Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

South Florida Bulls enjoy bowl nearby, Memphis Tigers like underdog role

ST. PETERSBURG — Jim Leavitt looked out from the Pier during a news conference Tuesday afternoon, enjoying the warm weather and remembering how as a child he'd watched fireworks there each July 4 in lawn chairs with his family.

Part of Leavitt's excitement for playing in the inaugural St. Petersburg Bowl against Memphis on Dec. 20 is nostalgia — returning to the city he grew up in, against an old Conference USA rival.

Few of his players have that history with St. Petersburg, however, and none playing next week lined up against Memphis the last time the teams met in 2004.

So one of the biggest challenges facing Leavitt is matching the motivation that Memphis will have: A chance to upset a BCS opponent and to show the Bulls aren't better than the league they left behind.

"To have a chance to compete against a BCS (team), one of the three that left our league and went to the Big East, I'm not going to act like it's not important, because I think it is," Memphis coach Tommy West said. "When you're not in the BCS, it's a big deal. That's where we want to be."

After last year's 56-21 loss in the Sun Bowl, Leavitt admitted that Oregon benefited from being tagged as underdog leading up to the bowl, while USF lacked that motivation.

Now, as the Bulls open as nearly two-touchdown favorites against Memphis in what is essentially a home game, USF will have to guard against a similar disadvantage.

"We don't mind playing that role," West said. "We'll be the underdog, and it'll be a great challenge for us."

Memphis hasn't beaten a BCS conference team since its 2004 opener against Mississippi. The Tigers are 0-7 since, but five of those losses have been by a touchdown or less, making them a dangerous opponent.

USF, along the same lines, has won its past 12 games against non-BCS teams, a streak that goes back to 2004 and a loss at home … to Memphis.

ANOTHER TRANSFER?: As the basketball team prepares for two key transfers to join the roster, coach Stan Heath is busy courting another impact transfer for next season.

The Bulls are one of four schools in the mix for Jamie Skeen, a 6-foot-8, 250-pound power forward who is transferring after two seasons at Wake Forest. Skeen, who is also considering Seton Hall, Marquette and Virginia Commonwealth, is scheduled to visit USF's campus this weekend. Heath was in North Carolina on Monday night and met with Skeen, who visited Seton Hall over the weekend and is visiting VCU today.

Heath has firsthand knowledge of Skeen's abilities — as a sophomore, Skeen had 17 points, seven rebounds and three blocks off the bench in Wake Forest's 74-61 win against the Bulls in Winston-Salem.

Skeen, who chose the Demon Deacons over North Carolina and Florida two years ago, was suspended from school this fall for a violation of university academic policy. Skeen, whose father, Eric, played football at Florida State, would bring a tough, physical presence to USF's frontcourt, which has struggled with depth issues in a 3-3 start.

JUST RUN: The St. Petersburg Bowl is an inexpensive ticket at $30, but fans can get in for even less with a little exercise.

The St. Petersburg Bowl Fan 5K is set for 8 a.m. on game day, starting at Tropicana Field, running to Bayshore Drive and back. Registration is $20, and the first 1,500 runners to finish get a ticket to the bowl game, with proceeds benefitting area charities.

See for information.

Greg Auman can be reached at and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at

South Florida Bulls enjoy bowl nearby, Memphis Tigers like underdog role 12/09/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 9, 2008 7:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Kevin Kiermaier: Return to action Thursday 'didn't set the world on fire'

    The Heater

    Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier's return from the hip injury that sidelined him since June 8 could have gone better Thursday in Port Charlotte. He broke two bats and went hitless in two at bats while playing for the Class A Charlotte Stone Crabs.

    Kevin Kiermaier takes cuts in the cage during batting practice before the game between the Rays and Texas Rangers Saturday at Tropicana Field. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  2. What you need to know about Bucs training camp


    Bucs training camp is here.

    This morning was the first of 13 practices that are free and open to the general public, so we have all the details to answer your questions about where and when and so on.

    Dirk Koetter is nothing if not precise, with practices starting at 8:45 a.m. and running until 10:27. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  3. Fennelly: It's high time for Bucs to take Tampa Bay back


    TAMPA — Welcome to the proving ground.

    Bucs training camp begins today.

    Hard Knocks and flop sweat.

    Work and more work.

    "We have a lot to prove,'' wide receiver Mike Evans (13) says. "We're good on paper, but we've got to do it." [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  4. HomeTeam 100: Players 1-10


    When he's not holding things down on the O-line, Nicholas Petit-Frere is holding his own in the classroom with a 3.7 grade-point average. (Andres Leiva, Times)
  5. HomeTeam 100: Football's a slam dunk for Nicholas Petit-Frere


    Berkeley Prep senior Nicholas Petit-Frere is one of the nation's most coveted offensive tackle recruits in the class of 2018. (Andres Leiva, Times)