The rivalry known as “The War on I-4” is not just USF and UCF doing battle on the football field. No, it stretches into all aspects, including the Knights being unhappy, as the Bulls continue to land big name prominent football opponents for their upcoming out of conference schedules.
As we wrote earlier this week, USF successfully got Alabama to agree to a three-game series and will even have the Tide play the first game in Tampa coming in 2023.
They’ve done so, by offering to play two road games in exchange for the one home game or a “2 for 1,” as it’s known in college scheduling. This is something that the Knights, and in specific, their athletic director, