USF adds support for new facility

Published August 31, 2005

TAMPA - USF athletic director Doug Woolard has given his support to a proposed $40-million "Championship Park" north of Plant City and told county commissioners this week that USF would help try to bring major events such as Big East and even NCAA soccer championships to Tampa.

"If they build a 20,000-seat facility that could house soccer, I think it'd be a very attractive venue for the NCAA to consider for the women's and men's NCAA championships in soccer," Woolard said Tuesday. "I think it'd be a real attractive site."

Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman unveiled plans for the proposed athletic park last week, and while the commission granted conceptual approval, it faces potential financial and environmental hurdles. Woolard sent a letter to the commission, expressing USF's interest in partnering with the county to bring conference and national events to Tampa in "soccer, softball and a variety of other events."

"Beyond the economic and profile benefits, the possibility of having our Bulls compete for championships in their own backyard is quite intriguing," Woolard wrote.

This year's NCAA Women's College Cup will be held in College Station, Texas, in December, while the men's championships will be in Cary, N.C., near Raleigh. Recent hosts have included Dallas and Austin, Texas; San Jose, Calif.; Charlotte, N.C., and Columbus, Ohio, and according to the NCAA's official site, no soccer championships have been awarded to sites beyond this year.

GOING PRO? Junior forward Marius Prekevicius' success in helping Lithuania to an under-21 world championship in Argentina this summer has likely led to an early end to his USF career.

Prekevicius, who averaged 5.7 points and started 13 games last season, is weighing offers from professional clubs in Germany, France, Belgium and Italy. Prekevicius hasn't reported for fall classes, and coach Robert McCullum said he has been offered more money than he expected to make after graduating.

"He's probably leaning toward not coming back," McCullum said. "Marius can really shoot the ball. He made 40 percent of his threes last year. You can tell the fans, and the student group especially, had become really attached to him. He was a three-point specialist, and that's a weapon we won't have."

If Prekevicius leaves, the Bulls will have only three returning scholarship players, spreading even more key minutes to a seven-player recruiting class. McCullum has been especially pleased by the offseason work ethic shown by freshman Frane Markusovic, a 6-10 center from Croatia who has been a gym rat in the Sun Dome this summer.

BRUSHED BACK: It has been a rough week for baseball coach Eddie Cardieri, who had one of his top pitchers, Ty Pryor, transfer to Tennessee, then saw assistant coach Bryan Peters leave for an assistant's job at Stetson.

"Telling the players was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do," said Peters, who spent eight seasons under Cardieri and played for the Bulls in 1995-96. "I just felt I'd grown as much as I could at USF. It's pretty selfish, but career-wise, my ultimate goal is to be a head coach."

Cardieri hopes to name a successor in the next two weeks, with several Bulls alumni calling and e-mailing to voice their interest in joining his staff.

THIS AND THAT: Freshman Jordan Seabrook made a splash in his soccer debut, matching senior Hunter West with a hat trick in a 7-0 exhibition win Aug. 20 against Tampa. "Jordan is going to be a great player for USF," coach George Kiefer said. "He still has things to work on, but you can't coach his speed." The Bulls open Friday at home against Florida International, one of three top-20 programs in the team's first four opponents. ... Another sign USF is moving up in the marketing world: The Bulls now have a corporate sponsor for the backdrop you see behind coaches during news conferences, with Tampa-based GunnAllen Financial getting that as part of an expanded involvement with USF athletics. The company is sponsoring T-shirt giveaways, and the Bulls have spent more than $2,000 for a "T-shirt launcher" for such promotions.

Greg Auman covers USF athletics. He can be reached at auman@sptimes.com Check out his "USF Bulletin" blog online at sptimes.com/blogs/usf.