University of South Florida football coach Willie Taggart has declared Tampa’s Ybor City neighborhood off-limits for his team after the fatal stabbing of a former player.
Former USF defensive lineman Elkino Watson, 23, died Sunday. Police said the stabbing happened after a fight early Sunday near a Ybor City nightclub.
On Monday’s American Athletic Conference teleconference, Taggert said his players will “have to find other places to go have fun” instead of going to the historic entertainment district.
“We’ve done a great job on educating guys on how to act away from here,” Taggart said. “You’ve got to be smart and walk away when things get out of hand. I think we all know where the good and bad places are. We’ve got to make sure we’re not in those bad places. Tampa’s a great city with a lot of great places to go and have fun.”
The recently retired head of the Ybor City Development Corp., the city agency that promotes the district, said he was surprised by Taggert’s announcement.
“Ybor is such a safe environment daytime and evenings and the (police) stats prove that,” Vince Pardo told The Tampa Tribune. “I feel sorry for the young man, but I was really surprised by the stance that the coach would take on that.”
Watson played for USF from 2011-2014. Taggart said his team was shaken by Watson’s death a few hours after his visit with the Bulls following their 51-3 victory over Florida A&M.
The Orpheum nightclub hosted what it called an after-party for the game, but university officials said USF had no role in the event. No arrest has been made in the stabbing that also injured a second victim.
Taggart said USF players will wear stickers honoring Watson, starting with their upcoming game against Florida State. A memorial service is scheduled Tuesday on campus for USF players.
“A lot of our players are upset, obviously,” Taggart said. “Some of the freshmen who got a chance to meet him, he touched them as well. He was a great young man, always had a great smile. We won’t forget him. It’s always difficult when you lose someone you’re close to.”
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.