USF parked in neutral, for now

A college football team must be popular for a starting quarterback’s parking violations to gain attention from the Associated Press.

The credit goes to Florida State quarterback Chris Rix, who was fined for two parking violations. The first came for parking in a handicapped spot and another for parking in a space reserved for patients at FSU’s regional rehabilitation center. Supposedly, he had the handicapped pass because he often drives a family friend to pick up her prescription.

But when he was late to class last week he used the pass to his advantage.

Maybe AP just picked up the story because of Rix’s past problem with class attendance. A suspension for missing a religion exam last year caused him to miss the Sugar Bowl.

Rix’s parking violation is the least of FSU’s worries, yet the story garners more attention than a USF game highlight, which is hard to come by in national media outlets.

USF quarterback Ronnie Banks could park illegally on campus (that is if he could find anywhere to park at this university) and nobody besides the local media would care, if that.

This not to say I encourage Banks to break the rules so, he too, would have the penalty of running bleachers like Rix, but USF hardly has the name recognition for its playmakers to be rewarded in the news. This is partly because USF didn’t make the jump in Division I-A to the Big East Conference, which receives more media coverage than Conference USA.

When Huey Whittaker’s 37-yard reception against Alabama in USF’s season opener made ESPN’s No. 1 play of the weekend, it was reported in local newspapers. And some USF fans couldn’t believe it was No. 1, not because it wasn’t a great play but because ESPN took the time to review the tape.

It would be nice to see the day when a USF game can fill a stadium the way the Sept. 14 Michigan vs. Notre Dame game did with a NCAA-record crowd of 111,726 fans. But, as long as USF remains in C-USA, that seems about as likely as a Beatles reunion.

The program may still be young, but even when USF officials had a clear opportunity to advance the program, they didn’t make a move.

USF didn’t even try to get in with the Big East when a spot opened up after Miami announced its intention to defect to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

If coach Jim Leavitt and the Bulls were so outraged when their chance for a bowl berth was stolen last year, why not do something about it by making a move to a better conference?

They failed to join a conference that would not only give them a chance to win championships, but would also give them better exposure among high-ranking teams such as Boston College, which attracts attendances near 50,000.

This weekend Bulls Country members can brag all they want that the game against Army will be featured on ESPN’s College GameDay. But it’s rather to showcase Army, a team college football traditionally tributes. For USF officials it will just be additional publicity for the Bulls’ logo.

One has to wonder what, if anything, is being done to build the program when the athletic director tells the media the Bulls will “leave all options open to take advantage of any opportunity that may strengthen (the) athletic program,” but does nothing to lead them in that direction. The worst thing a leader can do is not lead. Right now, the only leadership the USF football program has known is with Leavitt. But even Leavitt seems to be hedging his bets as he has yet to sign his contract that is worth $4.3 million for seven years.

Somewhere USF has made a mistake not to take advantage of taking a team with potential and putting it in a better conference. At least Rix admitted he made a mistake, a mistake he said was regrettable.

Let’s hope USF doesn’t regret its mistake.