As a tangible measure of gratitude to the first responders who remained mostly indefatigable during Hurricane Irma, Charlie Strong and the Bulls want to deliver them a victory.
On the house.
Strong said Tuesday all first responders and their families (up to four people per party) will be admitted free Friday night when the No. 22 Bulls host the Fighting Illini at Raymond James Stadium. So will the players and coaches of any high school football team in the state, most of whom have had another weekend of games wiped out by the effects of Hurricane Irma.
"It's all about who's been impacted by the storm," said Strong, whose team held its first post-Irma practice Tuesday afternoon.
"You want (to win) because now we have a way to give back to the community and give back in a really good way, where they have a chance to watch our football team."
First responders, or a family member if the responder is working, will be asked to provide their official issued ID (or a copy if the responder is not present) at the Raymond James Stadium south plaza will-call ticket window on Friday evening.
Florida prep football teams wishing to attend are asked to contact Mike Giglio ([email protected]) or Lacey King ([email protected]) of the USF football program for step-by-step instructions on obtaining admission.
Pre-registration is necessary to receive the complimentary admission, which will be available for players and coaches of the high school teams. Requests must be received by noon on Friday.
Further information can be found at this link on USF's official football website.
“On behalf of USF Athletics, I would like to express our appreciation for the work being done by first responders across the state to assist in the recovery following Hurricane Irma,” USF athletic director Mark Harlan said in a school news release.
“As a small token of our gratitude for their service, we’d like to offer a night to relax, be with their families and enjoy a football game.”
Strong opened his regular Tuesday press conference by praising everyone -- from city officials to cops to firefighters to shelter volunteers -- who have helped the community during the hurricane and in its aftermath.
Strong spent most of the weekend at the football offices in the Selmon Center (which never lost power), and invited the players still in town to join him at the facility. He said no Bulls player to whom he had spoken had mentioned any major damage to their families' homes, but he hadn't yet spoken with every player.
"I wake up every day, and my world is just centered around football," he said. "But what we went through the last few days just put everything in perspective. And it's more than just football, it's about us just coming together as a community."