“USD–Stars in the Shadows”
by Lee ‘Hacksaw’ Hamilton
It’s a unique place, tucked away on one of the hills above San Diego, with a view of the ocean.
The University of San Diego is a picturesque old-Spanish campus. It’s a school of great academic heritage, with a tremendous Law School amongst other things.
It competes in a unique Athletic setting too. A tremendous non-scholarship football program.
A basketball program tucked into a very tough Division 1-West Coast Conference, having made the NCAA tourney a bunch of years ago.
A baseball program with heritage of pro players, stretching from the current star Kris Bryant to past heroes. USD athletes of yesteryear are sprinkled around major league sportsj
And a world renown collection of Olympic sports too.
Enter Bill McGillis as the new Director of Athletics. A different hire of a veteran administrator, with a track record of building things.
He ran Southern Mississippi, whose most famous alum was legendary quarterback Brett Favre. How tough that job must have been considering its location, Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Not the city it’s in, but where the school is located, in the heart of SEC football.
Prior to that a similar building out job at South Florida, formulating a Division 1-football program from absolute ground zero with then coach Jim Leavitt, and building up quality facilities. And this accomplished right in the middle of the SEC and ACC roadmap..
So McGillis arrives at tiny USD, where stars play in the shadows, despite being located on a hillside looking out on the Pacific.
On another hill cross town is San Diego State, big facilities, a blossoming football program and a big time basketball program.
Just up the highway, all things Pac 12-Conference, as in legendary UCLA and iconic USC.
Where does McGillis go, taking over a program from a dedicated hard worker Ky Snyder, who got facilities built, and watched the small programs grown? Snyder has grown himself, from a player on the San Diego Sports Council, to becoming the COO of the school on the hill.
Somehow-someway, McGillis has to elevate the awareness of USD basketball. Brad Holland’s NCAA-team was a long time ago. And if you are going to play in a power conference with the likes of Gonzaga and St. Mary’s, you better be better than what the Toreros have been.
Maybe McGillis can be a guy who pulls the strings to take USD football where it should go.
Would love to see it become 1AA in football, and be a member of a pretty good conference, the Big Sky. But that takes money, lots of money to fund 63-grants, to compete with the likes of Montana-Eastern Washington and the like. Of course you then have the balancing act with Title IX and women’s sports.
If not, find a way to get infront of the NCAA and get them to pass a different rule, so non scholarship programs like USD and Dayton, really good football programs, can play in Division III against other non-scholarship schools.
The Pioneer Conference means nothing to fans in San Diego, as witnessed by the 2,000 fans or so who show up for home football games.
Having USD go to the post season repping that conference against 1-AA powers, who give scholarships, and get true Division 1-player bouncebacks, is unfair.
Based on what we saw this year thanks to Dale Lindsey, if USD and its conference had truly been Division III, the Torerors might well have been playing in the championship game last weekend, against yearly powers like Mount Union, Wisconsin-Oshkosh and the likes. Alot better chance to play-win than the (45-7) hammering at North Dakota State.
So a “doer” Bill McGillis walks into the front door as AD. Will be interesting to see if his list of accomplishments from USF and USM help him make USD more than a school that plays in the shadows, even if the campus is in the sunshine.