USF Football Struggles to Attract Student Fans

The USF Football team is 6-1, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking in the stands.

After a massive showing by the students against FSU, the football team has been left with little fan support in the student section. The 11,000 student representatives who made the commute to Raymond James Stadium for the FSU game devolved into a crowd of 2,000 two weeks later for a homecoming week matchup against East Carolina.

“I was extremely disappointed in that game,” Student Bulls Club President Hailey Piana said. “When you ask around, when you put on Facebook ‘Hey, where are y’all at?’ people say ‘Oh, well it’s a noon game, it’s hot.’ It’s all these excuses.”

In fact, Facebook class pages have been rife with arguments revolving around attendance for USF football games. There are many students who feel the football team deserves better attendance, and have been unafraid to let their peers know.

None of it has changed the attendance numbers, however, as the student attendance for the following week tallied 3,000 students.

Longtime fan and USF alumni Collin Sherwin weighed in, saying that the football culture of USF simply fell off following a memorable 2007 season.

“USF was the No. 2 team in the country at the time and it just sort of took off and became part of this campus. What happened from the early part from this decade, forward, was a lot of that enthusiasm for this program just fell off. That’s got to change for USF to get where it wants to go [as a program].”

Cheerleading Alumni Back on the Field

University of South Florida alumni cheerleaders were welcomed back on the field during the homecoming football game against University of Connecticut.

“Homecoming’s really fun,” said Sandy Clarke, the USF All-Girl Cheerleading head coach. “It’s that time of year where everybody kind of comes back.”

As alumni, the former cheerleaders had the opportunity to come back to Raymond James Stadium and cheer among the current USF cheerleaders during the pregame show.

“I definitely miss being on the field though and it was cool getting to be on the field for just pregame,” said Sara Blaylock, former USF cheerleading captain.

Being back on the field wasn’t the only upside to homecoming, however. Some of the alumni cheerleaders were seeing each other for the first time in years. Head coach Clarke remembers how special the reunions were when she was on the team.

“I remember when I was on the team looking at the alumni that would come back to practices and thinking, ‘oh that’s so cool, they’re so genuinely excited to see their old teammates,’” said Clarke.

Blaylock describes the relationships made while on the USF cheerleading team as unforgettable. In fact, Clarke, Blaylock, and Jessica White, another USF cheerleading alumna, said that the friendships were some of their favorite things about being a USF cheerleader.

“They’re just lifelong friendships,” said Clarke. “It’s very fun.”

Clarke mentioned growth as being another one of her favorite things about the program. Since becoming a part of the program in 2002, Clarke has seen it evolve over the years. Blaylock even noticed growth in her four years on the team.

“I think it’s just growing into something really good,” said Blaylock.

The USF football team ended homecoming week with a 42-27 win over UConn. The Bulls will travel to Philadelphia next weekend to face Temple for their fourth conference game.

‘War on I-4’ Gets Official

The USF vs. UCF rivalry game has a new factor. A trophy to be specific. A 4 foot, 160 pound monster of a trophy.

After seven games in the series, three in conference, both schools formally established The War on I-4, a football rivalry as well as a general athletic rivalry that spans all sports that USF and UCF play against each other.

“I think it means a lot (for the rivalry),” said Adam Schemm, the assistant athletic director for marketing. “We don’t necessarily have the biggest rivalry yet, but we think we have a pretty cool and big trophy that can really get the fan bases and the student athletes and the students on campus excited for a great rivalry game every year.”

Junior Matt Neuhausen agreed.

“I think it’s great that we have a trophy now to play for because we see a lot of the big rivalries have trophies that they play for,” Neuhausen said. “So now we have something to kind of highlight our rivalry with UCF.”

The trophy is made of two parts: the base, which will have engraved plates for every game; and the road sign, which extends out of the top of the base, and is easily removed for parading around a football stadium.

The new trophy will be contested for the first time this Saturday at noon at Raymond James Stadium. The winner drives the trophy out on a semi.

 

International Players Represent More Than Just USF

The University of South Florida soccer defenders Estefania Fuentes and Grace Adams are not your typical college athletes, because both play soccer for their countries national soccer team.

