County wants USF, ACC study

By Brian Landman, Times Staff Writer
Published February 24, 2008

TAMPA - Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman will try to win approval Monday for a special committee to study - and solve - a scheduling conflict involving USF and the ACC football championship game.

USF officials are upset that their football team has been locked out of hosting a nationally televised game the first week of December with the ACC finale here in 2008 and 2009. Tampa's contract with the ACC gives the conference exclusive rights to the field four days leading up to the title game.

Mayor Pam Iorio told city officials not to pursue the ACC game again so that the Bulls' future interests at Raymond James Stadium would be second only to the Buccaneers, but she has since seemed more amenable to a possible compromise. Norman is desperate to help find it.

"I believe there's a real chance we can have both and this community can step up and really be the big-league city we are in amateur sports and youth sports," he said.

He will ask the Tampa Sports Authority's full board to create a group to do that and now that goes to the full board at its regularly scheduled meeting for a vote. He envisions a seven-person team: Iorio, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, USF athletic director Doug Woolard, TSA executive director Henry Saavedra, Tampa Bay Sports Commission executive director Rob Higgins, a representative of the Bucs and someone from Tropicana Field.

"I want to put everybody who's a decisionmaker in this thing, everybody who has a stake in it, at the table and work this thing out," Norman said.

That group must find a way for USF, which doesn't have a long-term deal with the stadium, to have a shot at an attractive date - it could only have a Big East home game the first week of December once every three years - while keeping the possibility for the ACC game to be here on a rotational basis. The ACC title game will be in Charlotte, N.C., in 2010 and 2011.

"There seems to be enough spirit where everyone realizes it makes little sense for Raymond James Stadium to sit dark if there's willing participants to use it," said Michael Kelly, the ACC's associate commissioner for football operations, who was in town at the end of the week on a scheduled visit for the '08 game. "Not knowing exactly what we're doing in the future, we're pretty open-minded."

That could mean the ACC and Big East may work with their common television partner, ESPN, to strike a mutually beneficial deal. Not just for the leagues, but for USF and Tampa Bay.

"We surely feel for the best interests of the community, USF and the ACC can coexist," Higgins said. "With the proper communication and long-term planning, we can maximize economic development and stadium usage well into the future."

Alabama: Safety Rashad Johnson was charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly knocking a security guard down at an off-campus bar early Saturday, Tuscaloosa police said. Johnson was arrested at 2:55 a.m. at the Legacy bar on the strip near Alabama's campus, police spokesman Robert Fourt said in a statement Saturday. The 22-year-old was released on $500 bond shortly after being booked on the misdemeanor charge.

Ex-Rebel QB dies: "Eagle" Day, a quarterback at Mississippi in the 1950s whose first college pass went for a 63-yard touchdown, died. He was 75. Herman Sidney Day died Friday at his daughter's home in Nashville after an unspecified illness, the university said. Mr. Day was an All-SEC quarterback who went 28-5-1 and won two league titles under coach John Vaught from 1954-56. He played two seasons with the NFL's Redskins as a punter and spent 12 seasons in the Canadian Football League.

Times wires contributed to this report. Brian Landman can be reached at landman@sptimes.com or 813 226-3347.