ESPN has finally come calling for USF. According to the school, the Bulls will make their second-ever national television appearance, and first on ESPN, Oct. 10 at Raymond James Stadium.
Neither Conference USA nor ESPN has released its final schedules yet to officially set the time and date. The conference allowed the individual schools to release their schedules Friday. USF made its first appearance on national television Sept. 24 at Oklahoma on TBS.
The 2003 season will be USF’s first in C-USA.
In addition to non-league games vs. Alabama and Eastern Michigan, USF will play Army, TCU, Southern Miss, East Carolina, Cincinnati, Memphis and UAB. With the C-USA schedule in an eight-year rotation, the Bulls will miss Houston and Tulane this season and go through two-year intervals of missing every team in the conference.
That slate, however, leaves the Bulls with 10 games, two under the maximum number of games allowed by the NCAA. USF had 11 games on the schedule until Baylor elected to buy out its game at Raymond James Stadium Sept. 20, so the Bears and new coach Guy Morriss could play a seventh home game against Division I-AA Sam Houston State instead.
“We wanted another home game in its place,” Baylor Assistant Athletic Director Scott Stricklin said. “That was definitely the reason. With a new coaching staff and all, we wanted as many homes games as possible. It has created a lot of excitement, and we want to capitalize on that by doing this. Plus, we now play nine of our 12 games in Texas and that gives our fans more opportunity to see us.”
The move has left USF in a lurch, as the Bulls and Athletics Director Lee Roy Selmon search not only for a game to fill the now open Baylor date, but to pack the schedule with a 12th game. But as Stricklin said in Baylor’s case, that could be impossible.
“We would rather have a I-A team at home, but it’s kind of late for that,” Stricklin said. “We weren’t able to accomplish it. To get a I-A team would be pretty hard. Depending upon your region, you might get lucky. It’s not something I would want to try to do.”
However, staying at 10 games is something that neither USF coach Jim Leavitt nor Selmon want or plan to do.
“We fully intend to have 12 games,” Selmon said. “All we can do is keep working the phones every day because you never know when the situation might work out. But, we’re going to try until we exhaust every means possible.”
Faced with an uphill battle, Selmon has sought the help of C-USA. He said he has a few hopefuls, but declined to say how probable or who he could get to fill the Baylor slot at such a late date.
“I’m disappointed in the sense that they chose to exercise a clause within the contract in the sense that it came so late.
“If it had been October or November, you can understand. We’re in a bit of a pickle to replace them since most Division I-A schedules are set.”
Oracle Sports Editor Anthony Gagliano covers football and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org