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USF board gets fully behind Big East move

With a formal and unanimous slap on the back from its executive board, South Florida continued its inexorable march Friday toward the Big East.

"Madam president, the board is behind you 100 percent," chairman Dick Beard said after presentations from president Judy Genshaft and athletic director Lee Roy Selmon. "It's a great opportunity and takes us to the next level, and very, very quickly.

"It means we've arrived. Now we've got to win."

The Big East presidents plan to extend invitations Tuesday to five Conference USA schools _ USF, Cincinnati and Louisville (all sports) and DePaul and Marquette (nonfootball) _ at their meeting in New York. The Big East and USF have scheduled a 2 p.m. news conferences announcing the invitations and acceptance.

"We're expecting to receive an invitation," Genshaft said. "I'm thrilled, very pleased. We're a rising star. This university is poised to stand shoulder to shoulder with schools such as Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse."

A meeting between Genshaft and Selmon and Big East administrators Oct. 17 in Newark, N.J., seems to have catapulted the Bulls, in their seventh season of football, over the top. Afterward, Rutgers athletic director Bob Mulcahy, who is heading Big East football expansion, raved about USF.

USF has been concerned about the C-USA exit fees and Big East entry fees, an expected total of several million dollars. The consensus Friday was that the long-term financial benefits make the move a no-brainer.

"(This) carries a very, very big upside," Selmon said. "I see it as something that aligns with our goals, to grow toward a prominent spot nationally."

Selmon said he believes the Big East will maintain its Bowl Championship Series status and the multimillion dollar revenue stream that comes with it despite the losses of Miami and Virginia Tech to the ACC. The Big East's cut of BCS money is $13-million annually.

USF's projected athletic budget for 2003-04 is a record $18-million, but it is well shy of the smallest 2001-02 budget from among the Big East's football playing schools, West Virginia's $24.2-million. Athletic department CFO Rick Costello said, however, the Bulls will be able to raise expenditures to Big East standards while balancing the budget.

Both Genshaft and Selmon said the athletic department, which has borrowed heavily to cover football start-up costs, would not need new money sources to cover the initial costs of the move. The increase in national exposure is expected to cause increases in donations, sponsorships and season-ticket sales.

Around the nation

VOLS DENY RUMOR: Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton issued a statement Thursday to quash rumors that coach Phillip Fulmer was resigning.

The athletic department and news organizations received numerous calls from people wanting to know if Fulmer was going to announce his resignation.

"Over the last several days, and even more prevalent (Thursday), there have been a number of rumors indicating that Phillip Fulmer would be resigning as head football coach in a press conference to be held Thursday, Oct. 30," the statement read. "Obviously, those rumors have no sound basis. Coach Fulmer in no way has indicated any intention of resigning his position."

The news conference was to give reporters a chance to speak to reserve center Chuck Prugh, who has been recovering from a serious illness.

SUIT SETTLED: Tulane paid a $2,500 "nuisance fee" to settle a $1-million lawsuit Georgia filed over three canceled games, Tulane officials said. Tulane said it canceled the games under a clause that Georgia had inserted in the contract, but Georgia accused Tulane of fraud.

ARIZONA: The team suspended fullback Gilbert Harris and guard Keith Jackson, both starters, after the university declared them ineligible. The two will miss the final four games, beginning today at Oregon State. The school declined to comment further, citing federal student privacy regulations.

MARYLAND: Starting quarterback Scott McBrien, who suffered a concussion in the second quarter and sat out the second half against Georgia Tech, will start against North Carolina today.

SO. MISS: The feature tailback the team had been looking for during the first half was in the backfield all along. Injuries and a suspension prompted the team to move fullback Anthony Harris to tailback last week. He responded with 102 yards and a touchdown in the 27-6 victory over South Florida and will keep the job today against Louisiana-Lafayette. Harris was the team's second-leading rusher last season but was moved to fullback this season when offensive coordinator Rip Scherer implemented a two-back system.

_ Information from Times wires was used in the report.

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