Leavitt: 'Why is the ACC bigger than the Bucs?'
USF football coach Jim Leavitt, blocked from ending his team's 2008 season with a Thursday night ESPN showdown with Rutgers, said Wednesday he doesn't understand why the ACC is allowed to reserve Raymond James Stadium for the four days before its conference championship game in December.
"If we can play on Saturday and the Bucs can play on Sunday, why is the ACC bigger than the Bucs? What makes them more important than the Bucs?" Leavitt said. "We just want to play on Thursday. That's something I will never understand."
One day after Big East associate commissioner Nick Carparelli said the league was "forced to move on" in trying to play the USF-Rutgers game on Dec. 4, it certainly looks like USF hasn't given up that fight. USF president Judy Genshaft is still lobbying for the game to be played, and Leavitt said he will attend a meeting on Friday called by Tampa mayor Pam Iorio between USF officials and the Tampa Sports Authority, which manages Raymond James Stadium, and the city's convention and visitors bureau.
Leavitt said he was disappointed to read comments by TSA executive director Henry Saavedra that cast USF -- which has played its home games at Raymond James Stadium since 1998 -- and the ACC, which has yet to play a game in the stadium, as "both tenants we love."
"I've known Henry for a while, but I was a little disappointed when I read that we were just another tenant. I'm hoping we're a little more than that," Leavitt said. "I'd like to think that after playing in Raymond James for 10 years, it'd be a little better than 'first come, first served.'"
Leavitt said when he found out that ESPN wanted to make USF-Rutgers the Big East's final Thursday night game, he immediately thought of last year's USF-West Virginia game, a Friday night game on ESPN2 in September that the Bulls won 21-13, putting a national spotlight on Tampa.
"I was so excited when I heard we had a chance to play Rutgers on national television," Leavitt said. "How powerful that could be for the city of Tampa."
USF may still play Rutgers on national television, but it won't be in the final week of the season unless the ACC changes its mind. The league required all bidders for its championship game to include language that reserved the stadium for four days before its Saturday afternoon kickoff, allowing time to prepare the field and give teams access to the stadium before the game. ACC associate commissioner Michael Kelly said Tuesday that he sat down with USF athletic director Doug Woolard and stadium officials last month but made the decision his conference could not accommodate USF's request to have both games played.