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Kruczek reiterates desire to face USF

By Times staff writers
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 28, 2002

LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Every year the questions come up at the annual state coaches' news conference. And Saturday was no exception.

When will South Florida and Central Florida play an instate series? Will they ever?

UCF coach Mike Kruczek reiterated his school's stance that a USF-UCF rivalry would be a natural, would generate fan interest and strong revenue for each program.

The Golden Knights want it to start as soon as possible, with the series alternating between the Bulls' home at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa and UCF's home at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

But now that UCF is a member of the Mid-American Conference, Kruczek said the school's schedule virtually is filled through 2010. Also, USF joins Conference USA in 2003, further complicating the matter.

That doesn't mean the schools can't try to fit the game in, Kruczek said, and it will happen when USF decides it will.

"I just wish they could realize how important it is for us to start this relationship," he said.

USF coach Jim Leavitt can respond at his news conference at 10 a.m. today.

THE BIG MAC: Kruczek said the MAC is not what it used to be. And that's a good thing.

He said the league, known for "big, strong guys that can't run," is blessed with more speed than most realize, and said this year's crop of quarterbacks, including Marshall's Byron Leftwich, an early Heisman Trophy candidate, and UCF junior Ryan Schneider, is an elite group.

"That's probably as good of a quarterback class in a conference as there is in the country," Kruczek said.

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK: Of the 90 players Florida International begins its inaugural season with, 75 are redshirt or true freshmen. Twenty-three of the Golden Panthers' 25 true freshmen started class in July and, because of NCAA rules, are paying their own way this summer.

"That should tell you something about how excited they are," coach Don Strock said.

FUI opens against Saint Peter's Aug.29. The Thursday night game will be televised on Sunshine.

SMALL SCHOOL, BIG DREAM: Florida, Florida State and Miami have national titles and now Webber International wants one, too. The tiny business school in the Polk County town of Babson Park begins play this season with a club team (it has four games), then jumps into the NAIA next year.

"In the next four years, we really think we can be in the hunt for the national championship," Warriors coach Rod Shafer said. "There are so many good athletes in this state."

ODDS AND ENDS: Shafter said the average number of applications received by the registrar's office has jumped from four to 27 a week since the school announced this year football would be added. The school had about 750 students last year. ... About the anticipation surrounding Miami's late-season game at Tennessee, Hurricanes coach Larry Coker joked, "I think they started tailgating for our (Nov.9) game last week."

LAST WORD: Bethune-Cookman coach Alvin Wyatt, who followed Coker, Strock and Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger, opened his session by saying, "It's like what Liz Taylor told her husbands: I won't be long."

-- KEITH NIEBUHR, JAMAL THALJI

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