TAMPA — More than 500 supporters of the University of South Florida, including business leaders, city officials and alumni gathered at the Marriott Water Street on Thursday afternoon for the first Bulls Kickoff Luncheon.
Emceed by USF graduate and Spectrum Bay News 9 anchor Veronica Cintron, the event was an opportunity for the assembled to hear from new university president Steve Currall, athletic director Michael Kelly and coach Charlie Strong.
Of course, it was raining outside. Through Wednesday nearly three inches of rain was recorded already this month at Tampa International and there has been far more precipitation in other parts of the bay area. It all adds up to inconvenience for the football team.
So, with renderings appearing on two large screens on either side of him, Kelly highlighted the need for an indoor facility for the Bulls to practice and train. He confirmed at the American Conference media days in July that $20 million was committed to the project.
“It’s one thing to do it in the summertime when you don’t have class,” Kelly told the audience of the team having to work around Mother Nature. “We can navigate around that, as inconvenient as it is. But when you get to class time, there is no way to work around that. You lose practice (time). We’re not missing class and you only have so many hours to work with.”
There are only so many days before the 2019 season kicks off. The USF band, cheerleaders and players got everybody into the mood with the August 30 opener against Wisconsin at Raymond James Stadium a mere two weeks away.
Strong introduced his staff with new offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell receiving the loudest applause. The third-year coach spoke about the team’s progress and staff and roster changes that were made in the off-season in the hope of steering the Bulls toward a conference title.
Among those in attendance were mayor Jane Castor, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan and WWE star and philanthropist Thaddeus Bullard.
“When I started working here a year ago we kept talking about how we need to engage more and want to engage more with the Tampa Bay community,” said Kelly, following the event. “Fan Fest (at the Yuengling Center last Saturday) had a record crowd and to have over 500 people at this luncheon today is another great way to engage our program with the Tampa Bay community.”