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Wednesday, Jun 20, 2018
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Expect USF to break ground on indoor facility in ’18

While I don't like attaching disclaimers to forecasts, it's only fair to note my projections occasionally have gone askew.

Initially, I wasn't sold on Quinton Flowers as a starting quarterback, and wasn't crazy about the hiring of baseball coach Mark Kingston. On the flip side, I was certain the arrival of Tom Allen would resuscitate USF's defense, and called Marlon Mack's early declaration for the NFL Draft more than six months in advance.

So lend whatever credence you deem worthy to this hunch, but know in advance it's a strong one:

Ground-breaking on the Bulls' indoor practice facility (IPF) will be done before the year ends. Mark it down in Sharpie. Or stone. It's gonna happen.

Because it must.

Too much is at stake for the school to nudge this necessity into the ensuing decade. The collegiate arms race is too intense, and such facilities are too critical in recruiting's grudge wars. If Charlie Strong's recent impassioned address to USF's Board of Trustees doesn't convince you of the urgency, maybe this will.

UCF has an IPF. Houston recently put the finishing touches on one. Memphis broke ground on one last April. Miami did the same last May.

Related: Charlie Strong pitches USF football facility to trustees

So it's gonna happen at USF, sooner rather than later. It must. But how?

Probably not entirely with private donations, at least not at first.

Though athletic director Mark Harlan noted last week nearly $7 million has been raised for the USF Football Center (of which the indoor facility will be a major component) since plans for the project were unveiled last fall, $5 million of that came in the form of a gift from USF mega-donors Pam and Les Muma.

Related: Bulls AD Mark Harlan: Almost $7 million raised for USF football complex

Translation: The Mumas' gift aside, fundraising has been modest, and at least another $7 million will be needed to complete the IPF. From where will it come?

That's for the USF administration to haggle over (Speaking of which, we've heard President Dr. Judy Genshaft has deemed the IPF a priority).

Though it's not the most desirable option, the money conceivably could be borrowed from the USF Foundation, the school's private fundraising arm whose "Unstoppable" campaign has raised slightly more than $1 billion. The granting of naming rights for the Sun Dome, seemingly imminent, could add another revenue stream.

And of course, the campaign for private donations remains fervent as ever. No foundation — USF or otherwise — will make loans it feels can't be repaid. Just last week, Harlan said the school is challenging people "in a profound manner" to invest in the program. To be sure, contributions remain the cornerstone.

But the hunch here is, it's gonna get done, one way or another. Facilities such as these, especially in our thunder-prone peninsula, are of the essence.

So is time.

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