The Critical 'I'

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Wednesday, July 23, 2003

DITCHING "SOUTH FLORIDA"
geographically challenged
I live in the Tampa Bay area, which is located in west-central Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico. It's a big metro area, so naturally it would be home a major state university. Moreover, you'd expect that university to have a name that was distinctive to the area.

So why is Tampa the home of the University of South Florida?

It's a misnomer that struck me as soon as I moved here, close to 15 years ago (wow!). If you're even a little familiar with the Sunshine State, you know that when you say "south Florida", you mean the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Palm Beach megalopolis. Tampa Bay is a good 4-5 hours away by car. So it's not even close.

Nearly half a century after getting the name, the school is finally taking steps to remedy the situation by launching a campaign to emphasize its brand identity as "USF", simultaneously starting a slow phase-out for "South Florida".

It's an interesting approach. I'm not sure if they can pull it off. Off the top of my head, UTEP (University of Texas-El Paso, home of the "UTEP two-step" in college hoops) and TCU (Texas Christian University, home of... nothing in college hoops ;) ) are the only schools I can think of that have successfully, fully superseded their full names in favor of the initials (from a marketing standpoint). It's tough.

Not mentioned in the article is the potential wrinkle of USF's St. Pete campus breaking away and forming its own university. The name of that school would be, naturally, the University of St. Petersburg.

As for new names for USF, the possibilities are limited. The obvious choices, University of Central Florida and University of West Florida, are already taken (in Orlando and Pensacola, respectively). The quaint little University of Tampa already exists. Maybe Tampa Bay University, or TBU, would work.