|South Florida Bulls football|
|Athletic director||Michael Kelly|
|Stadium||Raymond James Stadium|
|Field surface||Grass, Tifway Bermuda 419|
|Past conferences||Independent (1997-2001)|
Big East (2005-2012)
|Bowl record||6–4 (.600)|
|Colors||Green and Gold|
|Fight song||Golden Brahman March|
|Mascot||Rocky D. Bull|
|Marching band||Herd of Thunder|
The South Florida Bulls football team represents the University of South Florida. The Bulls began playing in 1997 and currently compete in the American Athletic Conference (The American) of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) within the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The team plays its home games at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
In 1997, Jim Leavitt, previously the co-defensive coordinator at Kansas State, was hired as the team's first head coach. Their first team meeting was held under a shade tree, as the school had no proper football facilities on campus. In 2001, after competing for four years as a Division I-AA (now Division I FCS) independent, the Bulls moved to Division I-A (now Division I FBS), where they remained independent. They joined Conference USA in 2003, but only stayed until 2005, when they became a member of the Big East Conference (now the American Athletic Conference). On December 31, 2005, USF lost to NC State in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the team's first bowl appearance. On December 23, 2006, USF won its first bowl game, the inaugural Papajohns.com Bowl, with a victory over former Conference USA rival East Carolina. Leavitt led the Bulls to 5 straight bowl games from 2005-2009, earning a 3-2 record.
South Florida upset Top 25-ranked teams such as Louisville (2005),West Virginia (2006, 2007, 2009),Auburn (2007),Kansas (2008) and Florida State (2009). During Leavitt's tenure, the Bulls were 7-12 against opponents ranked in the Top 25.
The 2007 football season marked the first ascent into both the AP Poll and BCS standings for the Bulls. They reached #23 after defeating #17 Auburn 26-23 in OT, #18 after defeating North Carolina 37-10, #6 after defeating #5 West Virginia 21-13, #5 after defeating FAU 35-23, and the team finally peaked at #2 after defeating UCF 64-12. The Bulls' high ranking was short lived, as South Florida lost its next 3 games, and tumbled out of the rankings. The Bulls would rebound and win three straight games to close out the regular season ranked #21 in the BCS standings and #23 in the AP Poll. After a 9-3 season, the Bulls earned a bid to their third straight bowl game, the Brut Sun Bowl against Oregon. The Bulls entered the game as favorites, but surrendered 56 points (a Sun Bowl record) in a blowout loss. Following the loss, USF dropped from the national rankings in both the AP Poll and the USA Today Poll.
Leavitt was fired on January 8, 2010, after an investigation revealed that, during halftime of a game against Louisville, he grabbed a player by the shoulder pads and struck him twice across the face. The investigation also claimed that Leavitt interfered with the investigation by telling several coaches and players to change their stories. Leavitt maintains he never struck the player, but was merely trying to console him, and after a wrongful termination suit against USF, the school eventually settled with Leavitt for $2.75 million.
On January 14, 2010, Skip Holtz, son of legendary coach Lou Holtz, was hired as the team's second head coach, leaving East Carolina At press conference to introduce Holtz to the community on January 15, 2010, someone in the crowd called out, "Beat Florida!", to which Holtz replied, "That's why I'm here!" However, that season the Bulls lost their one, and to this date only, game against the Gators by 24 points.
During his first season, Holtz led the Bulls to the program's first victory over the Miami Hurricanes. Following the regular season, he led the Bulls to 31-26 victory over the Clemson Tigers in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. USF finished with an overall record of 8-5 record, the fifth consecutive season of at least eight wins.
To start the 2011 season, Skip Holtz led the Bulls to a dramatic 23-20 victory against Notre Dame, his alma mater. Unfortunately, the Bulls finished the season with an overall record of 5-7, the team's first losing season since 2004. The team struggled again during the 2012 season, as the Bulls finished with a 3-9 record, which, at the time, was the worst in school history. USF athletics director Doug Woolard fired Holtz at the conclusion of the 2012 season, and Holtz was subsequently hired by Louisiana Tech to be the new head coach.
On December 8, 2012, USF announced the hire of Willie Taggart, who previously served as head football coach at Western Kentucky. Despite having the top rated recruiting class in the American Conference heading into the 2013 season, the Bulls struggled in Taggart's first year, posting a 2-10 record, the worst record in school history
USF once again had the top recruiting class in the American Conference heading into the 2014 season, and the Bulls showed improvement in Taggart's second year, finishing with a 4-8 record.
In Taggart's third season, after having the second best recruiting class in the American Athletic Conference, the Bulls finished with an 8-5 record. After a 1-3 start, with losses to FSU,Maryland, and Memphis, USF won seven of their next eight games, including a 44-23 upset of #22 Temple, a 65-27 victory over Cincinnati, and a 44-3 victory over in-state rival UCF. The Bulls earned a bid to the Miami Beach Bowl against Taggart's former team and alma mater, Western Kentucky, a game USF lost by a score of 45-35. During the bowl game, multiple school records were set, including single season rushing yards (1,381), and 100-yard rushing games (9), by Marlon Mack, and single season receiving yards (822) by Rodney Adams. The same day as the team's bowl game, Taggart received a three-year contract extension.
