We’ve heard it more than once from Charlie Strong since he came on board as the USF Bulls’ fourth head football coach in December. “Where are the cameras?” That is code for, “How come the local media doesn’t care about the USF Bulls?”
A Simple Answer
Since Strong opened some of his spring workouts to the media, and not many showed up, some of his focus has shifted from “how do I improve this very good football team?”, to “how do I get fans and local TV and Radio stations to come to the practices?” What a change from his three years in Austin, where Texas football was under a constant microscope.. and those looking through the lens didn’t like what they saw.
Like most problems in life, there is not one simple answer to this one. The most prevalent four are:
- The Tampa Bay area is dominated by pro sports, three in the majors, plus the Storm and the Rowdies, it’s tough to divert attention away from the big boys.
- USF hasn’t had much stability lately.. losing seasons in four of the last six years, different head coaches in three of those last six, playing in three different conferences in the last 14 seasons.. in their defense, though, the Bulls are coming off of an excellent 11-win season.
- Attendance is lagging, empty seats all too obvious on TV, and there has been talk of building an on-campus stadium to move away from Raymond James Stadium.
- I would like to add one more, and that’s their non-conference schedule. The Bulls play Illinois this season and that’s great, but Stony Brook? I had to look it up to find out Stony Brook is in New York. I know scheduling is difficult, but playing Florida State more than 3 times in 20 years and Florida more than once would sure help.
Now, about that concern of “Where are the cameras?”
Let me run this up the flagpole, with my 31 years in local TV sports as a barometer. Local TV management has been telling all of us for years, that no one cares about sports, especially local sports. If there are sports fans out there, they go to ESPN. Those are the findings of focus groups, which management heavily relies on. Well, good luck finding the next story about the USF Bulls on SportsCenter.
With that, local TV sports stations have had their resources slashed, as well as their time on the 6 pm and 11 pm shows. When I left Channel 10, we had 2 full-time staffers as well as an executive sports producer. There were many times when I was working alone, and shooting my own stories, and if that story didn’t happen at a time when I was available to leave the anchor desk for 2-3 hours, that story couldn’t get covered.
Would you agree with the statement that people in the Tampa Bay market don’t care about sports?
And if so, does that make Tampa and St. Petersburg lousy sports towns? If so, Charlie Strong is in for a rude awakening. It does help to be a winner, and the USF Bulls are winning again. They have an exciting team. Season ticket sales are trending upward.
There is a question in the newsroom, that is asked every day when discussing what news stories get covered, “Is it trending on Facebook?”
Perhaps there’s a job for the USF digital department… getting Charlie Strong more active on Facebook. Forget about touchdowns and wins... it’s all about Facebook.