Bowl berth by no means a sure thing for Bulls

Published November 28, 2005

TAMPA - This is what coach Jim Leavitt was talking about nine days ago when he said: "Being bowl eligible doesn't mean you're going to a bowl game."

The Bulls' 15-10 loss at Connecticut has put their bowl prospects in jeopardy, which could make Saturday a tense day of scoreboard-watching.

"There's no doubt it's the toughest loss in the 10 years I've been here," Leavitt said during his weekly radio show Sunday on 620-AM.

If USF (6-4, 4-2 Big East) can upset No.12 West Virginia on Saturday, the Bulls will all but lock up a spot in the Meineke Car Care Bowl Dec.31 in Charlotte. They also can clinch if the Huskies aren't able to upset No.16 Louisville in an ESPN game that kicks off 15 minutes after the Bulls' 7:30 start.

But if USF loses and Connecticut wins, the Bulls' bowl future would be uncertain. USF has been linked to the Motor City Bowl in Detroit, but there'd be an opening only if Ohio State were given an at-large BCS berth. Even then, Motor City is obligated to take a Big East team only if it has seven wins.

"If the Big East offered a 6-5 team, we are not bound by the agreement," executive director Ken Hoffman said. "We would consider them, but they would be in a mix of schools we would be considering."

Those would include other 6-5 teams such as Memphis, Southern Miss, Houston and New Mexico, as well as Louisiana Tech (6-4). Other bowls, such as the Music City or Las Vegas, have at-large openings, but N.C. State and Virginia, both 6-5 with more established bowl histories, could wind up there.

The Motor City Bowl will have a representative in Tampa on Saturday, getting its first look at USF in case the Bulls can't secure a trip to Charlotte.

"I didn't think we had a shot at them," Hoffman said.