Loyal USF Fans Get National Championship Surprise
By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA, JAN. 11, 2017 – In an effort to demonstrate its deep appreciation for supporting Bulls football, USF Athletics randomly selected four season ticket members, who had perfect attendance over the past two seasons, and gave them the surprise of a lifetime.
As a reward for years of dedication, USF provided tickets to Monday’s national championship game to the lucky Bulls fans, who each got to bring a guest to watch No. 1 Alabama take on No. 2 Clemson at Raymond James Stadium.
“I’m speechless almost, it’s awesome,” said Ted Hicks, who was at USF’s first game in 1997. “It’s nice to be appreciated for your loyalty, but this is really stepping out for us.”
USF Athletics randomly selected Hicks and three other pumped-up Bulls fans from a pool of season ticket members who have had perfect attendance at USF home games for at least the past two seasons. Greg Serota, a 2008 USF grad, couldn’t believe it when a Bulls ticket representative delivered the news late last week.
“Honestly I thought, ‘What’s the catch? What’s the cost? What do I have to do?’” Serota said. “Then I was super excited and everyone in the office was jealous, wanting me to take them with the extra ticket.”
According to CBSSports.com, tickets on the secondary market were going for an average of $2,450 before kickoff. But for these lucky Bulls fans, the only tough choice to make was who to take to the game that featured a priceless finish. Deshaun Watson found Hunter Renfrow in the end zone with a second to spare, as Clemson knocked off Alabama, 35-31, before a record crowd of 74,512 at Ray Jay.
Hicks, a season ticket member from Brandon, decided to offer his extra ticket to one of his sons. Hicks has missed maybe four home games since the beginning of USF Football and has made road trips to Notre Dame, Louisville, West Virginia, FSU, Miami, UF and every Bulls bowl game, aside from the International Bowl.
“I went in his room and said, ‘I’m going to give you dibs on something,’” Hicks said with a smile. “If I told you I’ve got two tickets to the game would you want to go?’ He’s like, ‘Yes, absolutely, yes.’ His brothers were going to be ticked at him, but he said he didn’t care.”
Phil Kupczyk, who called the ticket offer “crazy,” was another very deserving recipient. The 12-year season ticket member from New Port Richey has missed just one Bulls home game in the past five years and that was for an important family event.
“Even the Garth Brooks concert couldn’t keep me away,” he said. “I went to homecoming and then drove to Orlando right after.”
Like Hicks, Kupczyk supported USF at the Birmingham Bowl and took another season ticket member to Monday’s game after getting his shocking phone call from the Bulls.
“When they made the offer, I was like, ‘I don’t even know what to do, I don’t know what to say,’” Kupczyk.
The first fan to pick up his national championship tickets was Pat Sheffield, a season ticket member since 1997 who lives in Temple Terrace. Sheffield was happy to be accompanied by his wife, Karen, to the first college football national championship game in the southeast United States.
The Sheffields had quite the view.
"The seats were fantastic," Sheffield said. "From our location, we were able to feel the high intensity of the play on the field. We were just yards away from Clemson's last two touchdowns."