Lee Roy Selmon is considered by thousands to be one of the best University of Oklahoma Sooners football players ever since he helped lead them to two consecutive national championships and won himself a Lombardi Award. Selmon is also considered by thousands to be the greatest Tampa Bay Buccaneer ever; he led them through their first season as an expansion team to the playoffs several years later. To this day, he is the only Buccaneer to have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and to have his number (63) retired by the Buccaneers. To me and many other University of South Florida (USF) students and alumni, he will be remembered as the reason why USF is now nationally recognized.
In summer 2007, several weeks before I started at USF, I was in Pittsburgh for my cousin’s wedding. When relatives and wedding guests asked me where I was going for school, I replied “The University of South Florida.” “Are they the Gators or the Seminoles?” some would inquire. “Neither, they’re the Bulls” I replied. “Where is it located? Miami?” others questioned. “Tampa, Florida,” I answered. Apparently, my university did not exist outside of Tampa. Then there was one wedding guest, an avid college football fan, who knew where I was going. “O, USF? That’s awesome. Their football team has been amazing; this is going to be a great year for you.” He ended up being right.
Later that year, USF went on to beat No. 17 Auburn in overtime on national television (that year not even the Florida Gators could not beat Auburn). USF continued its winning ways and weeks later it beat No. 5 West Virginia in a nationally televised, sold-out stadium. The huge victory caused the officials to allow the crowd to rush the field. When asked at my Honors Graduation what my happiest moment was in the past four years, I said it was when I rushed the field at that game. At that moment it seemed like USF was un-stoppabull (USF adds “bull” into every word it possibly can). In its 10th season as a football team, USF went on to be ranked #2 in the country.
Four years later on September 2nd, 2011, the USF football team and thousands of fans boarded planes bound to South Bend as the Bulls were to take on Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish; college football’s powerhouse team. Days earlier, Selmon told football coach Skip Holtz and the players how excited he was to make that trip. Sadly, Selmon suffered a stroke and was rushed to the hospital. All of Tampa Bay prayed for his recovery since he was one of the most influential characters in the area. After all, there is an expressway named after him. Selmon was also a huge part of USF; an university that his three children graduated from. Selmon was USF’s Associate Athletic Director in 1993 and Athletic Director in 2001 until he stepped down in 2004 due to health concerns. He is known as the man who gave USF its football team. He made some phone calls, did some fundraising, shook some hands and in 1997 USF had its football team. Though the first football meeting in 1997 took place outside under a tree, USF went from a 1-AA independent football team to a serious threat in the Big East in 2005. USF is considered one of the fastest universities of the modern era to move up through football rankings. As USF’s football program grew, so did its academics and reputation since USF is no longer considered a commuter school. Selmon continued to make waves for USF since Holtz admits that Selmon helped convinced him to come to USF and coach because Selmon preached that it was possible for USF to become a serious threat in Florida. On September 3rd, every Bull football players wore a No. 63 sticker; the number Selmon wore as a Buccaneer. USF President Judy Genshaft said the USF fans at the game were going to be so loud that Selmon would be able to hear them back in Tampa. I heard the “U-S-F” chant; I’m sure Selmon and the rest of the nation heard the USF fans cheering their team as the Bulls beat the No. 16 Irish in a sold-out stadium on national television. Holtz says the game was for Selmon, because without him, the Bulls would not be playing one of the best college football teams in history. On September 4th, Selmon passed away at the age of 56. That day, the Sooners, the Buccaneers, the Bulls, and the rest of Tampa Bay mourned the loss of one of its most influential characters in its history.
Selmon’s legacy will continue to live on each year as the Bulls continue their quest for a Big East Championship. Thanks to Selmon, USF went from a commuter school to one of the largest universities in the nation that prides itself on academics, research, and of course athletics. Now when I go out of town for vacation, whether it is Pittsburgh, St. Louis, or Alaska, I no longer have to explain to strangers the difference between “FSU” and “USF” or tell them where exactly is USF location; they know.
John Romano One Man, Lee Roy Selmon, helped make USF’s shot at Notre Dame possible Tampabay.com
Former Bucs DE Lee Roy Selmon Dies The Associated Press