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USF Bulls not alone in football schedule scramble

Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Texas Tech humbly did it last fall. Duke and North Carolina have chosen to do it this season.

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So if USF indeed does have to fill its 2009 schedule with a second Division I-AA team, the Bulls won't be alone, knowing one of those two wins won't count toward the six required for bowl eligibility.

"I don't believe any school decides to play two (I-AA) schools in a given year," said Big East associate commissioner Nick Carparelli. "They clearly were put in that position not by choice, but by misfortune, and I don't think anyone can fault them for that."

The Bulls are in the uncomfortable position because Florida International has bought out the final game in a three-game series, just seven months before kickoff. The Panthers had a contractual right to buy out the game for $200,000, but the short notice leaves the Bulls scrambling to find a final home game next season.

USF officials have declined to comment, but what makes the FIU situation all the more a slap in the face is that FIU backed out of the game to sign a home-and-home series with Rutgers, a Big East rival that, even with FIU, will likely have two I-AA teams on the schedule this fall.

FIU coach Mario Cristobal was an assistant under Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, and the Scarlet Knights have recruited the Miami area heavily, so it's a win-win for both programs, all at USF's expense. Last fall, USF brought a nationally ranked team into Miami for the grand opening of FIU's new stadium, which despite seating only 18,000 was not sold out.

Rutgers has beaten USF three years in a row, but moves like this do as much to stoke a rivalry as anything on the scoreboard.

HIGH HONORS: For all the baggage presumed to accompany athletes who transfer from one school to another, two of USF's best stories have been players shining at their third major college.

LB Tyrone McKenzie, USF's leading tackler the past two seasons, is heading to the NFL draft after settling in at USF after stops at Michigan State and Iowa State.

And Friday, soccer player Zak Boggs was given the Big East's highest academic honor as male scholar-athlete of the year. Boggs, who scored two goals in the NCAA Tournament win against Harvard, said he credits a work ethic instilled from his family.

"Just having goals and working toward goals. That comes from my family, and always wanting more," said Boggs, who came to USF in 2007 after playing at West Virginia and Central Florida.

Boggs graduated in December with a degree in biomedical science, and is pursuing a master's degree in economics. He was named an ESPN the Magazine first-team Academic All-American after earning a 4.0 grade-point average last fall. The Big East honor will give him a $4,000 scholarship toward postgraduate studies.

THIS AND THAT: Softball Ps Cristi Ecks and Kristen Gordon combined for 16 1/3 scoreless innings over the weekend as the Bulls went 4-1 to open the season. Senior Bree Spence, who missed last season with a shoulder injury, gave up eight hits and four runs in 4 1/3 innings but picked up a win. The Bulls are home again for a tournament this weekend. … Basketball coach Stan Heath has the Bulls as one of five schools in contention for Birmingham PG Eric Bledsoe, ranked as the No. 2 unsigned point guard in the country by Rivals.com and Scout.com.

Greg Auman can be reached at auman@sptimes.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf.

USF Bulls not alone in football schedule scramble 02/10/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 10, 2009 9:39pm]
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