(via USF Communications)
I hope you are keeping your horns up as we all continue to move forward, make adjustments and do our best to take care of ourselves, our families, our neighbors and our communities during this very unique and challenging time. We keep you and your families in our thoughts and hope you are staying safe and healthy. We are thankful for your continued support, particularly those who made gifts during the recent Uplift the Bulls campaign and the many of you who have renewed or purchased season tickets and made investments of your time and treasure to the success of our programs.
I wanted to provide an update on USF Athletics now that we are approximately six months into dealing with the current pandemic and address some of its repercussions on collegiate athletics and USF specifically.
USF students were welcomed back to campus on Monday, with many starting in-person classes and many classes also being moved online. We have had nearly 200 of our fall and winter sports student-athletes training on campus for the past month and football began on-campus training in June. Working closely with USF Health, our excellent sports medicine professionals and campus, our Infection Response Team has put in place testing, protocols and facility maintenance procedures to keep our student-athletes as safe as possible while they pursue the opportunity to train and compete. I am proud of the work they have done.
On Tuesday, the American Athletic Conference announced its decision to postpone all soccer and volleyball competitions and conference championships in those sports until the spring of 2021, which is in alignment with the recent NCAA decision to move NCAA Championships in those sports to the spring. This news was difficult and disappointing to our many student-athletes and coaches who were preparing mentally and physically to compete this fall and were excited for that opportunity. My heart aches for them. However, I know our Bulls are resilient. They will adjust their focus; continue to train and study on campus; grow as a team and prepare for the challenge of competing for championships in the spring. Due to the uncertainty around competition in 2020-21, the NCAA has approved a blanket waiver granting all fall sports student-athletes an additional year of eligibility after this season.
A decision has yet to be made in regards to competition in cross country this fall, and we continue to collect and evaluate information both as a conference and nationally in regards to beginning competition in men’s and women’s basketball, which typically tips off in early November. I do anticipate we will have the majority of our student-athletes on campus through the fall. They will continue to pursue academic excellence with the support of our staff, as well as train and develop with their coaches in preparation for competing at a very high level when that opportunity arises.
Our football team continues to practice and prepare under head coach Jeff Scott to play this fall. The American is aligned with the ACC, Big 12 and SEC as well as the Sun Belt, Conference USA and Notre Dame in moving forward to play this fall. The Bulls conducted two high energy and very competitive weeks of fall camp, which began on Aug. 7, and are now beginning game preparations with just over two weeks until the kickoff of the 2020 season.
We were thrilled to announce recently the addition of a three-game series starting this season with Notre Dame, one of the marquee programs in collegiate athletics. Coach Scott and I were very excited to add a trip to South Bend on Sept. 19 of this season and two future dates, including a game at Raymond James Stadium, to a lineup of nonconference opponents coming to Tampa that includes Florida, Alabama, Louisville, Miami and several more.
We were also excited to secure a home game vs. The Citadel on Sept. 12, which will mark the debut for Coach Scott as he leads our Bulls program. The addition of those two games, replacing the loss of Texas, Nevada and Bethune-Cookman from our original 2020 schedule, gives us 11 games for the 2020 season. We will also travel to FAU for a previously scheduled game on Sept. 26 before beginning our originally scheduled eight-game conference slate at Cincinnati on Oct. 3.
In the interest of providing the safest and best experience for our fans, we have made the decision to not have fans at the first home game on Sept. 12, but we do plan to welcome fans to our remaining four home games of the 2020 season – Oct. 10 vs. ECU, Oct. 23 vs. Tulsa, Nov. 21 vs. Navy and the War on I-4 vs. UCF on Nov. 27 – if state and local officials deem it appropriate for us to do so at that time. The number of fans we will be able to welcome to Raymond James Stadium this fall and the measures put in place to provide a safe and enjoyable experience will be communicated soon. A reminder that all USF home football games will be broadcast as part of our new American Athletic Conference rights agreement with ESPN as well as on our Bulls Unlimited digital radio network and on our flagship radio station 95.3 WDAE.
We understand the challenges football game attendance may present this season and that this is not the home season many envisioned when they renewed or purchased new season tickets. With that in mind and with great appreciation for the continued, and in many instances long-term, support of our season ticket members, we will be providing options for the deferment or return off all football season ticket dollars for the 2020 season. We are hopeful many of you will choose to defer your 2020 season ticket purchase to the 2021 season, when we are excited to take on the Florida Gators in Raymond James Stadium.
Information and options for season ticket members will be coming to you in the next day. We will be prioritizing season ticket members based on Bulls Club priority when we make single-game tickets available for the four home games we anticipate fans being able to attend, beginning with our Oct. 10 contest vs. ECU.
Thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to work through the many challenges to provide opportunities for our student-athletes and coaches to compete as well as create a safe, comfortable and exciting environment for our fans to cheer us on.
Vice President of Athletics