TAMPA — In past years, the talk of the Florida Sports Writers Association's College Football Media Days was UCF coach George O'Leary lobbying USF and coach Jim Leavitt to continue playing their rivalry game every year.
Thursday, with the Bulls and Knights prepared to meet for the fourth and final time in Orlando on Sept. 6, Leavitt was the one publicly lobbying for more games against an in-state rival. But he was asking Florida to take on USF at Raymond James Stadium.
"Florida won't come in here to Tampa," said Leavitt, whose team is scheduled to play in Gainesville in 2010 and 2015. "Before, I could understand why, because we were averaging probably 32,000 or 34,000. Now we're selling out Raymond James."
Starting in 2009, USF plays Miami every year for five years; Leavitt would like to see similar deals with Florida and FSU. He says his program shouldn't be considered part of a state "Big Four" until it has beaten one of the other three.
"The Swamp; I'm sure that's an exciting place to play. I haven't been there," he said. "I'd love to see that happen in Tampa, too."
HARVIN'S RETURN: Florida RB/WR Percy Harvin is recovering faster than expected from spring surgery on his heel and will be ready for fall practice, coach Urban Meyer said.
"He's starting to run full speed," Meyer said. "He's 199 or 200 pounds, and he's as strong as he's ever been. It's been a very good summer for Percy."
SAFETY MINUS THREE: Florida is without three projected starters at safety, but Meyer said the situation may not be as dire as it seems. "(WR) Cade Holliday has moved over already, and there's a chance one or two others will move," Meyer said. "Right now we have Ahmad Black, Will Hill, Brian Thomas, now Cade Holliday and Major Wright. So you still have personnel."
Redshirt junior Dorian Munroe sustained an injury to the ACL in his left knee last week and is out for the season. Jamar Hornsby was dismissed from the team in May after he was arrested and charged with credit card theft, and Jerimy Finch transferred before spring practice. The Gators also lost incoming freshman Dee Finley, who did not qualify academically.
A rivalry reborn: For the first time since 2003, Florida, Florida State and Miami will play a round-robin.
"The (Florida) Cup is up for grabs this year, and that's the thing that everybody keeps thinking about," Miami coach Randy Shannon said.
The Gators and Hurricanes didn't play from 1988 to 1999 and have met four times since: the 2001 Sugar Bowl, in 2002 and 2003, and the 2004 Peach Bowl. The Hurricanes won all four and have won six straight, dating to UF's 35-23 win in the 1985 season opener. Shannon played for Miami in that game.
BIG SEVEN? Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger, whose team won the Sun Belt Conference, bristled at a reference to the state's "Big Four," suggesting that UCF, FAU and Florida International will soon be on the same level with the rest. "We're about this far apart, all of us," Schnellenberger said. "Y'all better get used to that, everybody. There are seven football teams that are going to be as strong one year as another, and it's going to be highly competitive. This is going to be a great state to watch football."
To clarify "this far apart": FAU lost to Florida 59-20 last season, then a week later beat FIU 55-23. USF beat FAU 35-23.
THIS AND THAT: Leavitt said he isn't counting on sophomore RB Aston Samuels (shoulder) to be healthy and return this season. … Leavitt will have a vote in the coaches poll, his first since USF joined the Big East in 2005.
Times staff writer Brian Landman contributed to this report.