TAMPA — USF has completed its 2011 football schedule, announcing Tuesday home games against Florida A&M and UTEP, with the Rattlers returning to Tampa in 2015.
"We couldn't be more excited about rekindling the series with FAMU," said USF athletic director Doug Woolard, whose football team hosted the Rattlers in 2005. "Getting the chance to host FAMU will be great for both fan bases, the city of Tampa and football in Florida."
The UTEP addition is notable because it's a one-game deal, with no return trip to El Paso, the first time USF has been able to strike that deal with a Division I-A opponent.
FAMU will get $400,000 to come to Tampa on Sept. 17, and UTEP will get $650,000, a relative bargain for a guarantee game. Florida State will pay $1.3 million to bring Louisiana-Monroe to Tallahassee in 2011.
The FAMU game in 2005 (a 37-3 USF win) drew a crowd of 43,122, then the second largest to see the Bulls at Raymond James Stadium. FAMU has a strong area alumni presence, and the "Marching 100" band at halftime is a draw by itself. Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, joked that it will be "one of the more anticipated halftimes in Tampa history."
Getting UTEP for one game, Sept. 24, sets a key precedent for USF, which will have seven home games in 2011 though just three in Big East play. The Bulls open Sept. 3 at Notre Dame, then host Ball State, FAMU and UTEP, with Miami set to come to Tampa on Nov. 26.
"We may not be able to do it every year, but I'd like to try to get to the point where we can play seven home games as often as we can," said Woolard, who was an associate AD at Washington State in 1989 when current UTEP coach Mike Price was hired as head coach there. "Being able to play an FBS school here without a return is what gives us the opportunity for seven games, and nobody will have to be the first to do that anymore."