Program-Builder Mindy McCord Ready for Another Challenge at USF


When the University of South Florida reached out to express interest in interviewing her to be the first coach of a women’s lacrosse program that will take the field in 2023-24, Mindy McCord thought it would be a good opportunity to drive to Tampa to exchange some thoughts and ideas about the sport and its growth in the Sunshine State.

“I wasn’t looking to leave,” McCord said of her successful 13-year coaching tenure at Jacksonville. “When they called and asked permission to speak to me, my thought was to go see what they are doing and share ideas on how we were able to be successful [at Jacksonville]. I wanted to do that because you want other programs in the state to thrive and you want more schools in the state to add the sport.”

While there was much discussion to that extent, McCord came away from meetings with USF athletic director Michael Kelly, deputy athletic director Kris Pierce and other staff members impressed with not only the direction of the athletic department, but the university as well.

When Kelly called a few days later to offer the job, McCord began looking forward to building yet another lacrosse program. She was announced as the Bulls’ head coach May 31.

Not that leaving Jacksonville was easy. After all, her tenure at JU was marked with one success after another, as underscored by 18 conference regular season and tournament titles and a 170-62 (.733) mark since the program began play in 2010.

Also, Jacksonville is a private institution with about 3,000 undergraduate students. By contrast, USF is a state school that boasts 38,000 undergrads and a student population of a little more than 50,000. McCord, though, was impressed with the family-type culture she experienced during her visit, which was something she was not expecting at a much larger university.

“I honestly never thought, at a big school, that can be achieved,” she said.

There something else that stood out, something McCord said was critical at Jacksonville: everybody at USF is on board in making things work.

“When you see your president in alignment with the athletic director and trustees, and you see their vision, you know this is the right time, the right people and the right place to achieve a process,” she said. “That’s what is happening at USF.”

McCord arrived in Florida in 2003 when her husband, Paul, joined the Jacksonville Jaguars as an assistant special teams and strength coach. The move followed McCord’s four-year stint at Division III McDaniel College in her hometown of Westminster, Md. That was her second head coaching job after serving four years at Oberlin (Ohio) College, where she won the first of her 21 conference regular season or tourney championships.

In her new state, McCord helped build community youth leagues and high school programs. In 2006, with Paul’s time as an NFL assistant behind him, the husband-and-wife team founded a national travel lacrosse club, Lax Maniacs.

Given the groundwork McCord laid in helping build the sport in north Florida, it was no surprise she got back into coaching at the collegiate level in getting the JU program up and running. Her commitment went beyond coaching, as she helped design and raise funds for the university’s lacrosse facility. Add it all up, and it’s no wonder Kelly wanted to meet with McCord.

“She is somebody I admired for a long time with the kind of success she had at JU,” he said. “When you think of the commonality of being in the state and having started a program from scratch with the success she had at JU, it clicks all the boxes you ever hope for with a start-up program in Florida. She is uniquely qualified for this particular opportunity, and we could not have imagined a better fit for us to start our program.” 

Another opportunity to build from the ground up, within state and 200 miles down Interstate-75, is both appealing and exciting.

“One of the most exciting things about it is that you get to do something from scratch,” said McCord, who noted Paul, who was associate head coach at JU, is likely to be on board at USF is some capacity. “It is not like you are inheriting a team. You get to really create it to exactly how you want it to be. You get to watch it take shape and come to life. That’s unique to coaching.”

Social media will help McCord shape the program. That is something she understands the importance of, especially for a startup program. Not that she will have trouble recruiting young prospects to USF. After all, in the days after the university announced in January it was adding women’s lacrosse, Kelly’s inbox was overflowing with messages from potential student-athletes wanting to come to Florida or remain within the state’s borders to continue their lacrosse careers.

Still, McCord desires to use various social platforms to convey to potential recruits the energy she felt from both the city and within the athletic department when she arrived in Tampa for her interview.

“Being able to show them what you have to offer and present it through those mechanisms, well, if they can see what I saw and felt what I felt when I rolled into [Tampa] and to [USF], you can help them get a feel for that through your social media presence,” she said. “This is important because you have to have kids and their families on campus to really experience it.”

Mindy McCord should have no problem attracting the players she wants to build with at USF.


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