TAMPA — One day after Notre Dame announced it was moving its nonfootball sports to the ACC, new Big East commissioner Mike Aresco, in town to see Rutgers' 23-13 victory over USF on Thursday, said he's optimistic there won't be additional conference shifting ahead.
"Our sense is this might be it for a while, that there might be stability now," Aresco said before the game. "The ACC has made a statement that they don't want to expand, that they're happy with 14 and Notre Dame in basketball and other Olympic sports. The Big 12 has steadfastly said they want to stay at 10. It looks like there might be a period of relative calm."
The Big East lost Texas Christian and West Virginia to the Big 12, and it is losing Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC after this season, but Aresco said his priority is making it clear to the league's remaining members that the conference can have a bright future, especially once a new TV contract can be implemented, likely in November.
"What we want to do is make our schools happy to be in the Big East, proud of the Big East," he said. "We want to instill pride. That's key. That's why I've been so adamant about the fact that we have a great story to tell, a great storied tradition and history. I'm not going to yield on that at all. … Any school that left — we want to have the kind of conference where they wish they were back in."
KICKING AGAIN: After having no field goal attempts in their first two games, the Bulls got a pair of first-half field goals from senior Maikon Bonani, who converted from 41 and 46 yards.
Bonani hasn't missed a kick since the end of last year's Rutgers game, a streak of nine straight. In that game, Bonani missed a 27-yarder in the final minute, allowing Rutgers to rally for a win in overtime.
FLAGS FLYING: Rutgers limited itself early during the game with penalties and mistakes; the Scarlet Knights were flagged four times on their first drive, the last declined as it set up a punt. The Scarlet Knights drew a personal foul on the next play as USF took over, and in all, had seven penalties for 55 yards in the opening half and 11 for 85 for the game. A bad snap on a field goal resulted in a low kick that was blocked by LB DeDe Lattimore, allowing USF to maintain its 6-0 lead.
THIS AND THAT: USF junior WR Derrick Hopkins got his first career start, lining up with three receivers and two running backs on the opening play. The Bulls had running backs Demetris Murray and Lindsey Lamar in the backfield at the same time, but the play resulted in a 2-yard loss for Lamar. … USF's only change in the defensive starting lineup came at safety, where JaQuez Jenkins had been limited by a back injury and senior Jon Lejiste got the start. Lejiste had started every game in coach Skip Holtz's first two seasons, but he came off the bench in the first one this season.
Greg Auman can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3346. View his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf. Follow him on Twitter at @GregAuman.