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Published Feb. 12, 2008

Who has been the best college football coach over the past 10 years? Ohio State's Jim Tressel? Florida's Urban Meyer? Southern Cal's Pete Carroll? Actually, your head is full of rocks if you say anyone but USF's Jim Leavitt. Ten years ago, USF barely had a couple of goal posts and a kicking tee, and today the Bulls are ranked No. 6 in the Associated Press poll. No one has done more over the past 10 years than Leavitt.

Yes, the "Leavitt for President'' campaign starts here, and let's give him credit. After several readers and yours truly jumped on him after the Auburn victory for saying it was a great win for "Tampa,'' Leavitt spent all weekend going out of his way to say how great the victory over then-No. 5 West Virginia on Friday was great for "Tampa Bay.''

Best team

USF certainly is enjoying the high life these days, and ESPN is driving the Bulls' bandwagon. Leavitt was interviewed on Saturday morning's College GameDay and again during Saturday night's featured broadcast between Florida and Auburn.

On GameDay, analyst Kirk Herbstreit said, "Let's put this in perspective, (USF) right now is the story of the year in college football.''

Later in the broadcast, Herbstreit added, "As big as USF's win was against West Virginia, I still believe Rutgers is the team to beat in the Big East.'' Actually, he was right. Rutgers did get beat later in the day.

Funniest comment

On the Fox NFL Sunday show, analyst Jimmy Johnson, the former Cowboys coach, was asked to pick between Troy Aikman and Tony Romo.

"Hands down it's Aikman all the way,'' Johnson said. "Aikman gave me a couple of (Super Bowl) rings. Romo hasn't even picked up a dinner tab.''

Biggest naysayer

Not everyone is sold on USF football. CBS football analyst Brian Curtis, talking about Friday night's USF-WVU game, said: "It was a horrible game. South Florida is going to move up in the rankings and probably become a top 12 or 13 team. But they certainly didn't look it, even though they beat the No. 5 team in the nation."

Worst team

Sorry, Notre Dame fans. Picking on the Irish these days is like fishing with dynamite. It's too easy. Still, Notre Dame is 0-5 now, and it's hard to find a game on its schedule that the Irish can win.

"I did not think Notre Dame would be this bad,'' ESPN's Mark May said. "They're a very inept football team. They can't do anything right - special teams, offense, defense. ... The wheels have really come off this football team. And it's going to be difficult for head coach Charlie Weis to keep this team together for the remainder of the year.''

Best scheduling

Kudos to Fox for switching Saturday's Game of the Week from the meaningless Cubs-Reds to splitting coverage of two games that mattered: Padres-Brewers and Phillies-Nationals.e_SClBBest commentator

You have to love Jason Krause, the 10-year-old commentator on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown. Talking about Rex Grossman being benched as the Bears' starting quarterback, Krause said: "After throwing how many interceptions, it's time to sit my friend. I guess the moral of the story is - if you play bad, you eventually get put in timeout.''

Best tongue-lashing

Another solid job by the Devil Rays TV broadcasting tandem of Dewayne Staats and Joe Magrane. Both chimed in on the Delmon Young situation and let the Rays rookie have it after he didn't run hard on a grounder Saturday, then threatened not to show up Sunday after being yanked out of the game by manager Joe Maddon.

Magrane: "Simply put, he needs to grow up.''

Staats then dropped this bomb: "There are teammates who will remain nameless, but they will tell you just out front - they think Delmon Young is spoiled. That's what his teammates think of him.''

Worst scheduling

There were four baseball games that mattered Sunday and none of them were on TV. How does that happen? Why is ESPN showing a marathon of that goofy boxing reality show The Contender? And ESPN2? That was worse - a bunch of hunting shows. The World Wide Network should have been showing baseball.

Meantime, the runnerup in this category: ABC splitting its afternoon college games into regions. We got to see Maryland's upset of Rutgers, but it would've been better to watch No. 6 Cal against No. 11 Oregon.

Most overblown statement

We all appreciate that broadcasters have to create a little hype to keep you watching, but ESPN's Scott Van Pelt overdid it just a little on Saturday during halftime of one of the college games. He first announced, "We got a monster upset brewing between LSU and Tulane.'' A few moments later, Van Pelt said, "The Green Wave is about to pull off a stunner, perhaps.''

At the exact time Van Pelt had us in a lather, LSU was down 9-7 with two minutes left ... in the first half!

By halftime, it was 10-9 LSU. The Tigers narrowly avoided the monster upset with a 34-9 victory.

Worst conference

While it's easy to get excited about USF, the Big East does seem to be struggling. Louisville has lost twice. Rutgers lost Saturday. And some think that USF's victory against West Virginia might have been bad for the conference because WVU was ranked so high. ESPN's Lou Holtz was not among those who saw it that way.

"I think it's great for the Big East because all of a sudden you got another football team (USF) with great credibility,'' Holtz said. "They're a very solid football team.''

Most insightful story

ABC's NASCAR Countdown explored whether megamergers are the precursor of single-car team extinction and franchise racing. Hall of Fame Racing owners Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach recently sold majority ownership of their team.

"It's not a level playing field,'' Staubach said. "These multiple-car garages, they share information. It's like the Eagles, the Redskins and the Cowboys working together within a locker room - which is impossible, but in NASCAR it works.''

Best scoop

CBS NFL "general manager'' (the network's cute phrase for "insider'') Charley Casserly said the league is considering putting radio receivers in the helmets of all offensive players to help the players combat fan noise. But Casserly made a legitimate point.

"When I was in the league and this was talked about, I was not in favor of this,'' he said. "I didn't believe you should legislate against the home crowd. Fans pay a lot of money to come to the game, cheer and hope they have an effect on that game. You should not take the home crowd out of the game.''

Final thought

How big of a deal was it that the USF-West Virginia game was played on Friday night and had the spotlight all to itself? Do you think if the game had been played Saturday and been lumped along with all the other upsets that USF would've moved all the way up to No. 6 in the AP poll?

Best feature

ESPN's Outside the Lines did a nice piece on umpire Bruce Froemming, who is in his 37th and final season in the big leagues. The 68-year-old, left, is retiring after the playoffs, ending the longest tenure for an umpire in major-league history. The surprising tidbit out of the story was this: Froemming looks like a guy who has had a tack stuck in his foot for his entire life. He takes no gruff from anyone and has the reputation of ejecting anyone who even breathes near him. Yet, he has only 84 ejections in his career. That's less than three a season and only 25th on the all-time list.

The funniest part was still-bitter former Cubs pitcher Milt Pappas griping about how Froemming called balls on three straight borderline pitches to cost him a perfect game in 1972.

"I didn't care if it was a perfect game,'' Froemming said. "I cared if it was a ball or a strike.''

Times staff writer Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.