USF

He's on the inside, sees the pride

Tom Ward, of St. Petersburg, won't be on the sideline tonight when South Florida faces West Virginia at Raymond James Stadium. But he does work with the team regularly and he was in Bennigan's Friday afternoon to enjoy some free time before the big game.Ward, who works in the strength and conditioning department at the school, will be in the bleachers tonight to cheer for the players he interacts with daily."It's definitely the biggest game in USF's 11-year (football) history," Ward said. "It will probably tell a lot about the future of the program, as far as how much respect and community support there is for years to come."Respect has been pouring in lately. Ward, who works at the school's main campus in Tampa, says Bulls Fever has spread not just to the other campuses, such as Sarasota, but also among USF alumni, who have been hoping for a big-time football program since the school was founded in 1956."Because the football program has only been around for 11 years, a lot of people that graduated 15, 20, 30 years ago didn't have a football program, and now they can root for the Bulls instead of the (Florida) Gators or the (Florida State) Seminoles or the (University of Miami) Hurricanes, which is a great thing," he said.And the players? "They're proud, and just happy to be part of Coach (Jim) Leavitt's program," Ward said.

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