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No bull: South Florida a player in Big East


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From a Phoenix, AZ newspaper... I didn't see this posted yesterday...


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College gameday | No bull: South Florida a player in Big East

Dan Zeiger, Tribune

Casual football fans started getting to know South Florida  or, as the program insists on being called, USF  in 2005, when it became a member of the revamped Big East Conference.

The Bulls beat Louisville in 2005. A year ago, they topped West Virginia and narrowly defeated Rutgers, suggesting that the Big East’s power threesome was actually closer to a quartet.

And last weekend, South Flo, er, USF went into Auburn, undaunted by the suffocating atmosphere of Jordan-Hare Stadium or the SEC’s status as biggest, bestest conference in the history of the universe. The Bulls stunned No. 17 Auburn, 26-23, in overtime.

“If you go into any game thinking it’s going to be an upset, then you are fighting an uphill battle,†Bulls coach Jim Leavitt said. “If you look at each schedule from the beginning, I always felt we always bit off a big chunk.â€Â

Casual fan, meet USF. And, in the coming years, be prepared to meet more success story schools like it.

The age of year-round football training creating the biggest talent pool ever, combined with scholarship restrictions, has made the gap between the haves and have-nots smaller than ever before.

Long gone are the days when a Woody Hayes could sign a player just to keep Bear Bryant from getting him. Now, that player is not buried on the Ohio State depth chart, he is playing  and winning  in someone else’s jersey.

“It’s numbers more than anything,†Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said. “It used to be 95 scholarships and now it’s down to 85, and there are more players out there. The talent is spread around more, no question about it.â€Â

As a result, the power programs are more vulnerable than ever, especially early in the year. Exhibit A is, of course, the mother of all shockers, little Appalachian State’s victory at fifth-ranked Michigan two weeks ago.

That same day, Arkansas State gave Texas a major scare. Last week, Middle Tennessee pushed Louisville into the fourth quarter, and Nevada-Las Vegas had Wisconsin sweating until the final gun.

The less-concentrated talent pool has made the challenge of starting or rejuvenating a program somewhat easier. Two of USF’s Big East foes are a prime example, as Connecticut won nine games in its fourth season as a Division I-A school, and Rutgers rose from the dead in part because the good high school talent in New Jersey started staying home.

But a case could be made the biggest potential lies with USF, which is located in Tampa and boasts an enrollment of about 45,000. The Bulls play home games in Raymond James Stadium, sharing the facility with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

USF is one of the major-college programs that have recently sprung up in Florida  after years with just Florida, Florida State and Miami, the Sunshine State has seven NCAA bowl subdivision teams.

“The state can start I-A programs and be successful, just by recruiting the kids in their backyard,†Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds said.

USF began in 1996 with 75 players, played its first varsity game the next year and moved to I-A in 2001, winning eight games, then nine in ’02. After two seasons in Conference USA, the Bulls joined the Big East in 2005.

This year, USF  which is idle today and hosts North Carolina next week  has 15 returning starters, including sophomore Matt Grothe, the best unknown quarterback in America, and freshman running back Matt Ford, a highly touted recruit from Sarasota, Fla., who originally committed to Alabama. Cornerback Trae Williams and linebacker Ben Moffitt lead the defense.

And with a coach who has proven the ability to take what he has and build on it, the Bulls’ recent success figures to breed even more  perhaps to the point that a USF win against a big, bad SEC school will not be considered an upset.

“(Leavitt) has a chance to do something that I don’t think has ever been done in history,†USF athletic director Doug Woolard said. “And that’s start a program, stay with it and take it to a place of national prominence.â€Â

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I think we should make a shirt with this info..

You know...

1997- First ever game at 1AA level.

2001- Jumps to 1A as independents.

2003- Joins CUSA.

2005- Joins BCS Big East.

2007- Joins the elite as a ranked team.

And then have some stupid saying..."History is still being written"...

Ok, maybe I'm just too excited we were ranked...but this is HUGE! 11 yrs and we've done so much!

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1997 - First Ever game... 1996 we only scrimmaged...

Not a bad idea...

Thanks for the catch!  Fixed it!

And it's a great idea!

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typo... in our favor ;)  "narrowly defeated rutgers" last year... 

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typo... in our favor ;)  "narrowly defeated rutgers" last year... 

FIrst thing I noticed. Probably was suppoed to be "narrowly defeated BY rutgers"
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^^^  We shoulda beat rutgers...  We will this season.

Like the shirt idea.

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