Whatever else happens – or doesn’t happen this football season – the University of South Florida will always have that magical weekend.
That Friday when USF beat West Virginia, the nation’s fifth-ranked team, under a luminous Bull moon in front of a national TV audience and 67,018 live ones at sold-out Raymond James Stadium. That Sunday when the AP poll validated it all by ranking USF 6th in the country.
Win a game for the ages, and you come of age nationally. This was the big time.
For all of us who have endured that geographically-challenged name, that singularly unfair “commuter school” put-down and that Gainesville/Tallahassee primacy, this was especially sweet. Enough of the growth-pain rites of passage and redress rehearsals.
This was the SunTrust Financial Center illuminating its roofline in green and gold and Region’s Bank spelling out “USF” in lights. And the cities of Tampa and Temple Terrace declaring official USF Days.
This was students camping out for tickets. This was the thunderous running of the Deci-Bulls. This was a celebratory, game-ending, undergraduate mosh pit on Ray-Jay’s Bermuda grass. This was the rationale for collapsible goal posts. This was tailgating until 1:00 a.m. This was experiencing what Bear Bryant meant when he said it was awfully hard to “rally around the math department.” This was VCR-thanking, replay-savoring, good stuff.
This was worth the wait.
This was also one of those occasions when even opposing mayors got into it. Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and Morgantown Mayor Ron Justice made one of those friendly municipal wagers. Not unlike the one between Iorio and her Calgary counterpart before the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004. The USF-WVU game was that eventful.
As it turned out, Mayor Justice didn’t have to part with any private stock moonshine or Jerry West memorabilia. Only had to wear Bulls’ green and gold to work. Lucky for him, it wasn’t one of those “Beat WVU