USF football adds I-AA openers for 2014, '16
USF football has reached agreements to play I-AA opponents for upcoming season openers, leading off the 2014 season against Western Carolina and the 2016 season against Towson.
The Bulls have their 2013 nonconference schedule finalized, but still have two openings for 2014, including an expected home-and-home series against a BCS automatic qualifying conference opponent. USF has its next four openers signed, with McNeese State coming to Tampa in 2013 and Florida A&M returning to Raymond James Stadium in 2015.
Western Carolina (playing USF Aug. 30, 2014), which played at Alabama and lost 49-0 earlier this month, has struggled in I-AA play, going 1-10 in each of the last two seasons. The Catamounts haven't had a winning record since 2005, when they gave Cincinnati a scare before the Bearcats pulled off a 7-3 victory. Western Carolina has played one BCS-league opponent annually in recent seasons, including Florida State (69-0) in 2008 and Florida (62-0) in 2006.
Towson (playing USF Sept. 3, 2016) is a more formidable program right now, having made the I-AA playoffs last season and finished 7-4 this year under former Connecticut offensive coordinator Rob Ambrose. Towson played LSU this season and even led the Tigers 9-7 in the second quarter before falling 38-22; the Tigers also played Kent State, losing 41-21.
Towson will receive $350,000 to come to USF and signed its deal on Nov. 10; should the school back out of the game, the penalty is the same $350,000, and it doubles to $700,000 if the Tigers cancel in the final year before the game is scheduled. Western Carolina, which actually signed its contract in July 2011, will get $425,000, again with the same figure as a cancellation penalty, doubling to $850,000 in the final year before the game is scheduled.
Speaking on 98.7 FM radio last week, USF executive associate athletic director Bill McGillis explained the Bulls' scheduling philosophy now that the Big East has eight conference games starting in 2013: one home game against a I-AA, one game against a I-A non-BCS opponent and two games against opponents from the top six conferences.
USF has home-and-home deals with Michigan State (away in 2013, home in 2017) and Indiana (home in 2015, away in 2016), with home games to finish series against Florida Atlantic (2013), Miami (2013), N.C. State (2014) and Nevada (2015).