PONTE VEDRA BEACH -- Financial terms weren't released, but Mike Aresco, commissioner of the Big East and soon-to-be American Athletic Conference, said the league's member schools have ironed out a plan to split the conference's lucrative pot of exit and entrance fees, reportedly worth as much as $110 million.
Early reports had the three "incumbent" schools -- USF, Cincinnati and Connecticut -- receiving as much as $30 million each from that reserve, but the compromised figure is likely less substantial. With key football members leaving for other leagues and seven non-football members leaving (and taking the league's name along with), the remaining football members had a windfall to split with the new arrivals.
"There were a lot of predictions (that) it would be rancorous, all that money. It turned out to be extremely smooth," Aresco said at the league's annual meetings. "We made a fair and equitable distribution plan for the realignment money and the (NCAA) units left behind. Everybody's very happy with it. We pretty much gotten that done before we came down. All we're doing here is ratifying it."
PONTE VEDRA BEACH -- As commissioner Mike Aresco spoke Monday to football coaches who will comprise the new American Athletic Conference, he sent a clear message that the best way for the league to brand itself nationally is with signature victories this fall.
The league has 15 games against teams in the "power five" conferences -- against the likes of Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Michigan and South Carolina -- and each of those is a change the perception of the American for the better.
"I think we all understand that, considering the new format for the college playoff, you have to play those games and then you have to beat them," said USF coach Willie Taggart, attending the conference's annual meetings for the first time. "Perception is pretty much everything nowadays, so you have to go out and win some of those ballgames, so nobody looks at you as any less than what they are already." …
I'm here in Ponte Vedra Beach for the annual Big East (er, American Athletic Conference) meetings -- USF has a full contingent of coaches and Doug Woolard hear as the new league hashes out important things for this first season. In the next two days, the league could approve (but not likely unveil) its new logo, sites for men's and women's basketball tournaments and an agreement for divvying up all that exit-fee money.
First, there's an important weekend to recap -- USF softball saw its hopes of a return to Oklahoma City end with a pair of losses to Florida in Gainesville, with the Bulls managing only four runs in their four games there. USF men's golf just missed a trip to the NCAA finals, losing a sudden-death one-hole playoff with Oklahoma for the fifth and final berth from the Tallahassee regional. …
Florida senior pitcher Sara Nevins was nearly unhittable in the NCAA Regional against Florida Sunday afternoon, but two critical mistakes ultimately led to the Bulls' 2-0 loss.
Nevins gave up just one hit, but walked in a run, then allowed another to score when she hit batter Taylore Fuller in th fourth inning, leading to Florida’s 2-0 victory.
The Bulls scored just four runs in four games in regional play, which coach Ken Eriksen said just wasn't quite good enough.
“It’s about playing great defense, great pitching and timely hitting and we did not have the timely hitting," Eriksen said. "Untimely hitting today, we hit the balls at them, but good teams make those plays. So you have to play fantastic ball in the postseason. We played very good ball, but we didn’t play fantastic ball. And the University of Florida played fantastic ball so far in the regional. And I feel they are going to get better as the regionals go on. It’s not hard at my age to figure out that they are a contender for the national championship game.”
VIDEO BELOW: Ken Eriksen talks about tonight's victory over Georgia Southern
After suffering an 11-1 loss to the Florida Gators (54-7) in the first game of the Gainesville Regional Saturday afternoon, USF (45-15) survived a nine-inning thriller Saturday night, earning a 2-1 win over Georgia Southern to advance to today’s 1 p.m. regional final.
“I think it goes without saying that Georgia Southern’s kids today played their butts off,” USF coach Ken Eriksen said. “. . They were relentless in that game.”
The Bulls took a 1-0 lead in the second, and held it until Georgia Southern tied the game in the sixth after a leadoff triple by Alexa Lewis, who later scored off a single from Shelby Morrill.
