tampabay.com

Boosters back USF coach, not Huggins

By GREG AUMAN
Published February 28, 2006


TAMPA - On the day a national sports Web site reported a group of USF boosters was trying to oust coach Robert McCullum in favor of former Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins, key Bulls supporters said Monday that they're committed to their coach.

"I can say that the Iron Bulls club is in support of Coach McCullum and appreciative of what he's doing," said Buddy Johnson, chairman of USF's organization for boosters donating more than $10,000 annually. "I can guarantee there are boosters that like what he's doing, and obviously from a character standpoint, he's the right guy."

McCullum's Bulls have lost a school-record 16 consecutive games and are 0-14 in their first season in the Big East. McCullum is 27-57 in three seasons with USF and has three years left on his contract. His defenders point to the numerous injuries and unexpected departures this season.

"The boosters I'm friends with, the ones I've known for years who understand the workings of college basketball, are 100 percent behind McCullum," said Dick Wittcoff, a season-ticket holder since 1980 who has a scholarship endowed in his name. "He's had so many bad breaks this year, but I'm 100 percent behind him. He's an educator and a teacher first, and a coach second. That's what it's all about."

SI.com's Seth Davis, citing an unnamed booster, reported USF supporters have been in contact with Huggins' Cincinnati attorney, Richard Katz, about the job. Monday night, Katz said his client will coach in a major program next season but has not begun to consider his options.

"That job's not open, and we'll consider whatever is open," he said.

USF athletic director Doug Woolard declined to comment, and McCullum, preparing for Wednesday's home game against No.2 Connecticut, said he was "not going to respond to that type of sentiment. ... I don't think the media is where you deal with these kinds of situations."

While USF is two losses from the worst record in its history, firing McCullum would be costly for a program whose athletic budget is limited compared with its Big East rivals. Buying out the remaining years of McCullum's contract would cost nearly $900,000, and landing a coach such as Huggins might cost that much for one season.

"I'm not aware of any widespread movement to that effect at all," Johnson said. "I have not encountered that, but I understand what a bunch of injuries can do to a team."