Why no home-and-home? Geography
I've seen this question asked quite a bit in the last 24 hours: Why did USF accept a one-game deal to play at Notre Dame without a return game in Tampa when the Irish are committed to establishing home-and-home series with three Big East teams a year starting in 2011?
The simple answer is that USF was never part of that commitment from Notre Dame, not because of the relative youth of the Bulls program, not because of anything USF has or hasn't done on a football field, but because of the simply geography of Tampa not being in the Northeast.
"Our game plan was that the Big East home-and-home series would be in the Northeast," said John Heisler, Notre Dame's senior associate athletic director, who handles football scheduling. "Our intention for getting to Florida and Texas was through the off-site (neutral site) games."
The Big East's TV partners gain nothing from a member school playing Notre Dame at a neutral location where the Irish have the TV rights to the game, which eliminates USF as a possibility there. Notre Dame has a commitment to games in Orlando and has had discussions with representatives from Tampa and Jacksonville.
Read this story I wrote way back in August 2006, and you'll see Heisler quoted as saying "our interest is getting into the New York and New England corridor ... our intention there was not to split them up evenly among the eight Big East teams."
Since the Bulls were geographically boxed out of the home-and-home option and all but contractually blocked from a neutral-site game, the single-game contract to play in South Bend, while somewhat humbling, represented their only reasonable path to playing the Fighting Irish, who seek to have seven home games and an off-site game that falls under their TV umbrella each season.
Pittsburgh has six of the 18 games Notre Dame is committed to between 2011 and 2016, and Syracuse, Rutgers and Connecticut now appear to have a geographic advantage to land some of the other 12 over West Virginia, Louisville and Cincinnati.
-- Hey, while I'm posting, there's another new mock draft up from SI.com's Don Banks, a former Times writer, and he too has USF's Mike Jenkins going seventh to the New England Patriots, who could lose corner Asante Samuel in free agency, creating a natural opening for a rare top-10 pick.