As he has so many times this season, Eriksen relied on the one-two combination of pitchers Sara Nevins and Lindsey Richardson, but it was Richardson who came up huge in the bottom of the eighth. She entered the game with bases loaded and one out, struck out Kaitlyn Johnson looking, then on a full count forced A.J. Hamilton into a 4-3 play to end the inning and the Eagles’ threat to win the game. …
USF softball's dominant pitching hasn't dropped off a bit, as the Bulls' Lindsey Richardson and Sara Nevins combined for 18 strikeouts and a one-hit shutout, helping the Bulls to a 1-0 victory over Georgia Southern to open the NCAA regional in Gainesville.
All four Bulls hits came from twin sisters Ashli and Courtney Goff, who both had hits in the bottom of the eighth inning, with Ashli scoring the game's only run on a squeeze bunt by Kourtney Salvarola. The win was the Bulls' fourth shutout in a row, following three in the Big East tournament in Tampa.
The Bulls (44-14) advance to play Saturday against the winner of tonight's game host Florida and Hampton, with Saturday's winner advancing to Sunday's regional final. Times staff writer Antonya English is covering the game in Gainesville and will have a full story later. …
TAMPA -- Darryl "Cuda" Patterson, a point guard who played with Charlie Bradley at Robinson and USF in the early 1980s, died Wednesday night after battling a rare blood disorder. He was 49.
"Cuda was one of the nicest kids you'd ever want to meet. A wonderful, soft-spoken person," former Bulls coach Lee Rose said Thursday. "He was never a minute's problem in any way for me. Players all liked him, somebody they all admired."
Mr. Patterson was a star at Robinson, and after two years at Florida College, rejoined his friend and teammate Bradley for two seasons at USF from 1983-85. He averaged 12 points a game as a senior, helping the Bulls to their first-ever win at Madison Square Garden with 21 points in a win against St. Peter's, including 10 points in the final six minutes.
Bradley said Mr. Patterson helped him fall in love with the sport they would play together, starting with playground courts at the Ybor City Boys & Girls Club. …
It's been online since yesterday and will be in Friday's paper, so I'm both early and late in sharing a link to this feature on twin sisters Ashli and Courtney Goff, who have provided a spark to USF's softball team as the Bulls seek a return to the College World Series.
USF opens play in the NCAA regional in Gainesville on Friday afternoon, and the Goffs -- first and second on the team in steals while hitting at the bottom of the Bulls' lineup -- have come through with clutch plays for their hometown team, especially in Saturday's win against Notre Dame for a Big East championship.
-- Worth noting that USF men's golf made a strong debut at NCAA regionals in Tallahassee -- Bulls are tied for fourth out of 13 teams after the opening round. Chase Koepka and Richard James shot 4-under 68s and Trey Valentine shot 3 under, putting the Bulls in good position, with the top five schools advancing to the NCAA finals after Saturday's final round.
Want to talk about the USF baseball or softball teams? Bulls that were or weren't taken in the NFL draft? The recently announced football series with Florida State? Whatever's on your mind, join Times beat reporter Greg Auman for a live chat today, starting at 12:30 p.m.
Former Penn State quarterback Steven Bench made an official visit to USF this week, and while the transfer still has two visits scheduled in the next week, he said he left Tampa impressed by the excitement around first-year coach Willie Taggart.
"Everywhere you went, there was really a sense of excitement," Bench said by phone Wednesday. "Whether it was in the coach's voice or the player's voice, whoever you talked to, if you were on campus, there was just kind of this buzz about it, and that really stood out. It was really special."
Bench will visit N.C. State this weekend, then Mississippi State on Monday-Tuesday, and said he could make a decision by the end of next week, but didn't want to commit to any firm timetable. He said he spent time with "most of the players," including tight end Sean Price, who went to dinner with him one night.
"It was really impressive down there, a great visit, went really, really well," said Bench, who played sparingly as a true freshman last fall but can transfer and play this fall due to Penn State's NCAA sanctions. He'll have three years of eligibility at his new school. …
USF's final Big East series of the regular season opens Thursday night against Rutgers, and Wednesday's Times has a feature on freshman phenom Jimmy Herget, who is embracing his role as USF's No. 1 starter and is sporting the Big East's lowest ERA.
