ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday's St. Petersburg Bowl at Tropicana Field is a sellout with all 28,000 seats claimed, and Central Florida coach George O'Leary is encouraged by Knights fans embracing a bowl close to home.
"I think they've responded very well. I think they'll be in force over here," O'Leary said. "It says a lot about our fan base — the distance helps here, but we have a great fan base that thoroughly enjoys the bowl season."
STILL RECRUITING: Rutgers coach Greg Schiano actively recruits Florida and said the exposure of playing in the state could help. He was checking with his compliance officer to see if recruits were allowed to attend bowl practices this week.
Schiano, a former Miami assistant, remembers running his Rutgers coaches show on TV in Florida to help with recruiting efforts but said other schools have caught on to his idea.
"I read an article that there are like 18 teams that have their coaches show (on) in the state of Florida," he said. "We did some things with our camps (in Florida), and that became illegal by NCAA rules, but that's a whole other story."
HOME SWEET TURF: The surface at the Trop won't be new to either team, as both schools have indoor practice facilities to help prepare them for a rare game indoors.
MOURNING: O'Leary was away from his team this weekend to attend services for his younger brother Terry, who died last week after a battle with cancer. O'Leary attended the wake Sunday and services Tuesday. "Probably one of the tougher things I had to do was the eulogy, but I'm sure he's in a better place," O'Leary said.
THIS AND THAT: UCF is practicing at Gibbs High, while Rutgers is practicing at St. Petersburg Catholic. … O'Leary said he has been to see the Rays at the Trop, and pulls for them as a local team, but not to the same extent as his Yankees. "Of course, I root for a Florida team, but if they're playing the Yankees, go Yankees," he said.