Bulls quiet as others fill football schedules
This week's news that conference rivals Cincinnati and Connecticut announced future football games with Michigan and Boise State has USF fans asking a lingering question: When will the Bulls be announcing deals with high-profile opponents for their future schedules?
It's been more than four years since USF announced a series with a major-conference opponent -- that was January 2009, when the Bulls landed a home-and-home with Florida State, setting up the Bulls' huge win in Tallahassee that same season. Since then, the only additions have been I-AA home games, a home date with UTEP in 2011 and a home-and-home series with Nevada, announced in January 2012.
The lack of scheduling news from USF is puzzling, given that its peers have been able to land marquee opponents -- Central Florida has recently announced home-and-home deals with Penn State and South Carolina, with a series ahead with Maryland as well.
USF does have major-conference opponents ahead -- this September, they'll start a home-and-home at Michigan State, with the Spartans playing in Tampa in 2017; another series is with Indiana in 2015-16. The Bulls have leftover home games with Florida Atlantic and Miami this fall, as well as N.C. State in 2014 and Nevada in 2015, and there's still a contracted game at Florida, but at last check it wasn't tied to a specific season.
The let's-be-flattering answer for why USF hasn't been able to land more high-profile opponents? USF's best skill might be scoring big nonconference wins on the road, as seen by Auburn in 2007, FSU in 2009, Miami in 2010 and Notre Dame in 2011. You could see why schools might be hesitant to put the Bulls on the schedule, but they're also 8-16 in the last two seasons, and other teams with better recent success have been able to land series without such problems. So perhaps the potential of Willie Taggart's future is working against the Bulls' scheduling efforts.
We know that Clemson e-mailed to offer a home-and-home with the Bulls starting this fall, but USF already had its 2013 season booked and wasn't able to make it happen; we know that USF and Georgia Tech talked at one point but weren't able to work anything out. Those kind of opponents -- from a BCS league but close enough that fans could drive or fly cheap to -- are probably ideal for Bulls fans.The best thing in USF's recent scheduling efforts was an annual game with Miami from 2009-13, but that series ends this fall; perhaps a new athletic director in Coral Gables will help renew that rivalry. We left messages with USF seeking comment as to what the overall obstacles have been and why, but didn't hear back.
One bit of news we can pass along: It doesn't look like USF will be turning to I-A newbie Old Dominion for its 2014 openings. In January, ODU was "close to finalizing" a home-and-home with the Bulls, the Virginian-Pilot had reported. After waiting nearly two months for USF, the Monarchs announced Thursday that they'll be playing N.C. State in 2014-15. Athletic director Wood Selig said he would still be "very receptive" to playing the Bulls; after the potential deal was reported, fans in our live chat the next day were asked about the series and 98 percent said they wouldn't like to see it played.
We've filed public records requests twice in the last four months to check on contracts for future USF games, but all they produced were deals for four future home games with I-AA opponents -- USF has those booked through the 2018 season at reasonable rates. USF, like most schools, wants to find as many home games as possible to maximize revenue, but with lesser opponents in conference games as a result of realignment, it'll be curious to see if USF changes its philosophy on avoiding "guarantee" road games that don't have a home game in return; Cincinnati just agreed to play a game at Michigan with nothing but a paycheck and a home-and-home men's basketball series in return.
Consider USF's future conference rivals, and the Bulls are committed to fewer BCS-league opponents than most schools: SMU has 15 on the schedule, Memphis 12, UCF and Temple 8, then USF with 7, ahead of Cincinnati and UConn with six each and Houston with zero (they have some work to do).
Here's a look at what USF's rivals in its as-yet-unnamed league have been able to land in nonconference scheduling:
Central Florida: The Knights have done well, with new home-and-home deals with Penn State and South Carolina, all played out in the next four seasons. They hosted Missouri in 2012 (USF has never hosted an SEC opponent) and play at Missouri in 2014; they also have an even deal with Maryland in 2016-17 and play at Texas in 2017. They won at Boston College in 2011 to close out a home-and-home series with the Eagles.
Cincinnati: Like USF, the Bearcats are active with the Big Ten -- they play host to Purdue this year (going there in 2016), and close out a home-and-home with Illinois as well. They're playing at Ohio State in 2014 and 2016 and Michigan in 2017; last season they played a "neutral-site" game against Virginia Tech in Washington, D.C., and beat the Hokies. They also have an even deal with BYU, there in 2015 and home in 2016.
Connecticut: The Boise series continues an impressive run of home-and-home series playing out from 2014-18. The Huskies play host to Maryland and Michigan this season (and beat the Terrapins on the road last fall). They have series with BYU in 2014-15, Tennessee in 2015-16 and Virginia in 2016-17. They have committed to I-AA games against Stony Brook (2014) and Villanova (2015).
Houston: Very little is known about the Cougars' future schedules -- they play host to BYU this year and visit them in 2014.
Memphis: The Tigers aren't scaring many teams lately, and they've been able to score lots of BCS home-and-home deals: they're committed to three BCS-league nonconference games each from 2015-17. They close out a home-and-home with Duke this season, and open one with UCLA in 2014, hosting in 2017. They play Ole Miss in a four-game series from 2014-17, with home-and-homes with Missouri and Kansas in 2015-16. They also host Tennessee in 2017.
SMU: Lots of Big 12 rivalries here -- they open this season with Texas Tech at home and travel to face TCU and Texas A&M. That's three BCS opponents in each of the next two seasons. They played at Baylor last season and face the Bears every year from 2014-19, alternating home and away. They face TCU each year for the next five seasons, and they'll play host to TCU in 2014 and 2016. Geography helps the Mustangs, who are practically across town from the Horned Frogs, just 85 miles from Baylor and 170 from Texas A&M.
Temple: The Owls play at Notre Dame this fall and in 2017 and welcome the Fighting Irish to Philadelphia in 2014. They too will have three BCS opponents in 2014, continuing a series with Penn State from 2014-16, including a home game in 2015. They host Maryland in 2014 as part of a home-and-home. It's also worth noting they agreed to a home-and-home with I-A newbie Charlotte in 2015-16, comparable to the Old Dominion deal USF considered.
ECU and Tulane: They join the Big East in 2014, and are both very aggressive in nonconference. ECU has future home games with Virginia Tech, UNC, South Carolina, N.C. State and West Virginia; Tulane has Georgia Tech, Duke and Wake Forest.