Under Charlie Strong USF Lost 14 Of Its Last 17 Games Against FBS Opponents

South Florida head coach Charlie Strong was dismissed after three seasons as the Bulls’ coach. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

The downward spiral that was South Florida’s six-game losing streak to close out 2018 gave way to optimistic tones heading into 2019 thanks in very large part to the hiring of offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell.

Through spring practice and fall camp the atmosphere surrounding the Morsani Football Complex was nothing but upbeat.

And then the season began.

It kicked off with a 49-0 loss to visiting Wisconsin and ended with a 34-7 loss at UCF on aptly named Black Friday. The 10 games in between were not much better, which is why USF athletic director Michael Kelly is searching for a new coach after dismissing Charlie Strong on Sunday afternoon.

“I have tremendous respect for Coach Strong and his dedication to recruiting and developing young men of talent and character and leading them with integrity,” Kelly said in a statement. “He has represented USF with dignity and class and we wish Coach and his family the very best.”

In his three seasons with the Bulls, Strong was 21-16. That included a 10-2 mark in his first season of 2017 when record-setting quarterback Quinton Flowers was lighting up opponents on a regular basis. In two seasons since, USF was 11-14. That included a seven-game win streak at the start of 2018.

As for the search concerning the football program’s new leader Kelly said, “We are now engaged in a national search to identify the next head coach of USF football. Be assured that process will be deliberate and will move with necessary speed.”

While injuries certainly played a role in preventing the Bulls (4-8/2-6 American) from establishing much continuity this season, lack of execution by the offense was something that was never corrected.

Lack of disciplined play in the form of numerous false starts and personal fouls, for example, by the most penalized team in the American (flagged 110 times) was a chronic issue all season.

To its credit, and thanks in part to the addition of a few transfers, the defense under coordinator Brian Jean-Mary more often than played solidly.

The offense, though, never came close to resembling the up-tempo pace Bell’s scheme promised. The unit finished last in the conference in total offense (331 yards per game), first downs (16.7) and sacks allowed (45).

Though the team seemed to be a united group in the locker room while backing Strong and the coaching staff as a whole, things did not get better on the field. 

“I fully support the decision to reorient our football program in a new direction,” said university president, Steven Currall, in the statement.

Any direction would be better than one that has yielded 14 losses in the last 17 games against FBS opponents. While that is bad enough, eight were by at least 20 points and that does not include a 38-20 loss to Marshall in last year’s Gasparilla Bowl on the Bulls’ home turf.

Four of USF’s six conference defeats this season were by at least 27 points and in their eight losses the Bulls were outscored by an incredible 266-75.

No wonder it appeared as though fewer than 10,000 fans showed up at Raymond James Stadium for multiple games this season.

No wonder Kelly is searching for a new coach. 

Tom Layberger is also a contributing writer for forbes.com and globalsportmatters.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Tom Layberger has been a sports writer and editor since 1990. Among the companies he has worked for are Beckett Publishing, The Topps Company and Comcast. In addition to being a contributing writer for sportstalkflorida.com, Tom also writes for forbes.com and Tampa Bay Business & Wealth Magazine. A native of the Philadelphia suburbs and a University of South Florida grad, Tom is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation. He resides in Tampa.