© St. Petersburg Times, published November 25, 2002
TAMPA -- The regular season is over, but South Florida coach Jim Leavitt has scheduled practice for next Monday.
The Bulls, 9-2 after Saturday's 32-14 win against Houston, are hoping to get an at-large bowl berth. Leavitt said he would check into the NCAA rules on practicing after the season is over while awaiting word on a possible bid. But he told the team to be ready to go after Thanksgiving weekend.
"They need to get away for a few days," Leavitt said. "We're going to have some (coaches) meetings and hit recruiting, and next week we should be practicing."
The Motor City Bowl and Seattle Bowl have openings because the Big Ten and Mountain West, respectively, do not have enough bowl-eligible teams, and there are several other possibilities.
If New Mexico loses Saturday to Wyoming, the Mountain West's berth in the San Francisco Bowl is open; if Mississippi loses to Mississippi State on Thursday, the SEC's slot in the Independence Bowl is open; and a sequence of results in games involving Cincinnati, East Carolina and UAB, could leave Conference USA short and the Hawaii Bowl or New Orleans Bowl with an opening.
USF athletic director Lee Roy Selmon said Sunday he was figuring out all of the permutations. Asked which bowls he would be contacting this week, he said: "A good answer for that would be all of them. Whoever might be available, we'll contact them for sure."
Among the teams from power conferences with a surplus of bowl-eligibles that USF could be competing with for a bid are: Georgia Tech, Clemson or Wake Forest from the ACC; Oklahoma State, Texas A&M or Iowa State from the Big 12; and Oregon, Oregon State, Arizona State or Washington from the Pac-10.
RATINGS AND RANKINGS: The media are showing slightly more respect for USF than the football coaches. In the AP poll of college football writers, USF received 21 voting points, up from four Nov. 17. The Bulls are ranked 32nd (seventh among those also receiving votes).
In the ESPN/USA Today poll of 61 of the nation's football coaches, the Bulls received 13 voting points, up from two Nov. 17, and are ranked 34th (ninth among those also receiving votes).
Leavitt was hoping for a bigger jump after USF got its first votes Nov. 17.
"I was hoping we could get in there, maybe 25th," Leavitt said. "If anybody has received no respect, it's South Florida. I guess some people just don't know about us yet."
USF moved up one spot in the BCS rankings to No. 27, according to collegebcs.com.