TECO president: TSA's actions 'not fair'
There's more than just Jim Leavitt and Judy Genshaft who are incensed that USF can't finish its 2008 season with a Thursday night ESPN home game against Rutgers because of the ACC championship game, as the issue was brought up at Wednesday's meeting of the USF board of trustees.
John Ramil, president and CEO of TECO Energy, Inc., said he felt a need to show his fellow trustees what he feels is a disrespect shown to USF by the Tampa Sports Authority, which granted the ACC exclusive use of Raymond James Stadium in the four days leading up to the ACC title game on Dec. 6. As a result, USF cannot play a key conference game in a prime window on national television on Dec. 4.
"The ACC game has some economic value to Tampa, yes, but when you talk about economic development, in jobs and investments, USF has over $3-billion of economic impact a year," Ramil told the Times. "I don't think they're equitable in any fashion."
USF athletic director Doug Woolard asked Ramil to sit in on negotiations with TSA officials last summer, as the two sides were working on a new lease agreement at Raymond James. The contract, signed in August, is a five-year agreement with a five-year extension and allows USF to opt out of the deal at any point with two years' notice.
Ramil took exception to a statement in Wednesday's Tampa Tribune that said USF could have had a right of first refusal for dates during football season if USF had negotiated it into the contract. Ramil said he anticipated conflicts such as this and specifically sought such a priority clause for USF, only to be rebuffed by TSA officials.
"It was made very clear that no one had priority to use the stadium (beyond the Buccaneers)," Ramil said.
Ramil said when he initially asked TSA executive director Henry Saavedra, he was reminded that the contract being negotiated was for only five years, with the short escape clause, and as a result, giving USF a right of first refusal "is not going to happen." Ramil said he asked if the case would be different if USF considered a longer deal with no opt-out clause, but Saavedra still did not want to grant the Bulls the right to veto any conflicts to their schedule.
"To put the home team in third place to pursue other games, that is not a real fair thing to do," Ramil told the Times.
Saavedra said Thursday that USF and TSA had been negotiating the current contract for more than a year before he met with Ramil, and that USF had shown no interest in a longer contract, such as a 15-year agreement with no immediate escape clause. Saavedra said the Bucs have their priority because they signed a 30-year contract with four five-year options.
"As far as I'm concerned, (the USF deal) is a two-year contract," Saavedra said. "When (exclusivity) was brought up in August, it was less than a month before the first game of the season, and we felt it was too late at that point. ... If securing dates is important to you, you include it in the contract."
Tampa mayor Pam Iorio has called together officials from USF and TSA, as well as local government officials, for a meeting this afternoon to allow both sides to voice their concerns, hoping to bring the two sides to a better understanding. Leavitt, Genshaft and Woolard will be attending on USF's behalf.