These words come spilling out from Jeremy Lees toward the end of an interview with Helmet Tracker like the crescendo of a 35-minute symphony, bringing the crowd to an unrestrained standing ovation.
“This place has engulfed my life—in a good way.”
He pauses, thinks, then three short, quick sentences.
“The kids are amazing.”
“I know the fight song.”
“I love the Bulls!”
Lees, the South Florida Bull’s Equipment Chief, says the Bull’s building a 7-0 start to the season drew everyone in the locker room closer. Until Saturday’s four-point loss to the Houston Cougars, the Bulls started their season with 7 straight wins.
“There is something about being in a winning locker room,” Lees told Helmet Tracker last week. “It just brings everyone closer.”
Lees grew up about an hour away from USF. He played baseball growing up and was offered a job in the USF equipment room at a Friday night party. He quit his grocery store job and reported the next day as a student manager.
Sixteen years and two degrees later, he is in charge.
Lees says his favorite part of the job is mentoring those who work with him.
“We serve all the teams. There are four of us full time, a couple of interns, 10 student managers plus a laundry person. In other sports, there’s 15 to 20,” he says. “I try to mentor the students. I’ve been in their shoes and can relate to them—and it’s not just about what we are trying to accomplish here—it’s also issues such as time management, class selection, everything.”
To help mature students, Lees and his staff pile on the responsibility. Student managers are given charge over aspects of the equipment room and locker room to see how they respond. It's a strategy that works.
Now, Lees’ former student managers work in Dallas, Miami, and elsewhere.
“To have guys make it in the profession, that speaks volumes of our staff here. We’ve created a culture.”
Lees earned his AEMA (Athletic Equipment Managers Association) certification more than a dozen years ago and tries to get those who want to advance to the national conventions.
“This is my dream job. I don’t give the future much thought because I’ve been here so long. I met my wife here,” he said. “For me, this is the perfect job.”
The Chips of Central Michigan remain the only undefeated college football team in the Helmet Bowl Conference Championship. There are 777 college football teams in the country, and each of them are entered into this contest. Soon, that number will be whittled to 64 for the National Championship. CMU will get a low seed, based on their total votes in the 10-week Conference contest. Look for our interview with Equipment Coordinator Michael McPike next week.
National Championship Qualifiers
Week 8 was a big week to score the points necessary to qualify for the national 64-team bracket. 27 teams qualified in Week 8 for the Helmet Bowl National Championship. They are:
Louisiana College Wildcats from the American Southwest
Syracuse Orange from the Atlantic Coast
Idaho State Bengals from the Big Sky
Buffalo State Bengals from the Empire 8
McKendree Bearcats from the Great Lakes Valley
Western Oregon Wolves from the Great Northwest Athletic
Concordia Nebraska Bulldogs from the Great Plains Athletic
Yale Bulldogs from the Ivy League
Ottawa Braves from the Kansas Collegiate Athletic
Hobart Statesmen from the Liberty League
Bridgewater State Bears from the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic
Finlandia Lions in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic
Misericordia Cougars from the Middle Atlantic
St. Thomas Tommies in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic
Merchant Marine Mariners in the New England W&M Athletic
Valley City State Vikings in the North Star Athletic
Wagner Seahawks in the Northeast
Linfield Wildcats in the Northwest
Bridgewater Eagles from the Old Dominion Athletic
Butler Bulldogs from the Pioneer Football League
Lenoir-Ryne Bears in the South Atlantic
Trinity Tigers in the Southern Athletic
Lane Dragons in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic
Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks in the Southland
Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils in the Southwestern Athletic
Greensboro Pride in the USA South Athletic
Greenville Panthers from the Upper Midwest Athletic
They join these teams who already qualified:
Johns Hopkins Blue Jays, Bowie State Bulldogs, Army Black Knights, Valdosta State Blazers, Howard Bison, San Diego State Aztecs, Navy Midshipmen, Georgia State Panthers, Kennesaw State Owls, Eastern Illinois Panthers, UVA-Wise Highland Cavaliers, UMD Bulldogs, Cheney Wolves, Illinois Wesleyan Titans, Endicott Gulls, Oberlin Yeomen, Idaho Coyotes, Central Michigan Chippewas, Kansas State Wildcats, Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles, and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Stags.
The top 64 Conference Champions advance to the bracket, seeded regionally based on their total number of votes. The 12 Conference Champions with the least number of total votes in their conference will not take part.
National Championship Announcement
So, if you’ve been looking ahead and preparing for the Helmet Bowl National Championship 64-team bracket, here’s an update:
- Teams who finish the 10-week Conference Championship tied for first will be entered against one another in a one-week, head-to-head playoff for a chance to enter into the 64-team bracket. This one-week playoff will begin on Tuesday, November 14 and conclude on Sunday, November 19.
- Helmet Bowl will announce the four regional, 16-team brackets and seeding for the National Championship during the week of November 21 through November 27.
- The National Championship will begin with the 64-team bracket on Tuesday November 28.
Questions? Shoot us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll answer.
National Championship Commentators
Would you like to weigh in on a few contests during the Helmet Bowl National Championship contest? We are recruiting commentators to pick their favorites, identify sleepers, point out coming upsets, and such. Shoot us a message at email@example.com if you are interested.
Conference Standings Ties
Colonial Athletic Association: Elon Phoenix and Richmond Spiders are tied at 4 points each.
Patriot League: The Colgate Raiders and Georgetown Hoyas each have 3.5 points. The Bucknell Bison could win the Conference if they win out.
Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic: Ashland Eagles, Ferris State Bulldogs, and Wayne State Warriors all have 3 points.
Northeast 10: The Saint Anslem Hawks and the Southern Connecticut Owls are knotted up at 4 points each.
New England Small College Athletic: The Colby Mules and Trinity Bantams each have two points. This is a contested conference with just about any team in the conference could win it all with a two-week sweep.
We have a four-way tie: The Northern Athletics Collegiate has four teams with two points. They are the Aurora Spartans, Benedictine Eagles, Concordia Chicago Cougars, and Concordia Wisconsin Falcons.
Week 8 Ties
Central States Football: the Arizona Christian Firestorm and the Lyon Scots knotted up in Week 8. The Fighting Scots lead the conference by one-half point.
In the Missouri Valley, the Illinois State Redbirds began their unlikely come-back by tying the Indiana State Sycamores this week. The Sycamores lead by 2 points, so the ‘Birds will have to win both of the final weeks, then win the one-week playoff.
In the Northeast 10, the Saint Anslem Hawks and Southern Connecticut Owls finished Week 7 tied in the standings, then found the same number of votes in Week 8 to split the point. They remain tied at 4.
In the Northern Athletics Collegiate, the Aurora Spartans and Concordia Chicago Cougars split the point, drawing both teams even for the conference lead with the Concordia Wisconsin Falcons and Benedictine Eagles.
Question of the Week
The Illinois Blueboys don a helmet with blue overlapping I and C on a silver base. They dress it up with a white/blue stripe down the middle of the helmet, but can this simple design lead the Midwest College? Voters, so far, say yes, even with the Beloit Buccanneers' winking pirate guy holding a knife in his mouth and The Chicago Maroons adopting the hometown Bears' pick. How?
The Salve Regina University Seahawks have put together a 5-2 record on the field including a 41-14 slashing of Commonwealth Conference leading (at least in Helmet Bowl) Endicott Gulls. The Rhode Island campus is something out of a Hollywood set, and the unique football helmet is an eye-catcher.