TAMPA — Because of the fluid nature of the collegiate universe, one never knows when old peers will find themselves in planetary alignment on a given Saturday.
Case in point: this weekend's de facto Hilltopper homecoming in Storrs, Conn. Thanks to fate — or more specifically, a firing — two members of Western Kentucky's 2002 Division I-AA national title staff will be squaring off.
Bulls coach Willie Taggart, co-offensive coordinator of that team, will match playbooks with Connecticut's T.J. Weist, named Huskies interim coach after the recent dismissal of Paul Pasqualoni.
Weist was receivers/running backs coach on that same Hilltoppers staff. UConn's offensive coordinator before his promotion, Weist will continue calling plays.
"We've always had a great relationship," said Weist, a receiver at Alabama in the mid 1980s. "We know each other's mentality, and we're very similar to each other from that standpoint."
The most glaring similarity — undistilled competitiveness — manifested itself daily back in Bowling Green, Ky. When not breaking down film, the two were trying to break down each other.
"We played basketball at noon and he and I would always go at it," Taggart said. "Every day, we'd guard each other and go at it. We'd play pingpong in the players' lounge. We were always trying to find a way to beat each other. It was fun."
When they channeled their competitiveness toward a common foe, the Hilltoppers were nearly unstoppable. The '02 team lost three of its first five before reeling off 10 consecutive victories. In four I-AA playoff triumphs, WKU averaged 38.8 points.
Taggart recalls those game plans being spawned in "The Cave," a cramped offensive meeting room with one phone line and chairs of various colors in the bowels of Smith Stadium. Other tenants at that time included current USF assistants Walt Wells and Stu Holt.
Taggart called the place "ghetto-fabulous."
"It was a special time for both of us," Weist said. "We both continued on for the next couple of years, we worked together on offense, and then Willie moved on to Stanford with Jim (Harbaugh)."
Now, suddenly, the square-off segues from The Cave to Connecticut. Time to go head to head — or headset to headset — yet again.
"We know each other well and our families are close and everything," Weist said. "It's going to be a good game."
HOOPS FEST FRIDAY: The Bulls Hoops Fest, USF's version of Midnight Madness, will be staged from 7-9 p.m. Friday at the Sun Dome. Gates open at 6. The event is free.
Activities include a men's 10-minute scrimmage, various drills by the women's team, dunk and 3-point contests, and even auditions for the right to sing the national anthem at a game.
Look for veteran PG Anthony Collins to appear in a limited capacity. Collins, still recovering from minor knee surgery, said Tuesday that he hopes to resume practice next week.
PITCH PERFECT: One of the most successful September weekends in Bulls women's soccer history ended Sunday when Cristin Granados blasted an 18-yarder off a Sharla Passariello assist in the 109th minute for a 3-2 victory against Connecticut.
The triumph capped a perfect weekend in American Athletic Conference play for the Bulls (7-2-3, 2-1-0), who got a Granados goal in Friday's 1-0 home win against Temple.
On Monday, Granados was named the American's offensive player of the week. Sophomore Christiane Endler was named goalkeeper of the week.