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Big 12 Expansion Q&A: The Case for South Florida

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Jon talks with his esteemed peer at SB Nation's USF blog about South Florida's credentials.

Can we really abide another green and gold team in the Big 12?
Can we really abide another green and gold team in the Big 12?
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Awhile back, SB Nation suffered a loss when the editors of the network's original South Florida blog, the late and lamented Voodoo Five, decamped for other pastures. But earlier this year, they came back under a new name: The Daily Stampede. So a hearty welcome to today's guest, the former and now current managing editor of TDS Collin Sherwin (@USFCollin), who was kind enough to answer our burning questions about just what exactly South Florida would bring to the Big 12. And since Collin was the first to respond to our cattle call, he gets to go first. ENTHUSIASM HAS BENEFITS.

Jon: First off, on a scale of 1-10, how badly does the fanbase want the Big 12 to extend an invite?

Collin: About an 84. We are very cognizant of the fact there’s a ceiling on where we can go as a program (and possibly as a university) until we get on the other side of that P5 wall. Especially since we were there previously, and we know how it changes things in terms of perception, revenue, and #brand.

One public-facing USF staffer told me a few months ago that the change from BCS to non-BCS affected what he did and how he did his job every single day. It cannot be overstated: USF MUST find a way to scale this wall, and will be sitting in Purgatory until they do. There’s no glass half-full bullshit about our current plight here on the ground: we know this is a necessity.

Jon: How about the administration? Any sense of their enthusiasm beyond the obvious financial benefits?

Collin: Judy Genshaft has been our President for 16 years, was a key figure for our admission to the Big East… but also deserves some culpability for our G5 status. She and her hand-picked athletic director Doug Woolard (who unquestionably ran USF into the ground on most levels) backed John Marinatto, which is the conference commissioner equivalent of going all-in on Ron Prince.

Genshaft is in the "create your legacy" portion of her tenure. Getting the medical school moved into some of the best facilities in the world in Downtown Tampa, admission (or at least getting really-super-close) to the AAU, and getting back in the P5 or its future equivalent I’m sure would all be openly stated goals of hers if you asked after a few Pinot Grigio’s.

Jon: We'll get to the things which the suits will focus on -- money, academics, and success -- in a minute. What wacky benefits which the administrations don't care about at all would South Florida bring to the Big 12?

Collin: Tampa has the #2 airport in the country, which is fantastic for cheap flights and easy travel. It’s right in the middle of our business district. When you land, turn right and you’re on the bay heading towards the Gulf of Mexico and some of the best beaches on planet earth, or turn left & you’re in one of the great growth cities of America. It’s pretty awesome.

We’re also the #2 beer city in the country. We’ve got absolutely kick-ass breweries on what seems like every corner. The culture of the city has really embraced it, and weirdly it’s also helped jump-start us as a foodie town that’s winning James Beard awards. You can come here every other year with football for decades and never hit the same place twice.

Jon: If USF joined, who do you think they'd quickly form rivalries with? What Big 12 cities are you most excited about potentially visiting?

Collin: Well, since I almost got my ass kicked just for wearing a USF jacket in the parking lot in Morgantown after we beat them at their place in 2006… fuck those hillbillly couchburners. I was on staff with USF Athletics at this point, so I couldn’t even fight back, and I am not Mr. Fight Guy. And since I live in Florida and it was the only cold-weather gear I owned, I wore it out that night to the bars with a friend who was a USF grad and lived there, and she literally had to stop people from giving me shit and yell at a bartender she knew to serve me a drink because he wouldn’t.

They used to put their students in the upper deck in a cage, and I don’t know if they still do it, but man was that appropriate. We really started to hate WVU in the Big East. Playing those bastards every year wouldn’t suck.

Jon: Why do WE want to come visit South Florida? What's great about Tampa? What's your fanbase REALLY like (warts and all)?

Collin: I live a block from the world’s greatest steakhouse with the world’s largest working wine cellar, four blocks from the world’s longest contiguous sidewalk that doubles as a running and bike trail in our downtown area, and 30 minutes from the best beaches in America. I own double-digit numbers of flip-flops, and three pair of dress shoes. I wear shorts 300+ days a year. I can play golf literally any day I want. And I already mentioned the food and the beer.

Other than that, can’t think of anything.

To be fair, our fanbase is fickle. We were drawing over 50k for even moderately #brand schools like Kansas when we beat Tood Reesing on a field goal at the gun in ‘09. From ‘07-’10, we showed that we CAN draw, and that there is a base of support for this program.

Then we fired Jim Leavitt, hired the worst recruiter in the history of the sport in Skip Holtz, had an administration that actively failed the program on all levels and alienated a lot of that support, and got thrown out of the BCS.

That whole thing about "tis better to have loved and lost" applies here. We loved, and then we lost… and then when there’s no way to get back to where you were, it’s really hard to reclaim. At this point, I’d describe the USF fanbase as like a cicada just waiting the right time to reawaken.

But we will sell out 67k for FSU (and yes it’ll be mostly USF fans), and I think we’ll easily put in 40-50k for big games late in the year if we’re competing for a conference championship. 2015 got a lot of people bought back in, and season ticket sales are up massively so far.

Jon: And now, the big one. Pretend we're the Big 12 Board of Directors. Why should we invite USF as opposed to anyone else? SELL US.

Collin: I went in hard on this last year, so I’d point you to it. But the short version is:

  1. Recruiting. We’ve got athletes coming out of our ears down here. Good high school games down here look a lot like college football. It’s insane, and you can get some of them to leave.
  2. TV’s. We’ve got a ton of them (11th biggest market in America), and our major cable providers in Bright House and Frontier will be happy to carry a Big XII Network.
  3. People are leaving your part of the country and moving here. Demographics are shifting South. Come to where the money and people are.
  4. If your development officers can’t convince people living in Kansas in November that a trip to Florida for a few days with a game mixed in might be a good idea, fire your development people.
  5. We have been competitive before, and we will be again. We’ve shown that you can do it here when the door behind the P5 wall is open.
  6. We’ll be happy to defer our share of revenue sharing for, oh I don’t know, a few millenia or so if you add us.

And there you have it. South Florida has made its case. What do you think, Wildcat Nation? Later today, JT will tell you why this is a bad idea; tomorrow, we'll dive into a candidacy which has suddenly gotten very serious, very quickly: Memphis.