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Prospective assistants vying for Leavitt's eye

With spring football practice starting March 21, Bulls coach Jim Leavitt has less than a month to find new assistants for his defensive backs and defensive linemen, and some coaches are going the extra mile to be considered.

Dozens have sent resumes, now barely contained in a bulging manila folder on Leavitt's desk, and others surely know Leavitt and defensive coordinator Wally Burnham well enough to merit consideration from first-hand experience. Some hopefuls are investing more than a 39-cent stamp.

Jeff Sowells, who spent the last eight years as receivers coach at Rice, flew from Houston to Tampa on his own dime last week to drop off a resume in person and speak briefly with Leavitt. Sowells, who lost his job when none of Ken Hatfield's assistants were brought back, spent last summer working with the Houston Texans as part of the NFL's Minority Coaching Fellowship.

While he hasn't coached defensive backs, Sowells played defensive back at Rice and remembers going up against Kansas State when Leavitt was co-defensive coordinator there.

Sowells wasn't the only coach to try a personal visit.

Jim Taubert, defensive line coach at Florida International from 2001-04, drove to Tampa last week from Lake Wales, where he spent last season as an assistant at Webber International. Taubert was on the Tampa Bay Storm's championship coaching staff in 1991 and said he was grateful to speak briefly with Leavitt about the opening.

The Bulls have come a long way since Rick Kravitz and Earl Lane joined the staff a decade ago. Kravitz had never coached at a I-A program, and Lane had only coached at the high school level. And while Kravitz was someone Leavitt sought months before he accepted the job, Lane joined the staff only after he followed Leavitt around the state to booster clubs, pleading for a chance to coach with him.

And though USF's salary pool for assistant coaches doesn't yet compare with the BCS programs the Bulls now are competing with, Leavitt points out that his lowest-paid assistant, with a bonus for reaching a bowl next season, will be very close to making what he first made as head coach - $75,000 - a decade ago.

FOOTBALL: USF's 2006 Big East opener at Raymond James Stadium against Rutgers has been moved to a Friday, 8 p.m. on Sept. 29, for a national ESPN2 broadcast.

It's the Bulls' first weeknight game since the 2004 season, when they played Louisville and Alabama-Birmingham during the week for ESPN2 audiences. The switch leaves Syracuse as the lone Big East team not scheduled for an appearance on ESPN or ESPN2.

"Any time you can play a game on national television, it's something we want to do," said Leavitt, whose team plays at Kansas six days earlier, the same day Rutgers plays host to I-AA Howard.

IN GOOD COMPANY: Women's basketball coach Jose Fernandez already has a six-member recruiting class earning national acclaim, but he has the Bulls in the mix for Shannon Bobbitt, a coveted point guard from Trinity Valley Community College in Texas.

Bobbitt, who is only 5 feet 4 but has serious playmaking skills, has the Bulls in her top five, along with Tennessee, Louisville, Rutgers and Oklahoma State. USF signed a Trinity Valley teammate, guard Daiane Packer, in November, and TVCC coach Michael Landers said Fernandez has been "very active" in recruiting Bobbitt.

Bobbitt played at the same New York City high school as Rutgers signee Epiphanny Prince, who made headlines three weeks ago when she scored 113 in a game.

Bobbitt won't take any visits until April, so a strong postseason showing could help the Bulls' position.

Greg Auman covers USF athletics. He can be reached at auman@sptimes.com. Check out his "USF Bulletin" blog online at www.sptimes.com/blogs/usf.

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