Football adds home-and-home with W. Ky.
USF's football team has announced a home-and-home series with Division I-A newcomer Western Kentucky in 2009 and 2010, completing the Bulls' schedule through the 2010 season.
The Bulls will play in Bowling Green, Ky., on Sept. 12, 2009, then will host the Hilltoppers on Sept. 25, 2010. USF will be the first BCS-conference program ever to play a game at WKU, with Indiana following in 2010 and Iowa State in 2015. WKU, which won a I-AA championship in 2002, is in the process of transitioning to I-A and won't be fully bowl-eligible until the 2009 season.
Get ready to hear it from Central Florida fans, as this home-and-home essentially replaces what USF had from 2005-08 with UCF, as an even series with a non-BCS conference opponent. When UCF has lobbied to continue the series in the past, USF officials have said they have enough games with in-state opponents on the schedule already, with Miami, Florida Atlantic and Florida International on a regular basis, and Florida in 2010. Again, a loss to Western Kentucky, while humbling, wouldn't have a direct impact on USF's standing in the state of Florida; a loss to UCF could hurt the Bulls more directly and in recruiting local players as well. If it sounds like ducking, looks like ducking ...
By scheduling Western Kentucky, it's also a nod to USF's early years -- the Bulls lost to WKU in 1997 and 1998, but beat the Hilltoppers in 1999 and 2000, all while a member of Division I-AA.
USF will now have seven home games in 2010, though the nonconference trio of Samford, Western Kentucky and Florida Atlantic means the Bulls won't host a BCS nonconference opponent. As nondescript an opponent as WKU would seem, the two previous games against WKU in Tampa, in 1998 and 2000, both drew announced crowds of more than 30,000, making them two of the four largest crowds in the first three seasons at Raymond James Stadium.
USF's previous contracts with Sun Belt teams had been 2-for-1 contracts, with the Bulls getting two home games each against FIU and FAU in exchange for one road game. So does signing a 1-for-1 with a distant member of the same league make it less likely the Bulls will be able to land future 2-for-1s with those in-state Sun Belt schools? If you go back to 2006, when we wrote about the possibility of USF scheduling Western Kentucky, it seemed to only make sense as a 2-for-1 back then.
What's curious is that no BCS-conference program has ever given WKU a home-and-home. Indiana and Iowa State got 2-for-1s, and Iowa State's deal doesn't start until 2012, after USF's is completed. All of WKU's previous games with BCS-conference opponents have been "guarantee" games, with a paycheck for a road game and no home game in return -- the Hilltoppers played at Florida this past season, go to Virginia Tech, Alabama and Kentucky in 2008, Tennessee in 2009 and 2013 and Nebraska in 2010, all with no games in return.