After weeks of speculation and rumors, the University of South Florida officially introduced Alex Golesh as the team’s sixth head coach Monday.
He formerly served as the University of Tennessee’s offensive coordinator. During his first press conference as a Bull – and as a team’s leader – an emotional Golesh promised a packed crowd at the Alumni Center that he would work harder than any coach in the nation.
“Offensively, we’re going to light the scoreboard up,” said Golesh. “Defensively, we’re going to be the most aggressive group in the country.”
While he didn’t offer a name, the offensive specialist added that he hired “the best defensive coordinator in the country” to oversee that side of the ball.
Most of the coaching search speculation centered on two more well-known names: Deion Sanders and Jamey Chadwell. Sanders is a Fort Myers native and starred at Florida State University.
College football insiders speculated that Sanders would leave historically Black Jackson State for a larger Power Five program, and he accepted the University of Colorado position over the weekend. Chadwell left Coastal Carolina for a $4 million annual payday at Liberty.
The financial terms of Golesh’s contract remain uncertain. However, USF paid his predecessor, Jeff Scott, about $2.4 million annually.
While Golesh might not have the name recognition of Sanders and Chadwell, USF tapped one of the nation’s best assistant coaches to transform a program that went just 4-26 under Scott.
Will Weatherford, chair of the USF Board of Trustees, said the university is “ready for launch” after an exhaustive search.
“We got our guy,” exclaimed Weatherford. “We got the right guy. We’re not trying to win social media awards here; we’re trying to win football games and build a football program.”
He added that USF officials are “putting our resources where our mouth is” and committed more money to its football program in the last 25 months than they did in 25 years combined.
Golesh, 38, is one of five finalists for the Broyles Award, presented annually to the college football’s top assistant. Officials will announce the winner Tuesday night. He is recognized nationally as a top recruiter and for installing high-powered offensive units.
While he relayed he can get excited at times, Golesh said he would be the calm during storms and enable his players to help lead. He promised the coaching staff would remain “real” but positive and that he would be the first person in the building and the last one to leave.
Despite the changing landscape of college football, Golesh said the one constant is that “hard work wins through all of it.”
As the University of Tennessee’s offensive coordinator, Golesh was the primary play caller for the nation’s top-scoring team with 47.3 points per game. He has some coaching experience in the state, as he spent one season as the co-offensive coordinator and tight ends coach at the University of Central Florida.
The Knights ranked second nationally in total offense (568.1) and eighth in scoring offense (42.2) during the 2020 season. Golesh then followed head coach Josh Heupel to Tennessee, where the two drastically improved the program over the last two years.
The Volunteers went 3-7 before their arrival and finished with 10 regular season wins this year. The College Football Playoff Committee consistently ranked the team among the nation’s best this year, finishing at No. 6.
“He’s a turnaround specialist,” said Michael Kelly, vice president of athletics. “He’s been at multiple stops, and all of them get better.”
Kelly noted Golesh’s grit and blue-collar work ethic and said he worked for 46 of the 48 hours he spent in Tampa.
Over the last two days, Golesh said he was struck by how everyone in the area loves each other and shares the same passion and vision of putting a winning product on the field.
“It’s not like that everywhere,” he added. “So, I appreciate you guys giving me a shot to go and do this the right way.”
Golesh is the son of two immigrants, who he said “taught him what work really is.” He was born in Moscow, Russia, before growing up in New York and Ohio.
He graduated from Ohio State before embarking on a 20-year collegiate coaching career. As Kelly noted, his recruiting prowess helped turnaround programs at Tennessee, Iowa State, Illinois and Toledo.
Golesh and his wife, Alexis, have one daughter and one son. He became emotional as he described his wife’s support through their travels and how his children said they had his back with whatever he decided.
“And I’m not going to let them down,” he added. “I can’t wait. I haven’t slept in three days, but I can’t sleep when I’m fired up about what’s happening right now.”