TAMPA — It wasn't a lackluster offense that cost Greg Gregory his title as offensive coordinator Saturday night.
It was Gregory's interest in joining Urban Meyer's staff at Florida, telling coach Jim Leavitt on Friday he was interviewing for a chance to become the Gators' tight ends coach.
"Greg visited with me about the possibility of coaching at another school, and I felt like I had to make a move," Leavitt said Tuesday night. "I'm not going to have my offensive coordinator out visiting with other schools. If a position coach wants to do that, I don't have as much a problem."
Leavitt issued a terse statement at 10:11 p.m. Saturday, saying Gregory was "released from his duties as offensive coordinator" and that the Bulls were going "to move in another direction."
Tuesday, Leavitt said his intent was not to fire Gregory ("I never used the word "fire,"' he said) but merely to strip him of his coordinator's role. When he saw newspaper headlines Sunday saying Gregory had been fired, Leavitt said he "just let it go." He said Tuesday he still considers Gregory a member of his staff, though he said he would create an opening if he hired a new coordinator from outside the program.
Gregory declined to comment.
The offense struggled as the Bulls went 2-5 in Big East games. The Bulls scored 20 or fewer in five straight games to end the regular season, losing four.
But no action was taken against Gregory in four weeks after USF beat Memphis 41-14 in the St. Petersburg Bowl, not until after he told Leavitt he was going to interview for a job at Florida.
Leavitt said he told Gregory he might make a change after the season, but said he would not make that decision until after national signing day on Feb. 4.
While the tight ends position would be a step down, Gregory would likely make more than the $160,000 he made at USF in 2008. Gregory has known UF offensive coordinator Steve Addazio since 2004, when his son Grant was a QB at Indiana, where Addazio was offensive coordinator.
UF tight ends coach John Hevesy left for Mississippi State.
LINE SHIFT: USF has shifted another defensive tackle to offensive line to add depth as the Bulls search for four starters. Sampson Genus switched two weeks ago, and now, freshman Jatavious Jackson, a former Florida State signee, is moving to offense, though he's not likely to start.
LOFTY GOALS: The baseball and softball teams have high expectations for this spring, having each been picked by Big East coaches to finish second.
The squads have something else in common: freshmen thrust into major roles. In SS Sam Mende and CF Janine Richardson, the Bulls have two future stars who will debut next month.
"I think he has a chance to be a super college player," coach Lelo Prado said of Mende, a Clearwater Central Catholic standout.
Prado lost a three-year starter at shortstop in Addison Maruszak, who was drafted by the Yankees. Then the Yankees drafted Mende in the 40th round and Prado feared he'd lose two starting shortstops. But Mende turned down the Yankees.
Softball coach Ken Eriksen has seen enough in the speedy Richardson, 5 feet 5 and a two-time All-State selection at Auburndale, that she will not only start in center but lead off.
"She said, 'Coach, you know I'm a freshman,' and I said, 'I don't care,' " Eriksen said. "In this game, you get taught during ball games."
Softball season starts Feb. 6 at home; baseball opens Feb. 20 against Michigan in the Big East-Big Ten Challenge in Clearwater.
THIS AND THAT: The men's tennis team, No. 40 nationally to open the season, got a 5-2 upset of No. 11 Florida State on Monday. How's this for a global lineup: The seven who combined for USF's win hail from Brazil, Egypt, France, Tunisia, the Bahamas and Colombia. … WR Taurus Johnson showed enough in Saturday's East-West Shrine Game that he's been invited to participate in the NFL combine workouts next month. LB Tyrone McKenzie will also work out at the combine.
Greg Auman can be reached at email@example.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf.