L.A. story: Leavitt going to the ESPYs
Another sign of USF moving up in the sports world: Football coach Jim Leavitt will be a guest in the crowd next week -- sitting in the second row, even? -- at the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles. USF's new apparel provider, Under Armour, is flying Leavitt and his wife out to California, where he'll join other big names in the UA family, like South Carolina's Steve Spurrier and Auburn's Tommy Tuberville.
It's Leavitt's first time at the ESPYs, which will be Wednesday night at the NOKIA Theatre in Los Angeles; the awards show won't be broadcast on ESPN until July 20. Interesting backstory to how the Bulls wound up with UA: Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, whose school is also with UA, recommended them to Leavitt, who he's known since he was Bob Stoops' offensive coordinator at Oklahoma in 1999.
Leavitt has connections to people you wouldn't expect. New Indiana hoops coach Tom Crean is on ESPN on Wednesday, and Leavitt mentions that he knows him not only from old Conference USA meetings, but also because Crean's wife Joani is the sister of Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh; their father is former Western Kentucky coach Jack Harbaugh, who played Leavitt's USF four times in the Bulls' I-AA days.
-- Got to see the white "USF Rays" cap that fans can get by purchasing a $25 baseline box ticket for "USF Night" at Tropicana Field on August 2, when the Rays host the Tigers. Should be a fun promotion at the Trop, as basketball coach Stan Heath will be throwing out the first pitch and LL Cool J is giving a free concert after the game. The caps have the Rays' "TB" logo on the front and the USF iconic "U" logo on the back. Plus, it's B.J. Upton figurine night for the first 10,000 fans. For ticket info, go to raysbaseball.com/usf.
-- Lots of meeting-of-the-minds trips this offseason, with USF's offensive staff going to Clemson and the defensive coaches visiting with Tony Dungy and the Colts. Two weeks ago, Leavitt spent a day at LSU, talking with coaches, especially trading thoughts on special teams. You'd think the connection is longtime Bulls assistant Earl Lane, now the Tigers' defensive line coach, but it's actually first-year special teams coordinator Joe Robinson, who coached alongside Mike Canales at Arizona.
-- USF's official site will host a "live blog" with Bulls senior linebacker Tyrone McKenzie at 1:30 p.m. Monday, giving fans a chance to ask questions of USF's top returning tackler. I've got more competition on the blog front from Fowler Avenue, as women's basketball player Melissa Dalembert has her own blog as she plays for Canada's national development team -- like a JV Olympic squad -- including a tournament in China. Her brother Samuel, the Sixers center, is on Canada's men's team. Canada's women didn't qualify for the Olympics, but for Dalembert, it's a great international experience. Here's a link.
-- This week's Sporting News has writer Matt Hayes picking eight breakout players in a feature titled "Stud alert." USF running back Mike Ford gets the biggest pic in the two-page spread, with a quote from an unnamed scout: "Big, tough kid with good speed. He's a 20-carry guy in (the NFL)." Scout goes on to say that "ball security issues have made him a little tentative in hitting holes."