By JIM LOUK
The homecoming tradition at USF dates back to 1964.
At USF, as it usually does with universities around the nation, an athletic event has been at the center of the celebration.
In the pre-football era, homecoming was in the spring and it centered around a home basketball game. That tradition created some challenges in 1997.
By the spring of that year, anticipation for USF football was at a fever pitch. The schedule was done, the uniforms had been selected and season tickets had been sold. The players were almost ready. The opening game date was set.
How could you not have homecoming in the fall around an inaugural season football game?
But what about the spring tradition? How could you not have a celebration in the spring?
The solution was simple: in 1997, USF had two homecomings. The last spring homecoming was wrapped around a basketball game, and the first fall homecoming took place on October 18, 1997, as the Bulls faced Southern Illinois at the old Tampa Stadium.
When the Bulls kicked off that night they were six games into their first-ever season. Their record stood at 2-4 and Southern Illinois was 3-3.
A crowd of 34,432 Bulls fans (a small number by today's standards, but about the norm for 1997) endured a few rain showers as USF and Southern Illinois met on the football field for the first and only time to date.
They saw a new uniform look for the Bulls, as USF wore the combination of green jerseys and green pants for the very first time.
Chad Barnhardt was the Bulls' quarterback; a transfer from South Carolina who led USF through the first season of football. He threw for nearly 200 yards that night.
Unfortunately, the Bulls trailed from the start. Steve Riggs kicked a first half field goal for USF and Jermaine Clemons had a fourth quarter touchdown run, but USF ended on the short end of a 23-10 score.
Still though, the first fall homecoming was in the books and USF would never again hold a homecoming in the spring. The Bulls would go on to win three of their four final games that year to finish their first season of football with a 5-6 record.
SuperBull I may have been a modest start for Bulls football homecoming games, but many big wins were to follow.
Now SuperBull XV is approaching. USF will face Cincinnati in a critical conference matchup Saturday, No. 22 at noon at Raymond James Stadium. The game is just part of a great list of homecoming activities planned throughout the weekend.
So USF Alumni, come home. We'd like to welcome you back to the land of the Bulls. Grab a ticket to the game and help us build some additional homecoming tradition on Oct. 22.