News, non-news and other notes
I'm not going to dwell much on the Jim Leavitt coaching-rumors topic, other than to make the caveat to readers that most of the time a newspaper floats names as potential candidates for a vacancy, those names aren't coming from anyone involved in the hiring process. They're usually hot coaches with ties to the school or the area, which make them logical speculative choices to be candidates, but that's really about it. Rod Smith's name was tossed up as a potential head coach at Buffalo last year, and I still don't know where that came from. The Miami Herald actually wrote Tuesday that "at least one Texas radio station" had mentioned Miami assistant Randy Shannon for the Texas defensive coordinator job. That's all it takes these days is a name-drop on an unnamed out-of-state radio station, apparently.
When I talked to Leavitt on Monday night, he seemed amused by the whole process, content to know that the people who mattered to him -- his coaches, players and recruits -- knew how much he cares about USF and how much it would take to take him away from Tampa. "(The speculation) is not going to go away until all the jobs are filled," he told me. He didn't want to make a blanket dismissal, he said, because if some school offered him "ten billion dollars" to coach, he'd be silly not to take it. If his motives were financial, he'd have left USF years ago. In journalism, they say that the decision to report (to make calls, check on things) and the decision to publish are often two very different decisions.
By the way, Leavitt's been busy since the visiting period opened Sunday, seeing Gulf QB Alton Voss on Sunday and Lake City commitment Sampson Genus on Monday morning before heading down to Fort Myers -- still working on the specifics of that stop. Defensive coordinator Wally Burnham was in Bushnell on Monday to see fullback Richard Kelly -- again, he's high on my list of kids who haven't committed but aren't far off.
Basketball recruiting: I want to throw a name out -- since that what reporters seem to be doing these days -- as a possible midyear transfer to the Bulls. Robert McCullum has an extra unused scholarship, and he did well last year in landing Jesus Verdejo from Arizona and Kentrell Gransberry from LSU in January. The kid's name is Sammy Hernandez, and he's a 6-foot-5, 230-pound power forward from George Mason -- played sparingly as a freshman in their wild Final Four run last season. He's from Puerto Rico via Miami and Jacksonville's Arlington Country Day. USF gave him a long look out of high school two years ago, but he wound up with Jim Larranaga. Great, great story about him from the Washington Post. Not sure he's still a match for the Bulls, but he left George Mason saying he wanted to be closer to his home in south Florida, and USF has a scholarship available with forward help as the biggest priority for next season's incoming recruits. He averaged 2.8 points and 3.1 rebounds, and I know you're thinking that if he got that at George Mason, how good can he be in the Big East. But Aris Williams averaged 1.5 points and 1.7 rebounds at Valparaiso; Verdejo (also from Puerto Rico) got 2.3 points at Arizona, and McCullum gave both of them scholarships. I'm not saying there's anything current on either end of this, and I don't know the story on why he's leaving George Mason, but seems like it could be a match.
McCullum has had so much hard luck with injuries and everything else that's it's remarkable when you see luck turn his way. Last summer, the big hope was that the Bulls, especially with newly hired assistant Charles Cunningham, would be able to land coveted big man Hernol Hall, who had been released from his letter of intent at Duquesne. Cincinnati signed him, but lost him last week when the NCAA ruled he had lost his eligibility due to playing in foreign competition. USF's big commitment a year ago before the early signing period was Rob Thomas, a talented forward from South Kent in Connecticut. He opted not to sign early, then signed with St. John's. He, too, won't be playing this year, with academic problems that will keep him out at least this season. Can you imagine the backlash against McCullum if he'd gotten those two kids, then had both of them gone before their first game? If he'd gotten Thomas early, he likely wouldn't have a scholarship to pick up either Solomon Bozeman or Amu Saaka, so that's another loss from the current lineup. Just something to think about. I still have lots to say about Monday night's double-overtime craziness, too ...
Oh, and Tom Veit, USF's associate athletic director for external operations (basically marketing and sports information) since 2002, is stepping down for a new job literally across the street. He'll be working out of the Sun Dome as a general manager for Action Sports Media, a sports marketing company that has USF as one of 16 college clients. Action Sports provided the $2-million video boards for the Sun Dome in exchange for the ad revenues from signage in the arena, and Veit will coordinate those sponsorships, as well as finding a title sponsor for the Dome. I still feel bad about spelling Veit's name wrong my first month on the beat, but at least he isn't going far, where I can still give him grief about the Ray-Jay video-screen offerings, even if he has nothing to do with them. How often do you get to trade jabs with a former XFL general manager?