The former Jefferson standout talks about the Bulls' NCAA hopes, how strongly he considered accepting a contract to play pro baseball last summer and his progress under first-year pitching coach Lance Carter.
It's certainly too close to call, but Perfectgame.org still has USF in the NCAA field as one of the final two at-large berths, but the Bulls likely need a strong finish, both against Rutgers and next week in the Big East tournament in Clearwater to be confident of making the cut.
Shaun Noriega was limited to eight games as a senior in 2012-13 due to a stress fracture in his foot.
USF guard Shaun Noriega, who missed most of last season with a foot injury and is likely to get a medical redshirt from the NCAA, won't be back with the Bulls next season.
Noriega, limited to eight games as a senior in 2012-13 due to a stress fracture in his foot, should be eligible for a medical redshirt, but hasn't been officially granted another year of eligibility. He graduated from USF last week, so he'll be eligible to transfer and play his final season anywhere that has a graduate program not offered by USF, if he so chooses.
Noriega started 25 games in his four seasons with the Bulls, hitting 36 percent of his 3-point attempts over his career. The graduate of North Port High School, near Sarasota, flashed the potential for serious streak shooting, as seen in two memorable wins during his Bulls career. …
Want to talk about the USF baseball or softball teams? Bulls that were or weren't taken in the NFL draft? The recently announced football series with Florida State? Whatever's on your mind, join Times beat reporter Greg Auman for a live chat Thursday, May 16, starting at 12:30 p.m.
Running back Willie Davis breaks a hole through during USF's spring game in April.
USF football has landed another home-and-home series with Florida State, with the Bulls going to Tallahasee in 2015 and the Seminoles returning to Tampa in 2016, adding a new chapter to a promising young in-state rivalry.
The two teams played in 2009 and 2012, with USF scoring an upset win at Doak Campbell Stadium and FSU getting its revenge last season with a 30-17 victory at Raymond James Stadium.
"The two previous games provided such great atmospheres for both of our fan bases that it was important for us to extend the series," USF athletic director Doug Woolard said in a statement. "Combined with our recent nonconference scheduling announcements, we're very pleased with how our future schedules have come together."
The FSU announcement comes less than a month after USF announced home-and-home series with Wisconsin and Maryland of the Big Ten between 2014-17. The initial FSU game will cap a tough three-week stretch for the Bulls in September 2015, immediately following a home game against Indiana and a game at Maryland, with kickoff in Tallahassee on Sept. 26, 2015. …
For the second year in a row, USF softball's path to Oklahoma City and the College World Series will start up the road in Gainesville, where the No. 2 seed Gators will host the Bulls this weekend.
USF (43-14) earned a Big East championship on Sunday, and the Bulls will open regional play Friday against Georgia Southern. Florida plays host to Hampton, and the Bulls will try to emerge from Gainesville, as they did with a 1-0 win last season.
The Bulls were one of three Big East teams in the field, along with Louisville -- which has the No. 15 seed and will meet the winner of the Gainesville regional if the Cards advance -- and regular-season league champion Notre Dame.
USF played the Gators twice this season, losing a close 3-1 game in Tampa, then a 9-1 mercy-rule game in Gainesville. USF got a 1-0 win in Gainesville last season to advance to Super Regionals, where they edged Hofstra for the right to go to Oklahoma City. The Bulls posted three straight shutouts to win the Big East tournament this weekend, with ace Sara Nevins throwing a combined 22.2 innings of scoreless baseball to earn all three wins.
South Florida Bulls fans, you've come to the right place: the USF Sports Bulletin blog. Tampa Bay Times sportswriter Greg Auman, who covers USF, will post news and thoughts on the Bulletin, and we invite your participation in the comments area. Follow the Times' coverage of USF athletics on Twitter.