Changes on the Horizon for USF Football

The last two USF football seasons have been somewhat of a rollercoaster ride, both in an emotional and logistical sense. The Bulls and their fans have experienced utter jubilation because of wins over Auburn and West Virginia in 2007 that put the program in the national spotlight for the first time in its short history. They have also have endured the other end, losing five out of their last seven games after posting a flawless 5-0 record in 2008 – a season that was supposed to top the previous year’s early success that characterized not only progress, but promise for the future.

Although the 2009 season is still months away, it already possesses the feel that it might not be so different from the past.  Even now, it has already run the full range of emotions that Bulls fans know so well.

On one hand, National Signing Day two weeks ago brought in the most highly recruited and talented group of high-school prospects set to suit up and take the field donning green and gold. After a pair of disappointing years, USF’s coaching staff, its fans and the players themselves feel optimistic that the added depth will help overcome the team’s recent shortcomings.

The new class of recruits should eliminate most doubt regarding the Bulls’ skill level, but incidents during the past week moved the focus away from players and onto the coaching staff. Due to a series of recent career-advancement opportunities, head-coach Jim Leavitt is now forced to install a new style of recruiting that extends beyond those on the field. In the upcoming months, he will be looking for talent off of it, as associate head-coach and defensive coordinator Wally Burnham, along with offensive coordinator Greg Gregory and defensive backs coach Troy Douglas, departed from campus to seek employment at three other universities.

On Feb. 17, the university announced Burnham had left USF after taking the defensive coordinator position at Iowa State where he will coach alongside his youngest son. Under Burnham’s guidance, USF has ranked in the top-30 in total defense in six of the last seven seasons, including a No. 10 ranking in 2008. Burnham completed his ninth season with USF this past year and spent eight of those as defensive coordinator before being promoted to associate head coach prior to the 2007 season.

Prior to Burnham’s acceptance of the Iowa State coaching vacancy, offensive coordinator Greg Gregory left USF to pursue the same position at South Alabama. According to USF’s official athletics Web site,, no considerations have been made just yet, but changes to the offensive coaching staff will come at a later date.

Defensive backs coach Troy Douglas has also followed the lead of his fellow co-workers, as he has taken over the same position at the University of North Carolina. Douglas’ departure after three years with the Bulls was the third USF assistant coach to assume a position at a different school in less than a week.

Amidst the absence of coordinators and coaches roaming the sidelines on Saturdays, current University of Nebraska linebackers coach Mike Ekeler is the front-runner for the defensive coordinator position. Ekeler, who served as a player under Jim Leavitt at Kansas State from 1991-1994, interviewed this past Saturday for the job. Ekeler, prior to his stint with the Cornhuskers, has previously coached some of the nation’s top defenses in the past six years at Oklahoma and LSU. USF is also considering University of Cincinnati defensive coordinator Joe Tresey for the opening.

It is imperative that Leavitt works quickly, as all three of the coaching gaps have yet to be filled just three weeks before spring practices start. Moreover, the newly-hired coaches will be essential pieces to the Bulls’ success this year, as the team’s schedule is one of the most impressive in the program’s history. USF will face traditional conference foes in Louisville, West Virginia and Cincinnati – three teams in which the Bulls have collectively struggled against over the past few years. The non-conference schedule is no piece of cake either, as USF will travel on the road to face Florida State before hosting another in-state rival, the Miami Hurricanes, over the Thanksgiving weekend at Raymond James Stadium.


Alone Awareness

There are probably more of us who do not lead the ultra-social lifestyle that involves constant party-hopping and exceeding texting limits three times over. I’d like to think that reassurance of one’s self does not have to involve trying to meet the needs of acceptance through being a socialite – and I’m not saying that socialites get assurance this way. Although, I have met some of those people.

I’ve noticed a Jeep theory exists with people who drive Jeeps. A slight honk or wave to each other on the roads because they share the common “Jeep” bond. I found this out because my dad once had a Jeep and when we drove around, people would honk and wave all the time. What a concept, right?

From the Jeep theory, I found that people who are alone and go places scope out other people who are alone at the same places. Call me weird but I often go to the movies by my self on weekdays because the movie theater I go to sells tickets for $4 from Monday through Thursday.

In those times when I sit alone in a theater and look at all of the friends, couples and family members sitting with one another, I happen to notice that I am not the only person sitting alone. Actually, there are usually more people sitting alone than with someone else.

The part that makes me smile inside is that these loners are probably just like me – they are comfortable being alone. I’m not patting my self or anyone else on the back but I do think that I am a part of this sub-culture who feels ultra-fitting in their own skin. Going out solo feels freeing and the act has nothing to do with being lonely.

Some people look at me in shock and say, “I could never go to the movies by my self. That’s just weird.” I ask, “Why?” They say, “Because how can you go without someone?” I say, “It’s easy.”

