Football finalizes its 2003 schedule

USF football’s first season as a member of Conference USA can officially get underway.

The Bulls finalized their 2003 schedule last weekend by adding Charleston Southern for an Oct. 18 matchup at Raymond James Stadium.

USF was forced to add Charleston Southern and a Sept. 6 home date with Nicholls State after Baylor and Eastern Michigan cancelled.

“We’re excited about our overall schedule in 2003,” USF Director of Athletics Lee Roy Selmon said in a news release. “When we had the cancellations by Baylor and Eastern Michigan, we worked diligently to replace them with I-A teams, but we were unable to get that done. At the same time, we feel the 2003 schedule is still the toughest and the most exciting we have faced in our seven seasons, and we’re especially excited to play our first season in Conference USA.”

USF contacted every Division IA and Division I AA team before discovering D-IAA teams Nicholls State and Charleston Southern would fit into the Bulls’ schedule.

“(It was the) only time they had an opening,” USF coach Jim Leavitt said. “We had nothing to do with it. We were looking for anybody to play us at any time. We exhausted all opportunities.”

Charleston Southern will come at a good time for USF, sandwiched between a nationally televised home date against C-USA defending champion TCU and an away matchup against Southern Miss.

“We’re opening up a Conference USA schedule,” Leavitt said. “I don’t care who our non-conference opponents are. Our focus is on Conference USA.”