Why do they call it that? University of South Florida and the USF Bulls

6:11 AM, Aug 25, 2010   |    comments
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Why attach a name like South Florida -- which generally means Fort Lauderdale and Miami -- to a school in Tampa? Plus, the school juggled several team names before settling on the USF Bulls.

Why do they call it the University of South Florida?

Name after name started rolling in back in 1956.

That's when a military base called Henderson Air Field was chosen as the location for Florida's fourth state university.

The place was nowheresville. Getting there meant a long drive north of Tampa, down two dirt roads called Fletcher and Fowler Avenues.

The names considered for the new school were "really pretty outrageous," said Mark Greenberg, who manages the USF Library's special collections.

Greenberg rattled off some of stranger suggestions. "University of the Western Hemisphere was suggested. Flamerica University. Henry B. Plant University. Florida DeSoto University. And it goes on and on," he said.

As construction drew closer, Greenberg said three names moved high on the list:

Florida Gulf Coast University -- which is now the name of a school near Ft. Myers -- University of Southwest Florida, and University of Florida at Temple Terrace.

"Finally, in October of 1957, the Tampa Tribune makes a suggestion: University of South Florida," Greenberg said.

The university's biggest backer in the legislature, Sam Gibbons, fell in love with the name.

Why? Politics.

"Sam Gibbons wanted all of the legislators -- from Key West all the way up through Ocala -- to think of this new university as their university, as the University of South Florida," Greenberg explained.

Gibbons correctly reasoned that lawmakers inspired by the South Florida name were more likely to stand up for the school, making sure it was built and funded.

Why do they call them the USF Bulls?

These days, Bulls banners are all over the Tampa Bay area. But it didn't start that way.

USF's first president, John Allen, was all about academics. He forbade the school from joining the NCAA for its first several years.

So for years, the students didn't have to pick a team name, because they didn't have any sports teams.

That wasn't a big deal until the school's first graduating class in 1962.

"Someone comes down to sell them all class rings, and there's a little spot on the class ring for the mascot. Of course, they don't have one!" Greenberg said.

So, campus-wide votes were held.

"And the names come flying in: the Olympians, the Athenians, the Desert Rats -- 'cause there was so much sand all over campus -- the Conquistadors," Greenberg said.

Even Buccaneers got seriously considered.

But in the end, the students picked the Golden Brahma, which is a powerful breed of bull. Or... is it?

"Brahma is a fighting Asian chicken," Greenberg said with a smile. "They had to add the 'n' to the end of the name Brahman to get the Golden Brahmans, or a fierce, virile, bull."

The name was set right -- to Golden Brahmans, and it stayed that way until the early 1980's.

That's when sports started getting serious, and with the goal of a more marketable team, the university simplified the name to the USF Bulls.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

There are a lot more places out there with names that could use explaining. If you want to ask "Why do they call it that?" send an e-mail with a name that has you curious to Grayson Kamm using this link.

We'll be featuring new places and stories each Wednesday on 10 News. Watch them on The Morning Show from 5-7 a.m. and on 10 News at 5:30 p.m.

Check out previous editions of "Why do they call it that?" plus links to photos and maps from Tampa Bay's past at our "Why do they call it that?" website: wtsp.com/callitthat.

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