USF has no one to blame but itself for the Bulls’ present state. That struck me full force after hearing coach Jim Leavitt rail about the Bulls being left out of a bowl game. If anyone bears the blame for that happening, it’s not the system, the schedule, Baylor or Eastern Michigan. It’s Leavitt.
He and Athletic Director Lee Roy Selmon make the schedule. The fact is, when Eastern Michigan and Baylor, two gimmes with a combined 6-18 record, dropped the Bulls, they were in a pinch. As the saying goes, “desperate times call for desperate measures.”
According to rumors, USF had multiple opportunities to play a Division I-A team, but because it would have likely been a road game, USF passed. Even if it was any I-A squad anywhere, they should have jumped on it. By passing on any offer, Leavitt and Selmon knew before the season started that things could unravel this way.
Then, they signed on to face Nicholls State and Charleston Southern without checking to see if they made the scholarship requirement. And if they did check, why put them on the schedule?
This after last year, when they heard about this same scenario possibly happening to other teams.
Leavitt also asserted that some teams were taking advantage of the Bulls’ predicament, asking for as much as a $300,000 to come play USF. While that is an exorbitant fee, the question has to be what’s more important: bowls or money? By the way, the smallest payout of any bowl game is $750,000.
So, while 113 of the other 116 teams in Division I-A managed to land 12 games this year, USF did not. At least that would have provided the Bulls with a chance to gain their bowl bid on the field rather than by whining or petitioning.
From the time I started following college football when I was eight, I understood that a team had to win six games against I-A competition to be bowl eligible.
Never, in any of the subsequent 13 years, did I hear about using one I-AA win every four years or petitions to get teams into bowl games.
That is, until last year, when USF got embroiled in this mess. The Bulls played two I-AA teams a year ago, which took some of the luster off their nine wins, then did it again this year.
Perhaps Leavitt should have applied the logic that even an 8-year-old could comprehend.
Instead, he had the gall to moan about the system.
“We were 9-2 last year, and people could move people in and out of conference last year so that we don’t get in, then why can’t they do some things to allow us in?” Leavitt said in a postgame radio interview. “We get screwed again. It’s ridiculous.”
Maybe my memory isn’t as clear as Leavitt’s, but last year, when USF played as Independent, Conference USA and the Hawaii Bowl were pulling strings to get the Bulls their first bowl berth even though no bowls extended invitations to Independents.
Future Big East foe UConn will learn that lesson the hard way this year, finishing 9-3 as an Independent. All of their losses are to teams going to bowls, but not even that matters because the Huskies won’t go to a bowl since no bowls have agreements with Independent teams.
That’s why USF joined C-USA — to prevent that from happening again. Instead, there’s more griping and maneuvering off the field, as opposed to settling it on the field. And I’m tired of hearing it.
Contact Oracle Staff Writer Anthony Gagliano at firstname.lastname@example.org