Coach Jim Leavitt has his New Year’s Eve plans all ready.
“I’ll be in Charlotte,” Leavitt said.
It’s true; Leavitt and the football team will spend about a week in Charlotte preparing for the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Dec. 31 against North Carolina State (6-5).
Whether Leavitt and his players will party is still to be seen pending a win over the Wolfpack, but either way, Leavitt said he wants people to join him in celebrating.
“As a program on the rise, as a program that seriously needs to be considered, you’ve got to travel really well,” Leavitt said. “If we bring up 20,000, that would make a statement across the country. That would be as powerful as could be. If we could bring up 10,000, that would be a good statement.”
Actually, Leavitt said he would be happy with whoever came up from Tampa.
“I don’t know how many we can bring up,” said Leavitt, who is 61-38 as USF’s football coach. “But everybody, their kids, aunties, grandfathers, extended family – get a caravan, and green and gold needs to certainly engulf Charlotte.”
With the bowl game being played in Bank of America Stadium – home of the Carolina Panthers – N.C. State will have a slight edge getting fans to travel the mere three hours from Raleigh as opposed to the nine hours from Tampa.
“It’s going to be like a home game for (the Wolfpack),” Leavitt said. “You can imagine how many from N.C. State are going to be there. We’ve been in that situation before, and I think it’ll just create more excitement for us. I mean, that’s nothing new. Hey, I hope they pack the house. It’s the ACC and the Big East. It’s N.C. State. We’ll be right in their backyard. We got to have a bunch of Bulls up there.”
With a renewed contract set to keep him around till 2012, Leavitt knows how important the game is, but also said the bowl has been a long time in coming.
“This bowl game is going to set a precedent for years to come,” Leavitt said. “I can’t say that enough. It’s a huge exclamation point.
“You know, I’d thought we go sooner. I really did. The year we went 8-3 – our first year in Division I-A – I thought we’d go, and I thought the next year when we went 9-2, I really thought someone would put us somewhere. Then it was 7-4, and some things didn’t work out. There’s an asterisk on that season.
“But to go to a bowl game the first year in a BCS conference, that’s pretty stellar. It’s our fifth year of I-A football. Now that is a pretty strong statement.”
So with winter break approaching, Leavitt wants everyone at USF – even in Tampa – to go ahead and make holiday plans now.
“If you’re not going to be in Tampa, there is no where else to be other than Charlotte on New Year’s Eve,” Leavitt said. “I’ll promise you.”