Before the 2016 season, the Bulls were selected by many media outlets to win the East division of the American, and were projected to play the University of Houston in the American Athletic Conference Football Championship Game. The Bulls ended the 2016 season tied with Temple for 1st place in the East division, but because of a Week 8 loss to the Owls, USF did not play in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game. In a Week 5 game against Cincinnati, Marlon Mack passed Andre Hall to become the leading rusher in program history. Two weeks later, in a Week 7 game against UConn, Mack passed B.J. Daniels to become the program leader in rushing touchdowns. After that game, Coach Taggart was included on the watch list for the Paul "Bear" Bryant Coach of the Year Award, presented annually to the best coach in college football. During their Week 9 game against #22 Navy, the Bulls set a school record for rushing yards in a game, racking up 412 yards in a 52-45 victory. The Bulls broke that record two weeks later in their Week 11 game against Memphis, rushing for 416 yards in a 49-42 victory. Also in that game, the Bulls broke the school record for offensive touchdowns in a season (58). In a Week 12 game against SMU, Quinton Flowers passed Matt Grothe to become the school leader in single-season total offense. The Bulls secured their first 10-win season after a 48-31 victory over UCF in Week 13. During that game, Quinton Flowers set the school record for single season rushing yards (1,425), passing the mark Marlon Mack set in 2015. On November 30, 2016, Quniton Flowers was named the American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year, which is the first such award in school history. On December 7, 2016, Willie Taggart was announced as Oregon's new head coach, a position that was vacant after the firing of Mark Helfrich on November 29, 2016. Led by interim coach T. J. Weist, the Bulls ended their season with a 46-39 OT victory over South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl on December 29, 2016. On January 12, 2017, Quinton Flowers was named the 2017 College Football Performance Awards National Performer of the Year.
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On December 11, 2016, USF announced that former Texas and Louisville head coach Charlie Strong would become the Bulls' new head coach, the fourth in school history. Strong's deal is for five years, which will keep him in Tampa through the 2021 season. Strong was hired, in part, because of his strong professional and recruiting ties to the state of Florida, as he served as an assistant coach at the University of Florida for almost a decade.
Before the 2017 season, the American Athletic Conference Media Poll listed USF as the favorites to win the 2017 American Athletic Conference Championship Game and the unanimous pick to win the East division. On August 3, the Bulls were ranked #21 in the preseason Amway Coaches Poll. On August 19, Quinton Flowers was named to the Manning Award Watch List, making him the first Bull to be named to five preseason watch lists, as he had already been named to watch lists for the Maxwell, Walter Camp Player of the Year, Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award, and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm awards. On August 21, the Bulls were ranked #19 in the preseason AP Poll, which matched the highest preseason ranking in school history (2008). In their Week 1 game against San Jose State, the Bulls set school records for both rushing attempts (74) and total plays (101) in a single game. On September 15, the Bulls earned their first victory over a Big Ten opponent, beating Illinois 47-23. During this game, the Bulls totaled 680 yards of offense, the second-most in program history, and the most against an FBS opponent. During the Bulls' Week 4 game against Temple, Quinton Flowers became the program leader in both rushing touchdowns, passing Marlon Mack, and total touchdowns, passing Marquel Blackwell. Also during this game, the Bulls allowed only 85 yards of total offense, which is a program record against an FBS opponent. With a win in this game, the Bulls extended their winning streak to nine games, a program record. With a 33-3 win over Cincinnati in Week 7, the Bulls extended their streak of 30-plus point games to 23, matching the AP Poll era record (since 1936) set by Oregon from 2011-12. The Bulls extended their winning streak to 11 games, the longest active streak in the country. USF also equaled the best start in program history (6-0), which was previously accomplished in 2007. On October 18, Coach Strong was named on the watch list for the Paul "Bear" Bryant Coach of the Year Award. With a 34-28 win over Tulane in Week 8, the Bulls extended their streak of 30-plus point games to 24, setting the AP Poll era record. This win also gave USF their best start in program history (7-0). On November 2, Quinton Flowers was named a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. During the Bulls' Week 13 game against rival UCF, Quinton Flowers passed Matt Grothe to become the program's all-time leader in total yards. He also set single-game records for both passing yards (503) and total yards (605). After a loss #13 UCF, the Bulls finished the regular season in 2nd place in the East division of the American, and they ended their season with a 38-34 victory over Texas Tech in the Birmingham Bowl, finishing with a record of 10-2.
