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The City of Tampa will not pursue hosting the ACC Championship Game beyond the next two years in order to give USF the right to play at home in the first week of December, according to an agreement informally reached at a meeting called by Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio on Friday.
"The two are in the long term incompatible,'' Iorio said after meeting for nearly two hours with representatives from USF and the Tampa Sports Authority, among other local leaders.
USF has committed to negotiate a more long-term lease of Raymond James Stadium in return for having secondary priority for scheduling, behind the Bucs. The current agreement is a five-year contract with a five-year extension and a clause that allows USF to opt out at any point with two years' notice.
A longer lease with Raymond James Stadium would push back any effort from USF to build an on-campus stadium, though such a move would require significant fund-raising efforts. Asked if Friday's agreement pushed an on-campus stadium to the back burner, USF athletic director Doug Woolard said: "I don't know what burner it's ever been on, quite honestly. ... It was there, but I don' think (this) changes what burner it was going to be on."
Woolard declined to specify how much longer a new lease at Raymond James Stadium would be. USF president Judy Genshaft declined to comment, saying that Iorio was designated as the spokesperson from the meeting. Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, who helped bring the ACC game to Tampa, also declined to comment, deferring to Iorio's statements.
Tampa will host the ACC title game on Dec. 6 and again in 2009, and those dates preclude USF from playing home football games in the final week of the regular season. USF lost an opportunity to play a Thursday night ESPN game against Rutgers that week as a result of the contract signed by the ACC.
"We'll be very fortunate that that week will be preserved for future football nights, Thursday night ESPN nationally televised events," Iorio said. "We are accepting of the '08 and '09 schedule with the ACC football (game) and recognize that is something we will go with because that is the arrangement. Our emphasis today has been on long-term and how the (USF) football program fits into the priorities of this community. It is a large priority of this community, and I think that was accepted by everyone in this room."
-- GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer