USF-Miami makes for a real rivalry

For the first time, Tampa can’t wait until Hurricanes make a visit.

With the football team entering its 11th season and the Bulls lacking a true rival, USF decided to take a major step into becoming the fourth college football powerhouse in Florida. With the ink dried on a contract finalizing a six-game series with the Miami Hurricanes, USF may finally have accomplished this feat.

Although the first game of the series has already been played (Miami defeated USF 27-7 Oct. 1, 2005 at the Orange Bowl), Miami will visit Raymond James Stadium three times – beginning September 2009 – before the series shifts to a Thanksgiving matchup from 2010-2013.

This will easily become the biggest and most exciting series the Bulls have participated in during their young history.

Nothing but positives can come from this series for USF. Every casual college football fan knows who Miami is and after scheduling five games with USF, the same will soon be said for the Bulls.

The opponent USF has chosen has been arguably the most dominant college football team over the past 25 years. According to, 241 former Miami players went on to play in the NFL, three of whom have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The Hurricanes have seen at least one of its players selected in the first round of the NFL Draft for the past 13 seasons (an unprecedented mark) and have the most alumni active on an NFL roster. Watch any Sunday or Monday night football game and see just how many times players say “The U” during their pre-game introductions.

Establishing the Hurricanes as a rival gives USF a legitimate team to despise, something any fan base desperately needs.

With Miami in position to become “that team” for the Bulls, it provides a chance for a real feud, not one brought on simply because of a conference matchup.

Inserting the Hurricanes into the primary rival role is a challenge that all USF fans should embrace – it’s better than nearly every other possible alternative.

Previously, many were pushing for Central Florida to become USF’s main rival, but Coach Jim Leavitt always appeared adverse to the idea. Only 90 miles separate the two schools, but where the two programs expect to be in upcoming years can’t be measured.

USF’s move to the Big East provides the team with an opportunity to contend for a national title each season. This year, it is not unrealistic that the Bulls become nationally ranked for the first time, and if the team reaches Leavitt’s goal of winning the conference title, USF will play in one of the four major bowl games.

The Golden Knights are coming off a disappointing season in which they finished with an overall record of 4-8 and went 3-5 in Conference USA play, the same conference USF fled in order to gain more national prominence.

And let’s face it, all UCF has is Daunte Culpepper. Are you hyped at all about Culpepper right now?

Last year, BrightHouse networks (a primary USF sponsor and lead endorser for the Golden Knights’ BrightHouse Networks Stadium) didn’t even carry the matchup on its basic cable package in Tampa. This year, the game at Raymond James should be exciting, but not something Bulls fans should expect to become an annual tradition with 2008 marking the last scheduled game between the two schools with USF traveling to Orlando.

Televising the series with Miami apparently isn’t a problem, as Athletic Director Doug Woolard announced that ESPN has expressed a “strong desire” in broadcasting the games, especially as part of its Thanksgiving weekend package.

Leavitt said the Bulls would not join the ranks of the big three (Florida, Florida State and Miami) until they knocked one of them off.

During the first meeting, the Bulls’ defense proved they could go toe-to-toe with the Hurricanes. With the second meeting scheduled during quarterback Matt Grothe’s senior year, a Bulls victory may not come as an upset.

After defeating then-ranked No. 7 West Virginia on the road, the Bulls have proven they can play with anyone in the country. It seems as if USF feels that anyone is Miami.