Fuentes plays for Mexico’s and Adams represents Ghana’s national soccer team.

“In the national team you are representing a whole country, like everybody is paying attention to you and you need to be focused and know you can have fun, but with responsibility, because it’s not only you or your university,”  Fuentes said. “It’s millions of people on your back.”

Coming from opposite sides of the world, both players are strengthened by their strong religious beliefs, which they believe is the key to their success. Adams says she always prays.

“I talk to my God communicate with him to give me the strength and remind me off everything that I learned in the field that my coaches taught us,” Adams said. “That is what I always do all the time.”

While both athletes continue to have a successful season, they also face challenges within the team.

“The language is a huge difference here at USF,” Fuentes said. “The language comes slower than Spanish so I have to be more focused.”

The language barrier does not intimidate either player. Both defenders strive for a victorious season finale at USF.

USF Women’s Basketball Will Return to NCAA Tournament

The University of South Florida women’s basketball team is returning to the NCAA Tournament after earning a No. 6 seed during this year’s Selection Show on Monday.

The team joined fans at the USF Sun Dome for a selection show watch party. Players had front row seats to the screen, to watch the announcement was broadcasted nationally on ESPN.

“It was nerve-racking to think that you’ll be that next team called,” senior guard Courtney Williams said. “I’m excited that we finally got our name called and the teams that we’re playing.”

This year’s tournament begins for the Bulls in Los Angeles, where they will play a ranked Colorado State team currently on a 28-game winning streak. The winner of that matchup will go on to play either UCLA or Hawaii in the second round.

This group of seniors brings experience to the program’s twelfth post-season tournament appearance in 13 years. Three of the team’s four NCAA Tournament runs happened in the past four years.

“They’re a veteran team,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “They know what’s at stake. Your next game can be your last.”

USF opened the season with a victory over NCAA Tournament team Jacksonville before going on to eventually defeat top 50 rating percentage index teams Chattanooga and Oklahoma State. The Bulls maintained their AP top 25 ranking all season and finished the season with a No. 21 RPI.

The Bulls are scheduled to play Saturday.

Global Medical and Dental Brigades hosts Bubble Soccer Tournament to Fundraise Annual Mission Trip

The Global Medical and Dental Brigades has been a student-run organization at The University of South Florida for many years now. Each year, they plan a fundraising event for their annual medical mission trip and this year was no exception.

In 2015, members were able to raise almost $40,000 and travel Nicaragua together. They hope to reach the same goal this year to get them to Honduras in May.

Although the mission trips last only nine days, their fundraising events begin early in the school year. They collect medical and hygienic supplies to bring with them and they participate in health and safety courses. The members also take part in everyday biomedical science courses to prepare them for assisting at clinics with health officials.

Member and medication chair for the organization, Kristin DeMayo, was proud to play a huge part in planning their first, of hopefully many, Bubble Soccer Tournament.

“It will be a comprehensive public health mission trip while we’re there,” she said.

The trip will include service projects like building sidewalks and outhouses.

At the tournament, teams of four suited up in large, plastic Body Zorb bubble suits to play five minute games against each other.

“[I] bruised some knees but it’s for a great cause,” Sara Galvis, a participant, said.

The Global Medical and Dental Brigades is already thinking of ways to make the tournament bigger and better for next year.

Getting social with the USF brand

Social media has never been more prevalent in college and professional sports than it is today. At the University of South Florida, Mike Farrell is the man behind the computer screen.

“A lot of it is one, developing a voice for our social channels and then two creating content that’s going to engage our fanbase,” Farrell said.

As the Director of Digital Content, Farrell is in charge of churning out vines, tweets, pictures and more across all of USF Athletics’ social media platforms every day.

“One of the things we want to do and want to push is to create stuff that is engaging, stuff that people want to consume, share, retweet and help spread the brand,” Farrell said.

One of the most important days for any athletic department each year is National Signing Day. Student athletes from all over the country officially sign with the school of their choosing. The content created by Farrell and his team made waves on a national level, including an appearance on Yahoo! Sports Dr. Saturday blog.

