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The South Florida football team has become a very undesirable opponent.
The Bulls, apparently, are too good.
Baylor and Eastern Michigan essentially chickened out of games this fall with rapidly improving USF, replacing the Bulls with featherweights Sam Houston State and Navy, respectively.
Though most schools have set their schedules for this fall, fortunately a few are willing to rework things to challenge USF. A noteworthy one is Central Florida, which has made the media aware it has told USF it would be willing to hand its Sept. 20 game at Syracuse to USF in order to play Sept. 6 at Raymond James Stadium. (Syracuse athletic director Jake Crouthamel told the Times he would consider the swap.)
The Knights have lobbied for a game with USF for years, while the Bulls have said they wanted to wait until they were in Conference USA, in which they begin play this season.
Sure, UCF is grandstanding a bit, but the offer is alluring. USF's nonconference schedule would be: at Alabama (Aug. 30); vs. UCF (Sept. 6); vs. a probable Division I-AA opponent (Sept. 13, Oct. 18 or Nov. 15) and at Syracuse (Sept. 20). Syracuse, like Alabama, would reap a large financial guarantee for USF, and the UCF game could shatter USF's attendance record of 49,212.
One potential holdup is the long trip to Syracuse coming a week before another flight to New York to play Army in the C-USA opener. Such travel might not appeal to the USF team, but for fans the schedule possibilities suddenly are much more delectable than anything involving a trip to Eastern Michigan.
LAST CHANCE: Associate athletic director for compliance Steve Horton said the eligibility appeal of Israeli basketball guard Raphael Toren is at 1 p.m. Tuesday. The hearing, via conference call, will include Toren's father, Peter. Toren, 20, who walked on after the first semester, was denied eligibility by the NCAA in January when he was deemed a professional.
UNDER WAY: Construction has begun on the long-anticipated, $18-million athletic facility. The first step is reconfiguring the adjacent parking lot to make up for the impending lost spaces.
While the project has been approved by USF's board of trustees, final approval from the state has been delayed because of the recent restructuring of the educational system. It is not expected to alter the anticipated completion date of January 2004.
"I don't think there's any chance whatsoever of any hang-ups," said Bobby Paschal, USF's associate athletic director for facilities and event management. "We feel good about where we are with everything."
OUT: Kansas State associate athletic director Jim Epps said USF football coach Jim Leavitt informed him Tuesday that the Bulls were looking for a home-and-home arrangement and declined a "generous" financial guarantee to play Sept. 20 in Manhattan, Kan.
"That's interesting that he said that," Leavitt said.
IN?: Troy State athletic director Johnny Williams, whose football team played a home-and-home with USF before both ascended to Division I-A, said he has spoken with USF athletic director Lee Roy Selmon about scheduling a home-and-home series. It might begin this fall if Troy State can rearrange another game, Williams said.
-- Pete Young covers USF sports. He can be reached at (813) 226-3346 or via e-mail at email@example.com .