The Bulls' 2018 recruiting class was ranked second in the American Athletic Conference, behind only Cincinnati. On July 24, the American Athletic Conference Media Poll ranked USF third, behind only Memphis and UCF. The Bulls were also ranked behind only UCF as favorites to win the East Division. On August 2, the Bulls received six votes in the preseason Amway Coaches Poll, which put them just outside the Top 25. During the Bulls' Week 6 game against UMass, RB Jordan Cronkrite rushed for 302 yards, which set both USF and American Athletic Conference records for rushing yards in a game. On October 16, Coach Strong was named to the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award watchlist. After starting the season 7-0, which tied the record for the best start in school history, the Bulls would lose their next five games to end the regular season 7-5. Despite the poor finish to the regular season, the Bulls were selected to play in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl against Marshall. The Bulls would lose the game 38-20, however, wide receiver Randall St. Felix set two records, one for most yards in a USF bowl game, and the other for most yards in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, with 165 receiving yards.
The Bulls struggled in Coach Strong's third year, finishing with a record of 4-8 (2-6 in the American). On December 1st, 2019, Strong was fired two days after a 34-7 loss to UCF, which marked the third straight loss to their in-state rival.
The Bulls have played as both an independent, both in FCS and FBS, and as a member of three conferences.
There have been five head coaches in program history.
|T. J. Weist+||2016||1||1||1-0||1.000||1-0|
+ Interim head coach
South Florida has participated in ten bowl games, with the Bulls garnering a record of 6-4.
|2005||Jim Leavitt||Meineke Car Care Bowl||NC State||L 0-14|
|2006||Jim Leavitt||PapaJohns.com Bowl||East Carolina||W 24-7|
|2007||Jim Leavitt||Brut Sun Bowl||Oregon||L 21-56|
|2008||Jim Leavitt||magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl||Memphis||W 41-14|
|2009||Jim Leavitt||International Bowl||Northern Illinois||W 27-3|
|2010||Skip Holtz||Meineke Car Care Bowl||Clemson||W 31-26|
|2015||Willie Taggart||Miami Beach Bowl||Western Kentucky||L 35-45|
|2016||T. J. Weist+||Birmingham Bowl||South Carolina||W 46-39|
|2017||Charlie Strong||Birmingham Bowl||Texas Tech||W 38-34|
|2018||Charlie Strong||Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl||Marshall||L 20-38|
+ Interim head coach
The Bulls played their home games at Houlihan's Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, during their debut season in 1997, and the first two games of the 1998 season. The Bulls debuted in the Buccaneers' new home, Raymond James Stadium, on October 3, 1998 with a 45-6 win over The Citadel.
From 1998 to 2007, the upper sections were typically not used during USF games, but the lower sections allowed for a capacity of 41,441.
On September 28, 2007, the #18 ranked Bulls played the #5 ranked West Virginia Mountaineers in front of 67,012 fans, which remained the largest USF home game crowd until September 29, 2012, when the Bulls played the FSU Seminoles in front of 69,383 fans.
The Bulls have enjoyed a winning edge at Raymond James, building an 89-44 (.669) record since 1998, including one streak of 21 straight victories (11/6/1999-10/10/2003). The Bulls are 19-2 in home openers played at Raymond James (21-2 overall), with their only losses coming in 2013 at the hands of McNeese State, and 2019 to Wisconsin.
In August 2017, USF officials announced they were exploring sites for an on-campus stadium that would seat 40,000 to 50,000 fans.
Before major conference realignment in the early 2010s, USF had many competitive games with Louisville (5-6 overall record) and West Virginia (3-4 overall record; 3-3 when opponent ranked in Top 25). USF also began a 6-year Thanksgiving weekend series in 2008 with Miami, with the last four games (2010-2013) being televised by one of the ESPN networks. West Virginia left the Big East conference before the 2012 season to join the Big 12, while Louisville left the American Athletic Conference after the 2013 season for the ACC.
The rivalry with in-state opponent UCF began with a matchup in 2005 and has been played annually since 2013. The matchup had been the subject of much discussion and fan enthusiasm since the 1990s, but it was not until 2005 that games were scheduled. The two schools met in a four-year, home-and-away series through 2008. USF won all four games, which drew substantial crowds, but declined to schedule any further games. However, the series resumed as an annual conference game when UCF joined the American in 2013.
USF Football game broadcasts can be heard in the Bay Area on flagship station WWBA 820 AM. Play-by-play man, and the Voice of the Bulls, Jim Louk, is teamed with analyst, and former Tampa Bay Buccaneer, Mark Robinson. In 2017, Joey Johnston, a senior writer for the Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times, joined Louk and Robinson as a sideline reporter.
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USF has played many ranked opponents in their short history, earning several marquee victories.
Announced schedules as of November 18, 2019.
|at Texas||at NC State||at Florida||at Western Kentucky||Louisville||Boise State||Florida Atlantic||Miami (FL)||at Miami (FL)|
|Bethune-Cookman||Florida||at Louisville||Alabama||at Alabama||at Florida||at Alabama||at Boise State|
|Nevada||Florida A&M||UMass||Florida A&M||NC State||at Miami (FL)||at Louisville||Florida A&M|
|at Florida Atlantic||at BYU||Western Kentucky||San Jose State||Bethune-Cookman||at Northern Illinois|