USF football seeking replacement foes for 2020 non-conference schedule

The Bulls already have lost one game (Bethune-Cookman) and could lose another (Texas).
USF is making a pre-emptive move to lock up opponents in case the football team loses more foes from this year's schedule.
USF is making a pre-emptive move to lock up opponents in case the football team loses more foes from this year's schedule. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]
Published Aug. 5, 2020|Updated Aug. 6, 2020

Faced with the likelihood of losing as many as three non-conference games from its 2020 schedule, USF is seeking alternate opponents to fill those vacancies, the Tampa Bay Times has learned.

The active search coincides with the American Athletic Conference’s formal announcement Wednesday that it intends to keep its eight-game conference schedule intact while allowing non-league games to be held at the discretion of the individual schools.

Non-conference foes, however, must adhere to the conference’s COVID-19 testing protocols established by its medical advisory group. The league will decide on a date for its championships game (Dec. 5, 12 or 19) no earlier than Nov. 1.

Whether USF’s search for new opponents remains confined to Florida is unclear, but administrators believe landing a new foe on short notice is plausible.

The Bulls lost their original home opener, Sept. 12 against Bethune-Cookman, when the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opted not to play a fall sports season due to COVID-19 concerns. Their Sept. 5 season opener at Texas also appears endangered now that the Big 12 has opted for a 10-game schedule including only one non-conference game per school.

Related: Limited Big 12 football schedule further endangers USF opener at Texas

It is believed Texas is leaning toward Texas-El Paso (Sept. 19 in Austin) as its non-conference game. On Wednesday evening, the Mountain West Conference announced its teams would play eight conference games and two non-league games, with contests starting no earlier than the week ending Sept. 26.

USF is scheduled to host Nevada on Sept. 19.

Seeking an in-state non-league opponent could be a tough proposition for the Bulls at this point. They’re already scheduled to play Florida Atlantic (Sept. 26), and all 12 of Florida International’s contests still are scheduled for now.

Florida is out, because the SEC has opted for a conference-only schedule. Miami and FSU also appear to be remote possibilities at best, though the ACC recently opted for one non-league game per school.

Miami athletic director Blake James has said the Hurricanes’ lone non-conference foe will be either Temple or Alabama-Birmingham, two of the team’s previously scheduled opponents.

Miami’s game at Michigan State was previously canceled when the Big Ten cut all of its non-league games; its Sept. 12 contest against Wagner vanished when the Northeast Conference recently announced it was suspending fall sports.

The Seminoles’ neutral-site game against West Virginia (in Atlanta) and trip to Boise State are off, due to the ACC’s guideline that the one non-conference game must be held in the ACC program’s home state, by a team willing to meet the conference’s medical protocols.

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The annual showdown with Florida also is off, because the SEC has opted for a league-only schedule in 2020. FSU’s only other scheduled non-conference foe is Division I-AA Samford, but FSU’s online schedule features no non-conference foe at this time.