Leavitt on 'Big 4' billboard: 'That's not me'
Count USF coach Jim Leavitt decidedly among those who do not like the new billboard on I-275 touting the Bulls' arrival to the "Big Four" of the state's elite football program.
"Somebody said it talks about us being in the Big Four. That's not me. Totally not me," Leavitt said Tuesday after his weekly conference with the media. "I don't know how it got up, who put it up, but I had nothing to do with it."
The billboard, on northbound I-275 just south of the I-4 interchange, shows the "Big 3" with the number 3 crossed out and replaced with a "4." USF's logo is shown with that of Florida, Florida State and Miami, with the message "Welcome to the Club Bulls Fans!" ... It's a celebration of USF's 17-7 win at Florida State on Sept. 26, but Leavitt seems to think it's a bit over the top.
"I've been asked through the years 'Are we part of the Big Four?' and I've always maintained that ... all I'm saying is for us to even have a discussion, you can't even discuss those kind of things unless you win one of those games. I've never said ... by winning one game, it doesn't necessarily put us in the Big Four. Let other people talk about that stuff. We won one game, and that's it.
"I grew up here. I have great respect for those three programs. We have not won national championships. We have not won conference championships. What gives us the right to sit there and say, because we beat Florida State up there, all the sudden now, like we've won all these championships and done all these things? That's not me. That's never been me. I don't want anybody ever to think here I'm the guy having anything to do with that. That bothers me. I don't want people in this area to put me with that. That's never been me."
Leavitt said the message he wants to project is still a humble one, albeit one that doesn't translate well to billboards.
"When a billboard goes up like that, what bothers me is I don't want people to sit there and think I think we're all that, because we're not," Leavitt said. "We're a program that's trying to get competitive, a program trying to build, a program trying to give an opportunity to some of the young people to get their degrees who didn't have an opportunity in this area."
(Times photo by Atoyia Deans)