USF runs off ACC game after '09

Bulls will negotiate a lease with RayJay that includes scheduling priority.

By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
Published February 16, 2008

TAMPA - USF can feel better about its status in the local sports community, but the area has lost a potential future revenue source as a result.

The City of Tampa will not pursue hosting the ACC Championship Game beyond the next two years in order to assure USF football the right to play at home in the first week of December, according to an agreement informally reached Friday at a meeting called by Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio.

"The two are, in the long term, incompatible," Iorio said after meeting for nearly two hours with representatives from USF and the Tampa Sports Authority, among other local leaders.

USF has committed to negotiate a more long-term lease of Raymond James Stadium in return for having secondary priority for scheduling, behind the Bucs. The current agreement is a five-year contract with a five-year extension and a clause that allows USF to opt out at any point with two years' notice.

Athletic director Doug Woolard declined to specify the length of a new lease at Raymond James Stadium. USF president Judy Genshaft declined to comment, saying Iorio was designated as the spokeswoman from the meeting. Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, who helped bring the ACC game to Tampa, also declined to comment.

Tampa will host the ACC game on Dec. 6 and again in 2009, and those dates preclude USF from playing home football games in the final week of the regular season. The contract with the ACC gives the conference exclusive rights to the field four days leading up to the title game.

USF lost a chance in 2008 to play a Thursday night ESPN game against Rutgers that week as a result of the contract.

"We are accepting of the '08 and '09 schedule with the ACC (game) and recognize that is something we will go with because that is the arrangement," Iorio said.

Tampa would have been a solid candidate to host the ACC game in 2012 and beyond, after the league plays its championship in Charlotte, N.C., in 2010 and 2011.

"If the dates are available, it would seem shortsighted for a community not to consider pursuing a championship-level event like this," ACC associate commissioner Michael Kelly said. "We'll send out bids to cities that want us to play there. ... I don't know of a college football team in America that finishes its season at home every year."