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Opportunity rings for USF

Dear Lee Roy Selmon,

Pick up the phone and make the call. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is or where you are. Call John Swofford and do it now. The Atlantic Coast Conference has given you a big opportunity, and this is the time to seize it.

When the league elected to invite Miami and Virginia Tech, it left open a spot in its new super-conference. To have the lucrative football championship game the league envisioned when it started talking expansion, the ACC needs one more school, to bring its membership to 12. That’s where USF fits in. Boston College and Syracuse still want in, but they’re still licking their wounds from not being invited this time around. There are surely others who will want that spot. You need to strike quickly.

And let’s face it, no one wants to be in Conference USA. It’s a mish-mash grouping of universities from all over the country with little to no similarities between them. Most of these teams have been united for years, but they can’t even stick with a conference name for more than a few years (Metro and Great Midwest are the two previous incarnations). Louisville, one of the conference’s premier basketball and football teams, is prepared to bolt for the Big East any day now to replace the team(s) leaving.

So call Swofford, the ACC commissioner, and sell USF. Pitch the up-and-coming football team and your coach with the big contract extension who won’t be leaving any time soon. The men’s basketball team has a new coach who’s going to infuse energy into the program. Most of the so-called minor sports are already worthy of the lofty status the ACC considers itself in. Softball, women’s track and field, volleyball, men’s tennis and cross country all had NCAA seasons. The best doubles player in the past 30 years is your women’s tennis coach.

President Genshaft wants to enhance USF’s academic reputation. What better way than to have highbrow schools such as Virginia, North Carolina and Duke as your neighbors? Tell the ACC that USF’s a Research I school, and point to all the construction on campus as signs of growth and progress.

Then hang up the phone.

Immediately after that call Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese and repeat the above steps. The Big East is, in all likelihood, going to lose Miami, and Virginia Tech is already gone. Convince him that the next Hurricanes are located in Tampa. Nobody was sure how well Howard Schnellenberger’s “State of Miami” was going to work when he begun the move to recruit all the best athletes in Dade and Broward counties in the ’70s. He won a national title in 1983, and his successors have notched four more. Jim Leavitt has built USF into a bona fide threat in his seven years using almost exclusively homegrown players. Every one of USF’s 25 recruits this year are from Florida, six from Hillsborough County.

It doesn’t take Van Gogh to paint a picture of USF sliding into Miami’s shoes as the beast of the Big East in time. Tell him that now is the time to get in on the ground floor of this project. The Big East needs to act fast because it needs to replenish its ranks before the BCS has time to consider pulling its coveted ($15 million) bowl bid. But, at all costs, remain humble, because USF needs either the ACC or the Big East more than either conference needs the Bulls. If you have friends, acquaintances or contacts in those leagues, call them — otherwise, make new ones. You’re going to need all the help you can get.

The future of USF athletics hinges upon making a move. Staying stuck with Tulane (which almost killed its football team this year), UAB, etc., would be like life in prison.

Armageddon is coming, and the year is 2005, when the BCS and television contracts come up for renewal. No one wants to be left behind, hence all the talk about expansion. C-USA isn’t getting a BCS bid, even if the Big East loses its bid. The powers-that-be are only going to try to consolidate their power when the contract negotiations come up, not spread it around to the have-nots. And C-USA and USF are definitely have-nots in the world of NCAA sports. The chance to change USF’s future and image is at hand. Pick up the phone and make the call.