South Florida athletics director Mark Harlan unveiled his five-year strategic plan before the USF Board of Trustees, and part of that plan was the possibility of building an on-campus football stadium.
The Bulls have played in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Raymond James Stadium since their 1997 inception, but moving to a home of their own is a proper consideration for a program of USF’s stature. Rival Central Florida built its own stadium in 2007, and AAC foe Houston followed suit in 2014. Temple is moving forward with plans of its own, too.
And the time is ripe for iron striking, with Willie Taggart leading the Bulls to a second-place finish in the AAC East Division last fall and the program’s first bowl trip since 2010.
“The great thing about this campus is there are multiple (location) opportunities,” Harlan said, via the Tampa Bay Times.
“It’s time to zero in on which opportunity is best for this program. And then lastly, how are we gonna pay for it? Apparently these things aren’t free, so we need to really look into all those things and really decide if there’s an appetite for it.”
That question is a sticky one, as USF’s donor support was $2.5 million in 2014-15 — a third of the typical AAC public school. And the American’s per-school distribution is barely half of what the Big East doled out.
“Simply put, in 2012 and 2013 we had $11.4 million from the conference (Big East) that we were in,” Harlan said. “Today it’s closer to $6.4 (million).”
To make an on-campus stadium feasible (UCF’s Bright House Networks Stadium cost $55 million in 2007 dollars; Houston’s TDECU Stadium cost $128 million), Harlan noted South Florida will need the help of the South Florida business community. ”
We have to challenge our community to support us more profoundly. They’ve been waiting to invest in a winner over the last few years. I think we’ve got one now. We have to get our corporations behind our program, and that’s what we’re setting about doing,” he said.