USF continues to make case to join the Big 12 (w/video)

Athletic director Mark Harlan talks about USF’s five-year strategic plan, part of a Big 12 pitch.
Athletic director Mark Harlan talks about USF’s five-year strategic plan, part of a Big 12 pitch.
Published Aug. 17, 2016

TAMPA — USF has prepared a collection of promotional material, including a four-page "case statement" and a short video, in its effort to land membership in the Big 12.

The material, initially derided on social media for a spelling error, was provided Tuesday following a public-records request from the Tampa Bay Times. It also includes a 23-page, full-color "highlights book," showcasing the bay area and some of the school's most prominent academic and athletic accomplishments.

USF's five-year strategic plan, presented in May by athletic director Mark Harlan to a board of trustees work group, also is included in the package.

School officials, who have maintained a stealth approach in their pursuit of Big 12 membership, declined comment about the material.

Its release came 12 days after the Times first reported that USF sent Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby a two-page letter — dated July 29 and signed by Harlan, school president Dr. Judy Genshaft and Board of Trustees chairman Brian Lamb — indicating why it believes USF would be an ideal expansion candidate.

The case statement highlights an assortment of USF attributes, including the average high school GPA (4.08) of its students, its freshman retention rate (89 percent), research dollars spent ($489 million, most of any current Big 12 school except Texas) and student population (41,938, largest of any current Big 12 school except Texas).

Its third page lists the number of daily flights to Tampa from the city of each current Big 12 university.

Minutes after the materials' release Tuesday afternoon, readers scurried to Twitter to point out a glaring faux pas: the word research misspelled (as "reasearch") in the case statement's second paragraph. The school issued a corrected version shortly thereafter.

The two-minute video includes images of the campus, Tampa skyline, Raymond James Stadium and Busch Gardens. It also features staged action footage of USF athletes, as well as football coach Willie Taggart delivering a pep talk.

The highlights book promotes the bay area, and further hypes USF's scholastic and sports achievements.

Pages 6 and 7 note — among other things — that Tampa is home to the headquarters of a handful of Fortune 500 companies, and boasts the nation's 11th-largest media market (according to Nielsen).

Pages 10 and 11 feature an aerial shot of Raymond James Stadium from the 2007 West Virginia-USF night game (which drew 67,012 fans), and notes that Tampa will host this season's College Football Playoff national title contest.

The ensuing pages are filled with color action photos of prominent Bulls athletes such as two-time NCAA men's tennis tournament quarterfinalist Roberto Cid, 2016 American Athletic Conference women's tennis freshman of the year Ana Roman Dominguez, two-time 1,000-yard rusher Marlon Mack, professional pitcher Jimmy Herget, WNBA first-round draft choice Courtney Williams and All-American triple jumper Matthew O'Neal.

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The Big 12 board of directors unanimously agreed in July to authorize Bowlsby to explore candidates for possible expansion. ESPN reported late last week that Bowlsby will conduct video conferences with at least 18 schools that have expressed interest in joining the 10-team conference. USF reportedly was among those 18.

Contact Joey Knight at Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.