Saturday, October 21, 2023

Not The Homecoming I Expected

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

My first and last Homecoming I attended at Raymond James Stadium was when the USF Bulls defeated the Cincinnati Bearcats and I was covering this game for the Detroit Monitor.

The Head Coach for USF was Jim Leavitt, who was the first one in the history of the program. Leavitt piloted the program from its inception in 1997 until 2009, compiling a record of 95-57.

After the game, I approached Leavitt for a one-on-one interview by introducing myself to him. He was hesitant for the moment and I told him that I want to promote MY ALMA-MATER in MY HOMETOWN,  of Detroit, MI. You had two intense individuals and I had the most intense eye contact that you could have with anybody. Leavitt did agree to do the interview and we left as friends and exchanged hugs.

The best part of having an alma-mater is it’s a place that you choose and I’m proud of the fact that I got my undergraduate BA Degree in Communication in 1986.

USF will always have a special place in my heart and when I return to campus, I try to update some of my clothing and wear them when I can.

On Saturday, October 14, at Raymond James Stadium, it was neat approaching the stadium. 

There was a different feeling as I saw lots of people wearing the green and gold colors.

I really felt like I was back home and saw my former colleague, Joey Johnston, who does broadcasting for the Bulls as I entered the press box. We took a quick photo together. Next on the photo list was the Director of Communications Brian Siegriest. Brian put the South Florida Tribune on the Media Distribution list when we just started the publication. I really appreciated his faith in me that I was going to build something special and I wanted my alma-mater involved.

On this day, Jim Leavitt wasn’t in the building. He’s the defensive coordinator for SMU, but did have a one-year stint at FAU in 2020 in that same role.

The opponent for homecoming was, you guessed it, The Florida Atlantic Owls. With Central Florida leaving for the Big 12, FAU figures to be the new instate rival for USF and this is the Owls first year in the American Athletic Conference.

Going into the game, USF led the all-time series 3-1. The last time these two schools met was in 2013, and FAU defeated the Bulls 28-10 in Raymond James Stadium.

When I saw there would be no conflict with the Miami Hurricanes, there was no way I was going to miss this contest. 

While USF is my alma-mater, I also have a deep connection to FAU since I’ve been covering the Owls since 2007 when program founder and father figure Howard Schnellenberger was roaming the sidelines. My relationship with Schnellenberger was truly incredible going back to our days working together in 1982-83.

During the week, I was open on Social Media that there was no way I was going to lose this game.

This season, I’ve developed an excellent working relationship with FAU Football Coach Tom Herman. The ice breaker was he really liked my “Motor City Mad Mouth” Hat and I’m currently in the process of getting him one.

During the video enclosed in this story, you’re going to see how much fun we have when we talk and during the post-game Media Availability, we took a photo together.

As for the game itself, FAU led USF 21-14 at halftime. 

FAU QB Daniel Richardson had an outstanding afternoon by completing 31/38 passes for 382 yards, had three touchdowns and one interception. Richardson used his legs on one play by rushing for 22 yards.

Running back Larry McCammon had 18 carries for 75 yards and a touchdown while wide receiver Tony Johnson had eight receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown.

I’m not going to get into any major game details. Instead, we’ll enclose the final stats off of stat cast to list all of the details of what turned out to be a 56-14 rout of the Bulls, who dropped to 3-4.

Prior to the FAU game, USF traveled to UAB and the Blazers defeated the Bulls 56-35 in Alabama.

When I asked Herman off camera if the UAB game was a good way to scout the Bulls, he said a little, but pointed out that he’s more interested in gauging his teams’ progress all-season against every opponent.

The one thing that both homecoming games at USF had in common was the flamboyant exchanges with two coaches that were very enlightening and enjoyable.

When you compare the two football programs, FAU has an on campus stadium while USF will finally get one in 2026. I’m looking forward seeing this.

When I was attending classes at USF, our homecoming was at Men’s Basketball Games at the Sun Dome. How things have changed. 

But now that these two schools are in the same conference, I look forward to seeing them compete more often. I do remember a time when Kevin Cooney was the head coach of FAU’s Baseball team and I covered a game vs FAU, and we had a good time talking about my mixed allegiances.

The once common denominator is that when I do attend games featuring USF vs FAU, I wear neutral colors. That’s the way it has to be.

As for what’s ahead, USF travels to Connecticut and faces the Huskies at 3:30 PM ET looking to snap a two-game losing streak.

Meanwhile, FAU has a two-game winning streak and hosts the University of Texas San Antonio Road Runners (3-3) at 6 PM. FAU is 3-3 and the Owls are looking to increase their winning streak to three games.

But as the title of this story says, “Not The Homecoming I Expected” means I didn’t expect a rout of this magnitude but it was real special being back in on of my home town covering my alma-mater. This was a memorable day as I look at the entire experience, beyond the score.

I have to admit, that since I live in South Florida, I would have gone after my masters degree at FAU since the school has grown immensely if I was 10-15 years younger. 

But, my Niece Bria Morganroth is on the verge of getting her degree with the Owls.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at southfloridatribune@gmail.com and you can find him on Twitter @TribuneSouth. Also, if you want to see his broadcasts, then Subscribe to The South Florida Tribune You Tube Channel at no cost.



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