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USF Monday opener with Pitt postponed

The Bulls still are "hopeful" ESPN will televise the football game on Dec. 3 or 4.

GREG AUMAN
Published September 4, 2004

TAMPA - USF coach Jim Leavitt stood under blue skies at the end of Friday's practice, his unwavering focus still firmly fixed on the scheduled opener Monday against Pittsburgh.

For more than a day, the Bulls coach remained hopeful his football team's game wouldn't be bumped by Hurricane Frances, steadily moving toward the state.

"We've had great weather. ... We're really zeroing in on this game," Leavitt said. "The guys are pretty focused."

Less than an hour later, USF and Pittsburgh announced the game had been postponed until the weekend of Dec. 3-4, playing it safe after seeing the wide swath of damage from Hurricane Charley last month.

"Due to the uncertainty of the weather created by Hurricane Frances, and the desire to provide a safe environment, we have decided to reschedule the game," USF athletic director Doug Woolard said.

In addition to the public safety issue was concern about Pittsburgh's flight into Tampa, scheduled for Sunday night. Leavitt conceded that playing the game was never as important as playing under safe conditions.

"We're disappointed," said Leavitt, who gave his players today and Sunday off. "You get excited, you get emotionally ready to play, but now you just have to get ready for the next one."

The Bulls now have an extra week to practice for their Sept. 11 opener against Tennessee Tech, the lone Division I-AA opponent on their schedule. The shift lessens a difficult five-game stretch to open the season, but now has the Bulls ending their season with back-to-back high-profile opponents in Memphis (Nov. 27) and Pittsburgh.

Instead of facing an untested Pittsburgh quarterback, Tyler Palko, who did not play last year and has attempted three passes in his career, the Bulls will see him with an entire season of experience. The season finale could easily have bowl ramifications for both schools.

Pittsburgh also has an important game the week before meeting USF, playing what could be a Big East title game against West Virginia on Nov. 25. The Bulls, who join the Big East in 2005, could have the opportunity to beat their new conference's freshly crowned champion.

The game will be played on either Dec. 3 or 4, depending on which date is best for ESPN, which was to televise Monday's game nationally. Woolard said Friday that he was "hopeful" the game could still be carried by ESPN.

Playing in prime time on Dec. 4 would put the USF-Pittsburgh broadcast up against the Southeastern Conference title game, which CBS broadcasts at 6 p.m., or the Big 12 championship, which ABC will carry at 7 p.m. Leavitt said his preference was to play Dec. 4. But if ESPN is to keep the game, it would likely be Dec. 3, when no other games are scheduled.

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