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USF adds statement series with Hurricanes
In three years, college football fans can add another rivalry game to the traditional Thanksgiving week festivities in Florida.
By GREG AUMAN
Published June 1, 2007
TAMPA - In three years, college football fans can add another rivalry game to the traditional Thanksgiving week festivities in Florida.
Creating a companion to the annual Florida-Florida State showdown, USF and Miami will meet in late November each year from 2010 to 2013. For Bulls coach Jim Leavitt, it's a landmark opportunity to take his 10-year-old program into the state's elite.
"There's a crack now, an opening, for the University of South Florida to change history in the state of Florida, " he said. "You'll never have a chance unless you have a team willing to come here and play, willing to do a series like this. We know we have to play well if we're ever going to get mentioned in the Big Four in the state of Florida. ... I'm as excited as I can be about it."
USF played at Miami in 2005, losing 27-7, and the schools meet in Tampa in September 2009. The only new additions Thursday were games in 2010 and 2011, but moving the dates to late November - with a national audience on ESPN or ESPN2 - creates a rivalry that puts the Bulls in the same breath as a national power in Miami.
"I think it's a positive step for our program, " said athletic director Doug Woolard, whose school is the host in 2011 and 2013. "It's a credit to (Leavitt), his assistant coaches and the players before him to put us in a position where this can happen."
Miami athletic director Paul Dee signed off on the deal in March, but USF needed two months to adjust its schedules to create an opening. A 2011 date at Florida was bumped to 2015, and a 2011 home game against Indiana will be played in 2016. The USF-UM games are scheduled for the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but Woolard said the schools would move the kickoff to accommodate TV.
USF's 9-4 record and bowl victory last fall, combined with down years at FSU and Miami, had some making a case for the Bulls moving into the state's top tier. Leavitt said he won't put his program in with UF, FSU and Miami.
"I want to come out and say that we are not part of the big three unless we play them and beat them, " he said. "Through a lot of work we've been able to schedule Miami for five years straight, three times in Tampa. To me, that's one of the most powerful moves that has ever happened in the history of our program."
The first Thanksgiving meeting will finish off a difficult 2010 season in which the Bulls' road games include their first-ever trip to Florida and trips to Big East powers Louisville and Rutgers.
In other news, USF senior cornerback Mike Jenkins, facing misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and obstructing an officer without violence, has accepted prosecutors' offer to apply for a pretrial diversion program for first-time offenders. If approved, Jenkins would serve 15 to 25 hours of community service, pay applicable fines and have a probation period of up to six months. Upon completion, the charge can be dropped from his record. Safety Carlton Williams, arrested with Jenkins and facing the same charges, has entered into a similar agreement.