TAMPA — USF president Judy Genshaft, asked directly by a state senator on Tuesday about media reports that she is blocking Central Florida's bid to join the Big East, said that such reports are "really, really wrong" and that she hasn't "done anything to hurt anybody."
Genshaft, speaking to the Hillsborough County legislative delegation's annual meeting on USF's campus, was asked by state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, about a column in the Orlando Sentinel last week claiming that Genshaft was actively blocking UCF from the Big East, with the writer seeking help from Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature to help stop it.
"Those statements that are out in the press are not true. That is not the case," Genshaft said. "I am not stopping any university from coming in. What is happening is the league, or the conference, now is looking at schools, and they have looked very much at schools that are not in any of the states that are represented by the Big East schools right now. The ones that they're looking at right now, they do not sit in any state that the Big East schools currently are in."
Pressed by Latvala as to whether the media reports are true — the Newark Star-Ledger and Boston Globe also reported of USF's blocking UCF, citing unnamed sources — Genshaft replied: "I have not done anything to hurt anybody."
Genshaft said that when a prospective school from the same state as a current conference member is being considered, schools are generally silent and that the Sentinel reports generated "nasty" responses to her office.
"When they come from our own state, we usually are silent," she said. "I have to tell you that there has been terrible misinformation out, and I have written memos and comments and letters to different people about these. The press releases that have come out from a different paper have been so nasty that some of the letters have had to go directly to our police department."
USF could not effectively block UCF from joining the league without a bloc of schools to vote against such a move. As far as not supporting UCF joining the league, it's hard to imagine Florida's Jeremy Foley endorsing FSU to join the SEC or any FSU official to embrace USF joining the ACC. And given UCF's loss to Florida International this season, the Knights likely wouldn't want to see FIU joining Conference USA for the same reasons.
ALREADY HELPING: It's no coincidence that in the 24 hours before and after the ribbon-cutting for USF's new Muma Center basketball practice facility, Stan Heath picked up key commitments for 2012 from junior college SG Musa Abdul-Aleem and 6-foot-11 C Waverly Austin, considered one of the top junior college recruits in the nation.
For Heath to land a 6-11 center is one thing, but USF women's coach Jose Fernandez? The Bulls are in the mix for Marvadene "Bubbles" Anderson, a 6-11 center from Somerset, N.J., who will take her first official visit to USF this weekend. "They've done a wonderful job recruiting her," said Mary Klinger, her coach at Rutgers Prep, who said Anderson hadn't played basketball until two years ago when she came to New Jersey from her native Jamaica.
THIS AND THAT: USF men's soccer continues to pile up significant wins, including one at West Virginia on Sunday that ended the nation's longest home winning streak at 13 games. … USF women's soccer coach Denise Schilte-Brown saw her team play a rain-delayed game against DePaul at 11 a.m. Monday, with players sprinting from the 1-0 overtime win to the classroom. "I had two girls come up to me right at the end of the game: "I can't cold-tub. I have a test," Schilte-Brown said. "An awesome situation. The girls got up in the morning on a Monday, played 100 (minutes) then sprint off the field and go take a test."
Times staff writer Stephanie Wang contributed to this report.