Bulls actively seek beefier foes

Published September 20, 2006

TAMPA - In May 2005, USF athletic director Doug Woolard could have looked at his nonconference football schedule from 2007-10 and seen only four games booked out of 20 openings.

Woolard has been busy enough since then that the opposite is true: USF now has only four dates left to fill between now and 2010, with games that include seven home-and-home series with opponents from BCS conferences.

Even more impressive are the national powers USF has had discussions with for future home-and-home series. Those schools include Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Virginia Tech, sports information director John Gerdes confirmed.

Landing any of those would mark a bolder leap than the Bulls have taken with any of their upcoming BCS opponents, except for a four-game series with Miami.

The rest of the scheduled opponents are all games USF can play with reasonable confidence of winning, even on the road. North Carolina, N.C. State, Indiana, Michigan State and this week's foe, Kansas, were a combined 13-27 in conference play in 2005 and 15-25 in 2004.

That's not to say the Bulls' schedules will be filled only with marquee matchups. Like most schools, USF will continue to play one Division I-AA opponent each year to maximize the number of games at Raymond James Stadium.

And to allow for seasons with seven home games, the Bulls will push for 2-for-1 series like those signed with Sun Belt upstarts Florida International and Florida Atlantic.

Next on that list might be Western Kentucky, which played the Bulls in each of their four first seasons and is hoping to be approved in November for a move to Division I-A in 2009, most likely in the Sun Belt. Any reunion with Western Kentucky would be a 2-for-1, and its previous trips to Tampa resulted in two of the four largest crowds in the first three years at Raymond James Stadium.

Fans can expect USF to play two games a year against non-BCS I-A teams, and though those might not include UCF after 2008, the Bulls have talked with other Conference USA schools, such as Southern Miss, Tulane, Houston and Rice, as well as Army and Navy.

UP AHEAD: You might not have heard of Elon, the Division I-AA school in North Carolina that will get $300,000 to be USF's home opener next season.

The Bulls will be Elon's first I-A opponent, but other BCS programs are following USF's lead, as Elon will play Wake Forest in 2009, Duke in 2010 and Georgia Tech in 2013. Besides the schools splitting two games in USF's infancy in 1997-98, there's another tie: Elon defensive ends coach Shane Burnham is the son of Bulls defensive coordinator Wally Burnham.

WHICH IS MORE? The attendance at Saturday's USF-UCF game in Orlando was announced as 46,708, more than the 45,139 announced at last year's game in Tampa.

That's not to say more people were there this year.

Announced attendances typically illustrate the number of tickets distributed; the actual attendance at Saturday's game, according to Orlando Centroplex officials, was considerably less, with a turnstile count of 38,209 fans.

The closest thing to a comparable number from last year is an actual figure of 40,988, though that count has been padded by a few hundred as it also included the bands and cheerleaders.

THIS AND THAT: USF's campus hockey team, the IceBulls, opens its home season at 9:30 p.m. Saturday at the Brandon Ice Forum against Rollins. ... The volleyball team's home Big East opener Sunday against Seton Hall has been moved from 2 p.m. to 1 p.m. Marcela Gurgel leads the Big East in kills and aces. Freshman setter Brittany Castelamare, a River Ridge graduate who has split time, is sixth in the Big East in assists. ... One of the football team's problems has been red-zone inefficiency. In 13 trips inside opponents' 20-yard line, USF has five touchdowns and one field goal, the worst red-zone conversion rate in the Big East. Opponents have one TD and two field goals in six trips.


Greg Auman covers USF athletics. He can be reached at auman@sptimes.com Visit his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf.