USF: Looking ahead
By ANTONYA ENGLISH
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 25, 2000
TAMPA -- Standing on the outside looking in, it might be hard to envision the University of South Florida football team competing against any of the established state programs -- at least in the foreseeable future.
Afterall, South Florida is about to begin only its fourth season of college football.
But stand in coach Jim Leavitt's shoes for just one minute, allow yourself to see the program as he has from the day he arrived in 1995, and you might see things differently.
Leavitt came to South Florida with the single goal of developing and building a competitive Division I program as quickly as possible.
After three seasons as a Division I-AA program, the Bulls open this decade making the transition from I-AA to I-A. They move to I-A as an independent in 2001 and join Conference USA in 2003.
The changeover might not be smooth, it might not be easy. But the Bulls are going to succeed, Leavitt believes.
"Whether we do it next year, whether we do it fifty years from now, two years from now, we're going to be a team that's going to be looked at and followed," Leavitt said.
"In 2003, we open up with Alabama. We're moving forward quickly. We will be a powerful program, I don't have any doubt about that. How long will it take? I don't know."
Leavitt said he's not sure when USF will be able to compete head-to-head with Florida, FSU and Miami in the recruiting wars. Winning that battle isn't necessary, he said. There's enough talent in Florida for everybody.
But Leavitt does believe that joining a conference will be crucial in elevating the Bulls' status in the state in the coming years.
"You've got Florida, Florida State and Miami in this state in major conferences and everybody knows the "Big Three" have established themselves to be very strong," Leavitt said. "By us joining Conference USA, we've got the vehicle to move up into that level. We're certainly not those three schools and we've got a long way to go, but we have a vehicle to get there now."
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