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USF Bulls Kick Off Football Season at Capogna's Dugout

For the sixth time in what has become a tradition, a summer tailgate party was held at Capogna's Dugout. Slightly scaled back from year's past, USF coach Skip Holtz still made an appearance.

At Capogna's Dugout, a woman at the bar of the popular Clearwater eatery could be heard wondering aloud why the Tampa Bay Rays game was not on one of the dozens of TVs in the establishment.

She picked the wrong time to be a baseball fan.

For the hundreds that packed the place Saturday afternoon, baseball was an afterthought, a sport in which the season ended that day.

For the vast majority of patrons, football season kicked off at 4 p.m.

For the sixth straight year, Capogna's was host to the USF football tailgate kickoff party, a celebration of football and in particular, the USF Bulls.

Unlike year's past, this party was a bit scaled down from the street fair-like atmosphere that had become expected in what is turning into a local tradition.

The USF pep band did not appear, nor was there lingering partying in the parking lot despite a giant tent available. But the USF cheerleaders did make an appearance and unlike last year -- the only year -- USF's coach did show up, Skip Holtz.

The second-year coach had the crowd eating out of his hands, though he was so talkative, his pepperoni pizza turned cold before he got his hands on it.

"I missed last year but I was not going to miss this year," Holtz said. The Bulls coach then got the crowd to yelp when he exclaimed, "I'm ready for some football!"

Many of the questions he fielded were about Notre Dame, which the Bulls play to open the season. Holtz's father, Lou, was a legendary coach at South Bend. Holtz, the junior, didn't deny he was excited because he both played for and later coached with the Fighting Irish.
Holtz did say the game was not a make-or-break contest.

"I'd rather lose to Notre Dame and win the next 11 than beat Notre Dame and lose the next 11. It's just one game."

Holtz said his father recently gave an interview where he said USF beating Notre Dame is not an upset, but "upset is what my wife will be if I don't pick USF to win."

The difference between the two programs, Holtz said, was "Notre Dame recently celebrated their 100th year of football; we just celebrated our 100th win."

Holtz later talked about the upcoming season and continue to stoke the fires of the USF fans the longer he talked. He bragged how beating Miami and Clemson last year has set the table for this season. 

"That has me excited," Holtz said.

The Bulls practices this spring and workouts this summer "has been like a snowball going downhill. I'm not sure I have ever been this excited or optimistic entering a season."

He later discussed how he would like to resume a series with Central Florida but had strong words for congressional officials in Tallahassee who have been rumored to force the two schools to play each other each season by legislative authority.

"I'm OK with that so long as you force us to play Florida State, Florida and Miami each year too," Holtz said.

Holtz wore a pink shirt to the party as he just came from a women's football function at USF. When asked about the gathering, Holtz quipped, "If I was single, yeah, there were some good prospects there."

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