TAMPA — The University of South Florida inducted its fifth class into the USF Athletic Hall of Fame on Friday night and it was quite a group: football’s Marquel Blackwell, baseball’s Chris Heintz, track and field’s Dayana Octavien and men’s basketball coach Bobby Paschal.
It has become a wonderful annual event, a chance for USF to honor the athletes, coaches and administrators who helped to form the school’s athletic history.
More time might need to pass and more perspective could be needed, but two men undoubtedly should have a place in USF’s hall — Paul Griffin and Jim Leavitt.
Some will think that suggestion is opening old wounds. Neither Griffin nor Leavitt had a pleasant departure from USF and many current students probably have no idea about their contributions.
Griffin, USF’s athletic director from 1986-2001, was the biggest driving force behind the establishment of the Bulls’ football program. When others were skeptical or didn’t think it was financially prudent, Griffin methodically put in place the steps to make it happen. USF football, he always thought, wasn’t just a nice addition, it was necessary to keep the athletic program at a high level.
He hired Lee Roy Selmon, the chief fundraiser. He hired Paschal and stood by him in tough times, then was rewarded with two NCAA tournament teams. He hired Ken Eriksen (softball) and Jose Fernandez (women’s basketball), still two of USF’s most successful long-term coaches.
And he hired Leavitt, USF’s football coach from 1995-2009, a force-of-nature workaholic who not only established the program at a lightning-quick rate, he made the Bulls into a national player worthy of major-conference status.
Part of the story: Griffin was forced out in the wake of multiple racial-discrimination lawsuits within the women’s basketball program. Leavitt was fired after an investigation determined that he grabbed a player by the throat, slapped him, then lied about it.
Voting for any Hall of Fame is a difficult task. The criteria can seem like a sliding scale. Here’s one I’ve always liked: Can you write the history of the sport without them?
If you can’t, then they are Hall of Famers.
You can’t write the history of USF athletics without Paul Griffin and Jim Leavitt. They belong.
Not Feeling A Rush
There was much preseason excitement about USF’s defensive line, expected to be the football team’s strongest point. But after four games, the winless Bulls are tied for last in the American Athletic Conference with just three sacks in four games.
“In a lot of these games, we’ve been behind early, they don’t have to throw and we don’t get opportunities,’’ USF coach Willie Taggart said. “We’re close. Just a half-second and we almost had the quarterback. We’re hitting them, just not hitting them quick enough. As we get better as a football team, the sacks will come.’’
“It’s a work in progress,’’ Bulls senior DE Julius Forte said. “Unfortunately, we haven’t gotten the exact results we want yet, but we still have a lot of football to play. We plan on getting everything we look for out of this season.’’
Senior DE Ryne Giddins, who suffered through an injury plagued 2012 season, has two of USF’s sacks, but sophomore DE Aaron Lynch, a transfer from Notre Dame and freshman All-American in 2011, has yet to register his first sack.
For the second straight week, men’s soccer player Kennedy Selorm Adablah was named to the AAC honor roll. He scored USF’s goal in a 1-1 tie against No. 22-ranked Connecticut. …Courtney Draper’s volleyball team (6-9) hosts Rutgers on Friday night at 7 and Connecticut on Sunday at noon. …Practice began this week for men’s and women’s basketball. Both teams will be featured on Oct. 11 during Bulls Hoops Fest at the Sun Dome. The women open Nov. 8 against Maryland and the men tip-off the following night against Tennessee Tech.