Before the first football game in USF history, at Tampa Stadium against Kentucky-Wesleyan in Sept. 1997, USF coach Jim Leavitt was told by his kicker that the team had no tees and would not be able to kickoff without one.
Luckily for Leavitt and the team, future USF athletic director and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers hall-of-famer Lee Roy Selmon was on hand. Selmon played in the stadium for the Bucs and was able to get one for Leavitt in time for the Bulls’ first kickoff.
“I was thinking, ‘Oh man, my first game here and I’m already going to get fired’,'” Leavitt said of the incident.
Leavitt spoke before the Student Government Senate Tuesday to reflect on the development of USF’s 7-year-old football team. Leavitt said he has high expectations for his team as it prepares to move from Conference USA to the Big East in 2005.
“We didn’t play well last year (when the team finished 7-4), and I apologize for that,” Leavitt said. “But we are excited about the future, we are excited about joining the Big East. We’ve come a long way from when we first started one day in a trailer, basically without a team.”
Leavitt said since the East Coast region the Big East covers includes roughly 20 percent of the nation’s television market, he expects the conference to keep its BCS automatic bid when the system is reevaluated in 2005.
Leavitt said he was happy to speak before the senate because without the student body’s support, the football team would not exist. It was student demand, he said, that brought a football program to USF. He also said the $10 athletic fee paid by all students, which was endorsed by the senate before being introduced, has been valuable to the program as it expands and improves.
The future of the team, Leavitt said, depends on USF’s ability to make a “powerful” entry into the Big East.
In a question-and-answer session, several students questioned game decisions Leavitt made last season and asked him what type of team may take the field when the team opens its 2004 schedule on Sept. 4 against Tennessee Tech.
“I have a very aggressive mentality, and sometimes that leads to me making some decisions that, in hindsight, I probably wouldn’t make again,” Leavitt said.
He also said that starters for next year have not been decided, and that he expects close races at several positions for the starter spots.
Leavitt said recruiting is improving, partly because of the Big East move, and next year will provide a new-look team. He said some of the incoming freshman might enable the Bulls to bolster their running game.