USF coach Skip Holtz told reporters during the annual Big East spring meetings Tuesday that UCF coach George O’Leary called him last week to express interest in USF and UCF playing each other again in the future.
“I’m not opposed it,” Holtz said to the media earlier this week. “I like the geographical rivalries it creates for your fan base.”
The two schools went in different directions after USF expressed no interest in continuing the cross-state rivalry after the four-year contract ended in 2008. USF won all four meetings against the Knights from 2005-08, including a 64-12 victory at Raymond James Stadium in 2007.
Former USF coach Jim Leavitt made his reasons for wanting to end the brief in-state series clear back in 2007, while UCF coach George O’Leary wanted to continue it, saying it was a “natural rivalry.”
“Most people would say you are out of your mind playing Florida and Miami in the same year,” Leavitt said to the media in 2007. “And you think I want to play UCF also? I am concerned about playing too many Florida teams in the same year. We always want to play a big national BCS game.”
So out went UCF and in came traditional state powers Florida, FSU and Miami. The Bulls, who beat FSU and lost to Miami last season, are set to play the Gators and ‘Canes on the road in 2010. Holtz said back in January, when he was hired to replace Leavitt as USF head coach, USF had little to gain by playing UCF annually as opposed to the powerhouse programs.
Ultimately, though, the decision would go through USF athletic director Doug Woolard. The Bulls’ recent scheduling is such that two of the five annual non-conference opponents are usually Division I non-BCS opponents, like UCF, but Leavitt said back in 2007 there’s no upside to playing UCF when Miami, Florida or FSU is on the schedule.
The Bulls have already proven they can take down one of the state’s “Big Three,” beating FSU 17-7 at Doak Campbell Stadium in September 2009 in what Leavitt called the biggest win in school history.
“I would rather play Florida, Florida State or Miami because I think that’s the level to where we want to build this program to and I think it’s impossible to get to that level unless you can compete at that level. And that’s where we want to play,” Holtz said to the Tampa Tribune in January. “I’m not opposed to (playing UCF regularly) and I’m certainly not afraid of it, but from a standpoint of where we’re trying to build, I want to compete against some of those other schools before them.”