How Kerwin Bell could bring USF’s football center closer to reality

USF's hiring of the iconic former Gators quarterback could generate interest, and donations, for the Bulls program.
A walk-on from Mayo, Kerwin Bell led Florida to consecutive 9-1-1 seasons in the mid-1980s. [Times files]
A walk-on from Mayo, Kerwin Bell led Florida to consecutive 9-1-1 seasons in the mid-1980s. [Times files]
Published January 11

Now that Kerwin Bell officially has been charged with revitalizing USF's beleaguered offense, we've devised a little theory with ramifications potentially transcending toss sweeps and twins formations.

It could be sound logic, or just spit-balling, but here goes:

By hiring the University of Florida Athletics Hall of Famer, Charlie Strong just might have sped up the groundbreaking timetable for the USF Football Center. Yes, before slipping on a headset at USF, Bell could prompt a modest increase in private donations for the Bulls' coveted $40 million facility.

But how? Why would USF loyalists feel obligated to dole out cash for a coach with no previous ties to the school?

Maybe they wouldn't be the only ones doling it out in this case. Maybe the Bull boosters would be joined by some Bull Gators.

Related: Michael Kelly:  Roughly $13 million raised for USF Football Center

Bear in mind, for Gator fans roughly 45 and older, Bell remains a folk hero. Before his inconspicuous arrival as a walk-on quarterback from Mayo (a Big Bend speck on the Florida map), UF had precious little history of which to boast. The Gators' first SEC title had yet to adorn the school's trophy case.

Thrust into starting duty only days before the 1984 opener, all Bell did was nearly knock off reigning national champ Miami in his collegiate debut (a 32-20 loss in Tampa Stadium that was far closer than the score indicated). Then, he proceeded to help transform the fortunes of the SEC's resident under-achiever.

With the 'Throwin' Mayoan' under center, Florida posted consecutive 9-1-1 seasons, winning the program's first SEC title on the field in 1984 (later vacated due to NCAA violations). In '84 alone, the Gators beat Tennessee by 13, Auburn by 21, Georgia by 27 and FSU by 10.

The following year, they beat all those teams (except Georgia) again. Even when the Gators stumbled to 6-5 regular season records in 1986 and '87 (the result of scholarship reductions), Bell still delivered some iconic moments.

None were greater than the '86 home game against then-No. 5 Auburn.

Due to a knee sprain, Bell didn't start the contest, but entered in the second half after the Tigers had built a 17-0 lead. Though clearly not at full strength, he engineered a furious fourth-quarter rally, lumbering into the end zone on a two-point conversion with 36 seconds remaining to cap an 18-17 stunner.

Think that story wouldn't do well on USF's fundraising circuit, in a city rife with prominent (and wealthy) Gator alumni? Maybe, just maybe, some of those boosters would feel obligated to contribute to the program with which Bell is now affiliated. A program located in their back yard, no less.

Just a thought. Time will reveal whether this theory has legs.

Wanna hear our other theory? If Bell kick-starts this offense and beats UCF, that could generate some cash flow also.

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