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    What's green, gold and bullish?

    It's a partnership between merchants and USF to spread school spirit in Bulls Country.

    By JANEL STEPHENS
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published September 15, 2002


    TAMPA -- University of South Florida officials have launched a campaign they hope will have local merchants donning green and gold.

    In an effort to bring school spirit to areas surrounding the university, officials want to declare the area between Interstates 75 and 275, including Temple Terrace and New Tampa, "Bulls Country."

    They hope the name will create a stronger university presence and build partnerships with nearby businesses.

    "The whole concept is overdue," said Bob Fiallo, a USF spokesman and director of communications for the Bulls Country project. "The community around us is important to the university. We want the area to look more like it's a part of the university."

    Banners, signs, bumper stickers and window decals saying, "Welcome to Bulls Country: Join the Stampede," and "Bulls Country: Your Neighborhood, Your School," are being distributed off campus.

    The concept was borrowed from Clemson University in South Carolina, where surrounding neighborhoods and businesses are splashed with school colors.

    A recent USF study showed that about 85,000 of its 190,000 graduates live within a 60-mile radius of campus.

    "That's a lot of potential support," Fiallo said. "This is a way of bringing community awareness, Bull Pride and team spirit to the area."

    A Bulls Country pep rally is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sept. 28 at the University Mall. The rally will feature Rocky the Bull, cheerleaders, several university departments and a large screen to show football highlights and the USF-Oklahoma game scheduled for 3 p.m.

    "USF is one of the best-kept secrets," said Tom Locke, general manager for University Mall.

    Locke is one of 30 merchants, faculty members and administrative officials on the Bulls Country task force. He said the mall will be involved in several school activities, including homecoming.

    The university also is working with Locke to create a large mural in the northwest section of the mall. The Ruby Tuesday restaurant has dedicated two of its interior walls to the university, where donated USF artifacts, jerseys and posters will be added.

    "I think USF, unfortunately, has never really gotten the respect it deserves," said Billy Diamond, Ruby Tuesday's general manager. He said the restaurant is considered a university establishment. About 80 percent of its employees being full- or part-time students.

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