bulls football regime: It’s leaving no stone unturned, no study hall unmonitored and no hydration level unchecked. The micromanagement that began under Jeff Scott, who arrived at USF with a bulging three-ring binder that covered every detail of how he wanted his program to operate, seems to have intensified under successor Alex Golesh.
“When I tell you we’re attacking every single thing, we’re reteaching what it is to be a college football player at this level,” said Golesh, whose team has resumed spring practice after a one-week break.
“We’re reteaching what it is to be a student-athlete. We’re reteaching how you wake up, how you come in. Hydration testing every morning, to make sure we’re hydrated. Showing up to meals on time. The accountability factor (of) what my locker looks like, how I treat my teammates, how I respond to questions.”
The objective, naturally, is to foster a championship lifestyle; to convey the philosophy that success is spawned by doing the daily things at an optimal level. Some may perceive it as over-coaching, and the collegiate landscape is littered with young coaches whose obsession with details blemished their big picture.
Among them: Bruce Arians, who used just such an approach in his first head-coaching job at Temple, resulting in a 27-39 record, debilitating migraines and ultimately a pink slip.
“I had no clue what the word ‘delegate’ meant,” Arians told the Tampa Bay Times in 2019. “I was the head coach, offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, fundraiser, recruiting coordinator. You couldn’t sign a player unless I watched him. I was the ultimate micromanager.”
Of course, that was 40 years ago, and Golesh, 38, has the benefit of a far more sprawling group of assistants and support staffers to help monitor players’ daily routines. Moreover, he seems to have a team willing to try anything to pull USF from mediocrity’s undertow.
“I know all our guys here want to be great,” sixth-year left tackle Donovan Jennings said following the Bulls’ initial spring practice. “And giving us the right coaches that can push these guys and make them be great is all we need.”
The push is persistent. Any player who misses a class gets a strike. Miss a training-room appointment? Strike. Tardiness, improper attire and an unsatisfactory hydration level all warrant strikes.
“There’s a total of five strikes, and then once you get to your fifth strike, there’s a meeting with the head coach, your position coach and then the coordinator,” said senior safety Matthew Hill, who has yet to receive a strike. “But leading up to the fifth strike, there’s punishment in the lines of doing rolls and doing up-downs. And each time there’s a strike, it doubles each time.”
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Golesh insists the approach isn’t iron-fisted, just ironclad. A winning culture comes with a clear expectation level that must be enforced daily.
“There’s a standard to every single part of our program,” he said. “That’s from our coaches to our players, to support staff, to academics, nutrition, strength, to every single person that touches our players.
“And it’s really, really black and white. I think as coaches, when you make it gray, you can really muddy it up. There’s a standard. You’re at the standard or you’re not. And once we reach a certain standard, we’ll raise that standard.”
As the strikes diminish, maybe — just maybe — success will be realized.
“We haven’t won here in three years, so how do you battle that? Well, you scrap it, you start from scratch and you hold guys to a certain standard,” Golesh said.
“So there is an energy within our walls, there’s an energy on the football field. There is an energy now, there’s an execution part of it as well. For them to be able to go and execute in football, in life, academically, socially, spiritually — all of it.”
Contact Joey Knight at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls
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