St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker thinks it would be a splendid idea if USF would start bringing some of its higher-profile sports — read: basketball, baseball and even football — to his side of Tampa Bay. “It would be good for the city and good for more regional support of USF,” reasons Hizzoner.
Actually, there’s precedent for such. As recently as 2000, the USF men’s basketball team played Morgan State at the Trop, and the following year USF hosted the Conference USA baseball championship at Florida Power Park. And this season the USF men’s basketball team will play Bethune-Cookman College in Lakeland.
“It’s an opportunity to be around another campus,” explains USF Sports Information Director John Gerdes.
But no one, of course, is confusing a USF-BCC game with a big-time, big-crowd-generating event. Those are rare enough in Tampa and aren’t likely to be exported to a satellite or even a regional campus. And that probably goes for the fast-growth, downtown-catalyst that is USF-St. Pete, which could be home to 10,000 students — a number living in dorms — within a decade.
According to Gerdes, USF isn’t flat-out precluding playing some meaningful games in St. Pete. “We would entertain that possibility in the future,” he says. “Nothing is presently scheduled, but we would look at any opportunity.”
They should. St. Pete isn’t Lakeland, and the Trop, which has already accommodated a Final Four, isn’t the relatively undersized Sun Dome. Plus this area should be using all the means at its disposal to build regional bridges across the bay. And few entities, frankly, are better positioned than USF to play a pivotal role.
And as for football?
“Raymond James is an ideal home for us,” underscores Gerdes, who agreed with a columnist’s assessment that a football scenario sounded “feasible but highly unlikely.”