In an eight-season stretch that already included multiple non-conference games against BYU, N.C. State, Louisville and Texas, USF and the University of Florida agreed Tuesday to a three-game series in football, beginning in 2022 in Gainesville.
Two others meetings –– at USF in 2023 and in Gainesville again in 2025 –– against the Gators have also been scheduled. USF will receive a total of $750,000 for it’s two trips to Gainesville.
“We are very excited for our program and our fans to add three games against the University of Florida to our schedule,” USF athletic director Mark Harlan said. “I would like to thank Coach Strong for his desire to play a challenging non-conference schedule and the leadership at Florida for their partnership in making this happen.”
As a result of the Bulls’ games against Florida, they will have to reschedule previously scheduled games against San Jose State (2022) and FAU (2023) to later dates.
Should either Florida or USF back out of any of the three games scheduled, it will have to pay the other institution $2.5 million per game.
The buyout sum is much higher than prior USF contracts with Power Five teams. In 2017, Michigan State bought out a game at Raymond James for $250,000 –– a next-to-nothing fee in comparison to USF’s current contract with Florida.
USF also had to honor Wisconsin’s request to move a game from 2017 to 2018 out of fear it would opt to use it’s buyout.
The Bulls’ and Gators’ Sept. 17 meeting in 2022 will be USF’s second game against Florida in its history, with its first ending in a 38-14 defeat. After facing the Gators in the second week of their 2022 season, the Bulls will have a game at home against Texas and one away at Louisville later in the same year.
“We are committed to scheduling opponents that our fans are excited to see the Bulls compete against and Florida certainly ranks very high on that list,” Harlan said.
In regard to why Florida accepted the three-game series with USF, Florida athletic director said in a statement released by the school that it was a “unique scheduling opportunity.”
He added: “A lot of Gator fans will have the opportunity to attend that game and we are looking forward to being able to play a regular-season game in central Florida.”
Florida coach Dan Mullen shared the same sentiment.
“The Tampa/St. Petersburg area is an important recruiting footprint for us and our players will love playing another game in an NFL stadium,” he said.
Florida and USF are separated by 125 miles along I-75, making Florida the second closest Division 1 football program in proximity to USF, with UCF (96 miles) being the only team closer.
Though it’s unlikely many –– if any –– of Florida’s current roster will remain on the team by the time USF plays Florida in 2022, the Gators roster currently has eight players from the Greater Tampa Bay area.
Florida has a history to play in-state schools in its recent past. Over the past 15 years, Florida has played Florida State, Miami, UCF, USF, Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic and Florida International.
Also potentially playing a factor in scheduling Florida is USF head coach Charlie Strong’s past coaching experience with Mullen. The two were both assistants at Florida in its 2008 national championship season.