“This year in particular we had a couple national organizations, blogs, write about some of the things that we did,” Farrell said. “It was a lot of hard work, a lot of people put in a lot, a lot of hours for what’s really just a glorified morning. But I do think that it pays dividends in the end.”

The work Farrell puts in on a daily basis is critical to the growing online presence that is USF Athletics.

“For a large subset of our fans, if you don’t have that presence, you’re irrelevant,” Senior Associate Director of Athletics Andrew Goodrich said.

Even though Farrell is fully focused on the day-to-day task of enhancing USF Athletics’ presence online, he doesn’t lose sight of the big picture.

“When one person leaves, somebody else can come in and there’s no drop,” Farrell said. “That’s the USF brand. That’s the USF Athletics brand. That’s the USF football brand. There’s no change. That needs to be a constant.”

 

 

 

USF Oracle finds way to coexist with the online world

Print is not dying for The Oracle, USF’s independent student-run newspaper. It is evolving.

The paper has reduced their publication days from four times a week to two. Multimedia editor Adam Mathieu said the staff has to remain quick when delivering the news, but he felt relieved to print less frequently.

“We don’t have to worry about having a print product out by 12:30 (a.m.) four days a week,” Mathieu said.

Grace Hoyte, the editor-in-chief during the change, published a letter to the readers in December. In it, she wrote The Oracle “must accept” that readers are turning online for their news.

“The Oracle welcomes students from all majors to contribute,” she added, “and with a greater online presence, we will remain a forum for diverse voices and opinions.”

One of those areas includes social media. The newspaper’s sports section Twitter account conducted a poll in March to survey how their followers received from The Oracle. While print edged out the website option by five percentage points, 61 percent of those who responded said they received information through social media.

“We’re seeing more people comment and more posts shared. Just a very active Facebook account,” Mathieu said. “And then active hits on our website and more people heading to the website.”

While the new schedule reduces the quantity of newspapers circulated each week, Matthieu said the amount printed for each day remains unchanged at 8,000.

Not everyone settled in with the switch when they first found out. Sports editor Jacob Hoag said he liked being able to read the news on a physical copy.

“I wasn’t too happy with it,” Hoag said. “I thought it was going to hurt our production but it really hasn’t. We can do more feature stories in the paper and more hard news online.”

A second home at the Y

Carrollwood, FL- For some people, YMCA is a classic party song and dance, for many others, it’s a place called home.

Officially referred to as, “the Y” now, this nonprofit organization is still a place of comfort. Whether it be an after school program or a late night gym session after a long day at work, it’s a second home for some.

The Y defines themselves as a nonprofit organization like no other, with locations in 10,000 neighborhoods across the country.

In Carrollwood, the Bob Sierra Family YMCA underwent major renovations using money donated entirely by the public and parents of the children who spend their days there.

Through these generous donations, the Top Flight Gymnastics portion of the Y was built.

Inside these four big walls, children ages 2-17 spend time escaping the real world and its problems by entering a safe place with their friends.

Destiny Garcia is one of the many gymnasts at Top Flight. She uses her time there to escape from anything going on outside the gym.

“It means a lot to me because its very encouraging and it helps a lot of us get through many problems that we have,” Garcia said.

With their friends, these future gymnasts work hard. This place is more than a place to go when school lets out, it’s a second home.

“I’m here 24/7 from 3:30 to, I would have to 7 or 8:30, everyday, Monday through Friday including today, it’s a lot of work, it’s like either you commit or you don’t commit,” gymnast Emma Barton said.

The YMCA is committed to making sure kids like Emma will always have a place to call home.

To learn more about the Y, visit: www.ymca.net.

Special Olympics Form Passionate Friendships Personality

The Special Olympics is defined as “A non-profit organization that provides year-round sports training to children and adults, with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

Hillsborough County programs offer 17 sports to over 800 athletes, with the assistance of 75 coaches and over 1,000 volunteers throughout the year. These programs are free to athletes.

