Leavitt on voting USF at No. 18: 'Why not?'
USF coach Jim Leavitt spoke at length Wednesday night about ballots from the USA Today coaches poll going public, about his voting his own team No. 18 and his decision to vote Oklahoma No. 1 ahead of defending champion Florida. (Check out video at GoUSFbulls.com.)
The Bulls' practice was cut short by lightning and rain ("Could we use an indoor facility? Today we could," he said"), but it's the first practice lost in three weeks of August, which is hard to believe in Florida. So there's not much else in team news beyond Leavitt and his suddenly popular ballot.
"If you don't vote your team up high, then your team doesn't think much of you," Leavitt said of voting his team higher than any other coach. "I think they're a pretty good team, so I think we've got a chance to do some good things. ... I think most coaches out there know it's the preseason. Until you play, you don't really know how good teams are, so you take an estimated guess."
Leavitt said he took some grief from his players, but only for not voting the Bulls higher than No. 18.
"I apologized to the team that I didn't put 'em up higher," he said. "They were on me about it. They said 'Coach, 18? C'mon.' I said 'I'm sorry. I apologize.' I like that attitude. They want to win and they expect to win. The bottom line is what you do on the field."
Leavitt said his vote wasn't a gesture to gain exposure for USF -- of the Bulls' 11 vote-points in the poll, eight came from his ballot -- but said he's genuinely confident his team can earn that ranking.
"I thought 'Why not?' Why shouldn't South Florida be in the hunt at 18?" Leavitt said. "I looked at all the different teams, and I feel like the Big East is pretty strong, probably maybe stronger than most people out there. I go by bowl records and nonconference games, and I thought there should be four or five teams in the top 25. How do we know?"
As for picking Oklahoma -- coached by his close friend Bob Stoops, who he coached with at Kansas State -- he defended his choice of voting the Sooners ahead of the Gators. He said both teams have a lot back from last year's national championship game, including quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow.
"The SEC's tough," he said. "I think it's probably one of the tougher conferences out there in the country. To go through that and to become a national champion two years in a row, that's a lot of pressure on Florida. That was the only thing -- when you're the guy, trying to repeat as national champions, that's asking an awful lot. ... I did pick Florida No. 2. It's not like I put them down at the bottom. ... Do I give it to OU because I know Bob so well? No, I try to stay away from that, but I don't think anybody will believe me."
Leavitt said he was initially unhappy for about a half-hour when told his ballot would be made public -- "Nobody likes to be blindsided," he said -- but he said he doesn't mind having his vote public. His ballot is subject to open records laws because USF is a public university. Leavitt joked he could circumvent that by not writing his ballot at all.
"We may do it by smoke signals," he said.