College is a busy time for friends. Schedules vary which complicates weekday and weekend plans. If your friend has x amount of homework to do and you want to go eat at Chipotle Grill, do not hold back from going because your friend can’t. Remember this: Do not wait around to enjoy your life because you are relying on other people to do it with you.

While I do not recommend wasting away alone at a bar, I advise you to go places alone. Everyone needs companionship just as much as they need their own time. Walk through a museum, go see a movie, drink coffee at a café, read books at a bookstore, walk through the mall, take a bike ride, get a manicure or pedicure – and do it all alone.

If you are a part of the solo sub-culture, then I’m giving you my hand wave and horn honk. If you are an out-group member, try it out. It makes you appreciate your friends more and it’s quite liberating.

The Reviewer: “Coraline” in 3D

Modernity does not exist without its past. Like only the best animated features, “Coraline” masks the sage wisdom you’d expect from a classic novel by delivering an aesthetic feast for the eyes. Experimental colors, shapes and sounds serenade your visual attention as you surprise yourself in realizing the message of the film shines just as bright.

While the creators of “Coraline” relied on state of the art technology to deliver a 3-D performance unrivaled, the movie’s message was age old. The story follows a young girl isolated from friends by a new move, allowing loneliness to take her as its prey. With parents that don’t care, and nothing to occupy her insatiable imagination, Coraline resents her life as she knows it, just in time to find an alternate universe exists.

The film was pure aesthetic bliss. Oh, the colors! Bright purples you’d long forgotten, the blues and greens that you’d find deep in a rainforest make their way to the screen. You journey with the art direction of the film and think to yourself, I don’t ever want this to end. The beauty of the film, aesthetic and otherwise, comes in the seamless transition from the “real” world to the “other” world. The other world, complete with Coraline’s “Other Mother” drastically improves every aspect of Coraline’s mediocre life; drab walls turn to palace paintings, funky dinners turn to delightful feasts. It’s everything she’s dreamed of, or is it?

I think the preview of the film gave too much away, upon even my first viewing of the trailer I’d thought I’d seen to much, wishing I could have come into the film with innocent eyes. I will give no more away except to say that Coraline the character exists as a courageous soul and learns one of life’s most important lessons – know what you have and love it before you lose it.

Local Music scene

USF St. Pete students have a variety of musical entertainment very close to campus with Janus Landing on 1st Ave. North and State Theatre on Central Ave. Here are a few upcoming shows that students may be interested in attending:
Less Than Jake is a band out of Gainsville, FL that will be playing Janus Landing on March 10 at 6 p.m. with special guests The Expendables. Less than Jake includes guitars, base, saxophones, drums, and trombones. Their sound is reminsicient of the ska punk genre, especially the song “Does the Lion City Still Roar,” which reminds me a lot of Fishbone. Tickets are $20 day of show.
The Kottonmouth Kings are playing Janus Landing March 27 at 6:30 p.m. with an array of opening acts including Big B & Dirtball and Blaze Ya Dead Homie. The Kottonmouth Kings, from California, provide a blend of hip hop and rap rock. Their songs are lyrically very fluid and the beats are easy to feel, but the songs center mostly around marijuana and crude bodily functions. Tickets are $24 day of show.
Tricky will be playing State Theatre on March 7 at 8 p.m. Tricky is a performer that falls mostly into the genre of trip hop with dark and layered lyrics and sounds. Tricky has collaborated with artists like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bjork, Tool and Alanis Morissette. Tickets are $22.
The North Mississippi Allstars, one of my personal favorites, will be playing State Theatre March 28 at 7:30. This band is from Hernando, Mississippi, which is just a stone’s throw away from my hometown in Tennessee. A culturally diverse band, they combine blues, country and rock. Some of the members have played with The Black Crowes and the band often tours with blues musician John Haitt. The North Mississippi Allstars have been nominated for multiple Grammys. Tickets are $21.
You can visit all of these bands on the web and sample their music.

Top 21 Books List by BBC

In 2003 the BBC broadcasted a series called “The Big Read” where viewers voted for the 100 greatest books of all time. Most of the books sound familiar as many of them seem to be required reading in school or have had successful movies based off of them. The top 21 contains many famous and award-winning books. Thanks to the UK’s Royal National Institute for the Blind and National Library for the Blind, this top 21 list can all be found in Braille or audio book.
1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell

I have personally read 12 of these books. Even though the list and the votes were determined in the UK, the books in the top 21 represent some of the greatest literary works in history. Over time, books have been the advocates of social change and often the explanations of societal behavior. Many of these books, even though fiction, can give us a excellent idea of what life was like during the times in which they were written. How many have you read?

Islands of Adventure

Many Floridians forget what types of fun and excitement can be found in their own back yard. During these tough economic times, it is hard to financially plan for vacations to spots like the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls.
However, the diversity in Florida makes it easy for us to get away for a weekend, fairly inexpensively, and experience something terrific without having to break the bank.
Orlando is a hot destination for tourists and locals a like. With Disney and Universal, the action can be endless. Orlando also boasts International Drive, a tourist haven filled with go-carts, Ripley’s and a multitude of restaurants.
Islands of Adventure is a cartoon and comic theme park that is the newest part of the Universal Studios extravaganza. The best ride, in my opinion, is by far the Spiderman ride, which is an incredible 3D simulation where the audience helps Spidey take on some of his most powerful archenemies. The ride uses and combination of 3D, hydraulics and pyrotechnics that make the audience feel as if they are right in the thick of it.
The Hulk rollercoaster is another favorite, mostly for the unique start. Instead of slowly creeping up to the top and coasting down a steep incline, participants on the Hulk are shot out like a cannon and race around the loops and turns at about 70 mph. Just be sure you don’t eat pancakes before you go on the ride, or you may loose your cookies like I almost did.
In my opinion, the best part about Islands of Adventure isn’t the rides or the food. It isn’t the costumed actors pretending to be Wolverine or Popeye. It’s one simple little joy that only costs a quarter.
On bridges and spots surrounding all of the water rides are long-range water guns. For the small price of a quarter, you can gleefully soak passengers on the rides as they unwittingly maneuver under your gun. You can drench them with a shower or spray them from up above. I could spend hours sitting there, stealthily soaking unknowing passerbys.
Don’t get too excited though. Karma can get you in the end. If you decide to hop on the log flume or the rapids, there will be people waiting for you. As I learned the hard way, what goes around comes around!
Orlando may be a great place to get away for the week if you are on a tighter budget. Only a few hours away, you can save a bundle not having to pay airfare. The amusement parks almost always offer a Florida resident discount rate and Disney even lets you into one park for free on your birthday. As the weather warms up and the summer months begin, Floridians can look to their own neighbors for a terrific vacation get away that doesn’t have to cost your entire savings.

A-Rod nabbed as baseball’s biggest name in steroid era

It’s ironic how 10 years ago, the one aspect of the game that was supposed to save baseball has been, for the last six years, the same thing that has destroyed it. But even more true, the irony of the situation is sad. Players today live by the homerun and die by it too. Just last week, Alex Rodriguez’s admission into using performance-enhancing drugs from 2001 through 2003 while with the Texas Rangers sent shockwaves throughout baseball and all major professional sports.

Unlike Bonds and Clemens, A-Rod’s reasons for taking steroids were those that we have never heard before. Not to gain an advantage on other players, or to hit his way into the record books. He could do that on pure talent alone. In fact, he was on his way to being a baseball Hall-of-Fame candidate until now.

Rodriguez claimed that he used steroids to deal with the pressure placed upon him by members of the sports media. Pressure from playing for Texas on a ballclub that averaged 72 wins over the three seasons he was there, while finishing in last place in the American League West division in each of those seasons? No, much more like the pressure to live up to what he had become. A young phenomenon on the borderline of superstar. Possibly the greatest player to ever step foot on a Major League diamond. Or just simply, a brand. Alex Rodriguez felt the pressure immediately after he became A-Rod. And now, like Bonds and Clemens, he is the latest – and GREATEST – to fall.

“In his youth, A-Rod was the Natural,” Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated wrote. “What was possible? Hell, what wasn’t possible?”

What’s not possible is now becoming clear. Maintaining his physiological clean reputation, gaining fame as the undisputed record-holder in a multitude of statistical categories, and possibly and most importantly, denial into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

The time period of A-Rod’s usage evokes skepticism. Although he adheres to his claim that he only introduced his body to supplements for his three seasons in Texas, it is likely that he continued to use the drugs during his first few years in New York, and possibly even this past season. It would only make sense. How can you take steroids to deal with the pressure while playing in Texas, but not in New York?

To suit up in pinstripes – given the Yankees’ past tradition and illustrious legacy – and to play in the largest media market in the entire world where sports writers are more like paparazzi and the fans don’t take kindly to having “off-days” is certainly no easy task day in and day out. In fact, being a sports mega-star in the Big Apple is like living under a microscope, where the term athlete is likened to, and often exceeded by, celebrity.

Nothing seems shocking anymore. Rodriguez, Bonds, and Clemens are the biggest names to fall from grace and there are still 104 more players who have been mentioned in dabbling with illegal substances. In an era disgracefully dubbed as the “Steroid Era,” players are all given the same chance to be great. Illegal substances are distributed as widely and freely as players’ baseball cards. Everyone has equal access to them, but because they are so prevalent and the question of who’s using is often a mystery, baseball’s hallowed records are no longer about which players were better than others. Due to last week’s events, and more of the same to come in the future, nobody can say for sure who the best players are because there is no accurate way to assess a player’s talent. Is the talent pure or processed? That is the real question that will ultimately save baseball and provides accurate insight into who the great players truly are. Fans want to know not which players did take steroids, but which ones had the opportunity to take them, and didn’t.