TAMPA — With the idea of Big 12 expansion seemingly gaining more traction, USF athletic director Mark Harlan indicated to boosters Friday that the school is being "proactive" regarding the Bulls' future.
In a seven-paragraph letter sent to Bulls Club members and season-ticket holders, Harlan acknowledged national reports of "possible conference expansion and other potential realignments." He then noted a number of USF athletic accomplishments before trying to reassure supporters of the Bulls, who are in the American Athletic Conference, thirsting for Power Five status.
"Like many of our peers, we are also an aspirational institution and closely monitor any opportunities that would benefit USF athletics in the long term," Harlan wrote. "Rest assured, we have been proactive in exploring any and all opportunities that would support this program's singular focus on sustained excellence."
Harlan's letter comes in the wake of reports indicating presidents from Cincinnati and Memphis have made extensive efforts to promote their respective universities to Big 12 administrators. USF's efforts to curry favor with the Big 12 are believed to have been done more covertly to this point.
During spring meetings with his athletic directors and football coaches this week in Phoenix, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said a research firm hired by his league indicated that expanding from 10 to 12 teams and staging a conference title game would slightly increase the conference's chances of reaching the College Football Playoff.
"Excellence is and always will be our No. 1 priority," Harlan said.
"We must win on the field and on the courts of all of our sports; we must attract higher attendance at our games; we must increase donor engagement; we must continue to enhance the fan experience; we must position our facilities for success; we must continue to rally community support for all our program.
"These responsibilities start with USF leadership and staff, but they are made possible by our spirited students, coaches, and Bulls fans."
Ex-Syracuse player indicted: A former Syracuse football player was indicted on first-degree assault charges in connection with the stabbings of two former teammates. Naesean Howard, 20, also faces charges of second-degree assault and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon. Howard is accused of attacking defensive backs Chauncey Scissum and Corey Winfield at a barbecue last month on campus. Police say Scissum was critically injured with wounds to his neck, chest, left shoulder and lip. Winfield was stabbed in the lower back, chest, abdomen and left wrist. Both are recovering.
More football: Oklahoma said kick returner and running back Alex Ross will graduate, then transfer.
Softball: Saint Leo was eliminated from the Division II South Region with a 1-0 loss to host North Alabama. The Lions (39-8) had stayed alive in the double-elimination tournament earlier in the day by defeating Tuskegee 5-0 as Stephanie Adkins (18-4) threw a three-hitter.
Baseball: Logan Shore extended his school record by winning his 14th straight decision as visiting Florida (39-7, 16-6 SEC), ranked first by Baseball America, beat Tennessee 7-2. … USF (21-24, 6-10 American Athletic Conference) lost 9-4 at No. 20 Tulane; Coco Montes had two RBIs for the Bulls. … Ben DeLuzio's two-run triple sparked a six-run eighth inning as No. 5 Florida State (30-13) beat visiting Bowling Green 6-1. … Visiting Tampa (37-7, 16-3 Sunshine State Conference) won 14-5 over Eckerd (16-24, 4-15).
Women's golf: Florida, Florida State and Miami were in position to reach the NCAA tournament after two rounds at regionals. The top six teams in each region advance. UF shot 1-under 287 and was third at 580 after two rounds at the Baton Rouge (La.) Regional. FSU, with Matilda Castren (71) tied for the individual lead at 1-over 145, was second at 20-over 596 in Shoal Creek (Ala.) after shooting 297. At 2 over total, UM (288—578) was sixth in Bryan, Texas, four strokes ahead of TCU for the final spot. The final round in all regions is today; the NCAA finals are May 20-25 in Eugene, Ore.
Basketball: Illinois coach John Groce said forward Leron Black rejoined the team but will sit out the first six games next season after pleading guilty to misdemeanor aggravated assault. … Auburn guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen is ending his career because of shoulder injuries and center Trayvon Reed also won't return, coach Bruce Pearl said. … Oklahoma suspended Akolda Manyang indefinitely after he was charged with assaulting a former football player.
Obituary: Former ACC football officiating coordinator Doug Rhoads died after a short battle with pancreatic cancer, according to ACC spokesman Mike Finn, who said he heard from Rhoads' family. He was 71.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.