The Special Olympics also offers various programs such as Unified Sports, which joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team, and Healthy Athletes, which has become the largest global public health organization dedicated to serving people with intellectual disabilities.

However, for Special Olympics athletes and their families, the importance of the organization goes far beyond athletic training and offered programs.

“My favorite part about Special Olympics is playing different sports, make new friends, demonstrate courage, show friendship, and most importantly, to have fun,” athlete Thomas Shervington said.

Thomas plays basketball, soccer, golf, and softball, and just became a part of the Athletes Leadership Program, where he will help spread awareness on how to get involved with the Special Olympics.

“Him being in the Special Olympics has affected our lives so greatly,” Thomas’s mother, Buffie Shervington said. “He’s not only playing sports, but able to make new friends. My son got to thrive, grow, become confident and do all the things kids do.”

“He’s just a completely different person than he was before the Special Olympics. He’s my inspiration.”

Behind the action at USF Football

The USF football team picked up its third straight win with a 38-14 victory over SMU on Oct. 24th, winning three straight games for the first time since starting 4-0 in 2011. While the team had a strong showing on the field, take a look at a few of the stories on what goes on behind the action on game day at Raymond James Stadium.

Davis shows perseverance pays

Andre Davis, former University of South Florida wide receiver (2011-14), currently holds 13 football program records, including career receptions, single game receptions and career receiving touchdowns.

“I feel like I play a nice little part in USF history, being that I came in to USF and broke a few records.” he said.

As arguably the best receiver in USF program history, the “Freakshow” says it’s “a blessing” to hold these top spots, but more importantly to be a part of USF’s legacy.

“Just being able for players from the future to be able to come in and see my face on plaques is something that you dream of.” he said.

Though the former team captain has graduated and moved on from playing for the Bulls, he’s still active with the current team. He frequently attends practices, attends home games on the sidelines  and mentors current players, hoping to positively impact “future USF history makers.”

“I look at all the players and the younger guys up under me as little brothers. I tell them to be leaders and that even though there may be hard times, you have to fight through them.” he said.

Specifically, Davis mentors current USF safety Nate Godwin, as both classify themselves “Bay Made, Bay Stayed” after growing up in Tampa Bay and staying in the area for college.

“Me and Dre are very close. He just shows me how to handle success and be humble.” Godwin said. “He leads by example. He’s a legend in my books, and he’s a legend in their books. He’s one of the guys I know they’re definitely going to remember.” Godwin said.

When asked about the legacy he left as a Bull, Davis didn’t talk about his records, game-winning touchdowns, or making it in the USF history books.

“It’s more than that.” Davis said. “The legacy that I left here at USF is definitely being a leader, a hard worker, and a guy that persevered through a lot of things. That’s it.”

Since his days as a Bull, Davis had a short stint with the Buffalo Bills, and is currently a NFL free agent.

Student merges motivational message with apparel business

“Progressively Getting Better.”

The term coined by University of South Florida student, Imani Lee, is a social movement that encourages positivity and productivity.

“When I came to USF I decided I wanted to take the term to the next level,” Lee said. “I wanted to start my own company to actually use this message and incorporate it with a medium that everyone could use.

Lee believed apparel would be the perfect way to promote his motivational message. He specifically designed athletic apparel to allow athletes to define themselves, rather than being defined by the brand they’re wearing.

“It’s something unique in terms of not only providing an apparel line for athletes,” Shaquille Kent, a USF student said. “It’s a constant motivation. Whether its sports, whether its school, it’s always something that you’re progressively getting better at.”

Lee said he has plans to partner with businesses such as the YMCA and Alpha House of Tampa in order to host campaigns to spread awareness of the movement.

“We’re going to have basketball tournaments and we’re going to be doing food drives,” Lee said. “A portion of those proceeds that we collect will go to whichever company we’re partnered with.”

Lee said he also has goals of creating motivational workshops, a production crew and a record label.

“When I say progressively getting better I’m talking about now and in the future,” he said. “Me and you — all of us as a whole — we are connected. We do have a global conscious and we should make that consciousness more productive. This is the future.”