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Leavitt Optimistic Over Bulls' Chances

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Leavitt Optimistic Over Bulls' Chances


The Tampa Tribune

Published: July 18, 2008

TAMPA - Shortly after the red-eye, five-hour flight bound for Tampa left Los Angeles on Wednesday night, the passenger sitting directly in front of University of South Florida football coach Jim Leavitt reclined his chair.

"I don't want any of that anymore," Leavitt jokingly told University of Florida coach Urban Meyer.

Perhaps it was symbolic that Leavitt was seated in first class with Meyer.

Eleven years ago, the Bulls played their first game and couldn't see Florida's program with the Hubble telescope. Now the Bulls, three years since joining the Big East Conference, might have as good a chance as Florida to play for a BCS national title.

Since 2005, USF is 24-14. Of the state's four BCS programs, only Florida (31-8) has more victories, but Leavitt isn't ready to rename the state's "Big Three" the "Big Four."

"You have to beat them," Leavitt said. "We could say we're one of them and people can be sitting around drinking coffee and get in this nice discussion: 'How does South Florida compare?'

"Their tradition; all those schools have won national championships. I think you have to beat them. You have to have the opportunity. That will be here starting next year."

Next season, the Bulls host Miami in the first of five consecutive games with the Hurricanes on Thanksgiving weekend. But before next year gets here, Leavitt can't wait for this year.

USF returns 16 starters from last year's 9-4 club, including quarterback Matt Grothe and All-America defensive end George Selvie. Expectations are at an all-time high, with the Bulls ranked as high as No. 8 in one of the summer preseason magazines.

"I'm excited," Leavitt said. "As excited as I've ever been. I'm anxiously waiting."

Leavitt is eager to see which team shows - the one that started 6-0, the one that suffered three consecutive losses, the one that closed the regular season 3-0 or the one routed by Oregon in the Sun Bowl.

"The thing I was most impressed by was the way our football team came back after the three-game losing streak, winning those last three games," said Leavitt, 79-47 in 11 years at USF. "I was very impressed."

The success of last year's season already is evident. The school has sold a record 24,000 season tickets, and the Bulls' 2009 recruiting class was ranked No. 12 nationally by ESPN.com (by comparison, USF has never had a top 40 recruiting class).

"A lot more players are noticing the University of South Florida as a place to go," Leavitt said. "They understand we're in a BCS conference. Getting up to No. 2 shows there's a chance, a chance to play in the national title game. It doesn't mean we will or we won't, it means we got a shot."

Leavitt admits USF loses most of the recruiting battles with the Big Three, but the Bulls make it tougher every year.

"Florida, Florida State and Miami get most of the guys they target, but we're staying with a lot of those players a lot longer than we ever have," Leavitt said. "The percentages aren't real high for USF getting a recruit, but before it never happened. We weren't in the discussion.

"Now, guys want to be a part of history and we're probably going to be on TV more than anyone else in the Big East."

Six of USF's 12 regular-season games will be televised by ESPN or ESPN2. That number could increase if the Bulls match last year's 6-0 start.

"It's not easy taking a program from a trailer and building it up to where we are now," Leavitt said. "It's like being on top of Mount Everest. That's part of the climb that's really tough. 'Will our program be able to do all that?' I don't know. We'll see. I hope so. We're going to give it a shot."

Before Leavitt boarded his flight in Los Angeles, he was at the ESPYs. He did the whole red carpet thing. At one point, he was standing next to soccer star David Beckham. "Leavitt, Beckham. Beckham, Leavitt."

As Leavitt continued down the red carpet, the strangest thing occurred. He said he heard a couple of "Go Bulls" chants.

Get used to it: the nation will be hearing a lot more from the Bulls this year.


Win-loss records of the state's BCS programs since USF joined the Big East in 2005:

Florida 31-8 .794

USF 24-14 .631

Miami 21-16 .567

FSU 22-17 .564


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Doubt it was smazza, he is not a fan of Leavitt.    Meyer and him sitting in first class that had to have been interesting conversation. 

First statement from Leavitt "Hey thanks for stealing my defensive Line coach, now you have to come to Tampa and play us to make up for that move."

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HC should be optimistic  but there is no reason for him to fly 3k for an awards show in whoch he didnt get an award

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HC should be optimistic  but there is no reason for him to fly 3k for an awards show in whoch he didnt get an award

You mean other than it being paid for by UA and getting a little national publicity.  ;)

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