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Big East = Big Recruits (Times)


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Big East = Big Recruits

The larger, more established conference will help lure top football and basketball recruits to South Florida.

By PETE YOUNG, Times Staff Writer

Published November 7, 2003


TAMPA - Like the eternal real estate maxim "location, location, location," success in college athletics is built on recruiting.

And on recruiting.

And, most important, recruiting.

Which is where the Big East comes in for South Florida. The Big East name and upgrade in caliber of competition are expected to elevate its revenue-generating sports, football and men's basketball. And that elevation starts with the Big East prestige helping USF recruit better athletes.

Football coach Jim Leavitt has established a firm foundation essentially out of thin air. USF began play in 1997, moved to Division I-A in 2001 and has accrued a 22-8 record since.

Leavitt's recruiting pitch has bloated in that time. From initially selling only a vision, USF now touts major perks such as Raymond James Stadium, C-USA membership beginning this fall and the $18-million athletic facility to be completed this spring.

The Big East is the newest weapon in the recruiting arsenal, and it is effective, according to the best sources on the subject - recruits.

"My top two are Pittsburgh and (USF)," said Armwood defensive end Jarriett Buie, who has been offered scholarships by Iowa and Miami. "Now that they're in the Big East, that only makes them better."

Buie's teammate, Mike Williams, echoed his thoughts.

"(The Big East) is a factor, but I like South Florida anyways," said Williams, a receiver/defensive back who has been offered scholarships by USF, Maryland and Clemson. "But it does make it a better scenario at South Florida. I think the competition level is better (in the Big East) since it's a BCS conference. With those other schools leaving and the new schools coming in, there's a chance for South Florida to step in and take that exposure."

Two senior prospects from Countryside, Jermaine Filer and Isaiah Gwyn, are being looked at by USF. Neither has been offered a scholarship, but both are impressed with USF's move.

"Oh, yeah, it's a big step up," said Filer, a 6-foot-4 receiver who has offers from Kansas State and West Virginia.

"Being in the Big East is better for (USF)," said Gwyn, a running back/defensive back who is being recruited by Boston College and West Virginia. "It will make their recruiting a lot better."

In basketball, the 2005-06 Big East is regarded as one of, if not the best conference in the nation, which could be a Catch-22 for the Bulls.

The Big East name should improve recruiting and allow new coach Robert McCullum to be more selective. But the Bulls still would be a notch or two below much of the league.

"You have to get better players than you did before," said Clark Francis, a veteran recruiting analyst for Hoop Scoop. "On positive side, it's a very fertile recruiting area in the deep South, so you have places you can get players a lot of people don't know about."

USF basketball is picked 10th out of 14 teams in C-USA this season (by the league coaches). Meanwhile, seven of the Top 25 teams nationally in the preseason ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll will be in the Big East in 2005. Keeping top local talent home and patience are keys.

"They're going to need time, that's the biggest thing," Francis said. "They weren't ready to step into the top half of C-USA, so in the Big East they're in trouble. Will they have enough time to get it done?"

After this recruiting cycle - the fall signing period begins next week - then McCullum, who replaced Seth Greenberg in April, should begin to reap the benefits of Big East membership.

Other major-conference coaches in Florida have recruited successfully. The second full recruiting class for Billy Donovan at Florida and Leonard Hamilton at Florida State were among the nation's best, and Hamilton also raised Miami from the bottom of the Big East in the 1990s.

"Next year's recruiting class is the critical one," Francis said. "But don't rush to judge after this year."

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I see the Big East affiliation really helping our B-Ball program (THANK GOD).  I have been extremely disappointed in the B-Ball program of late.  But with the new coach (I like hard ass attitude) and the Big East affliation over time this program will become one of the premier prgrams in the country (**** am I being positive?).

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Which of Seth Greenberg's well-documented recruiting whiffs might have been swayed to come here, had USF been in the Big East at the time?

- Keyoon Dooling (Mizzou) with BB, Altron and Dooling we would have surely went to the NCAA tournament...either that or we would have won that ESPN Streetball thing at the Sun Dome.

- Kenny Walker (Alabama) Probably

- Casey Sanders (Duke) Probably not.

- Schea Cotton (Alabama) maybe. (didn't matter anyway)

Feel free to add more as you think of them.

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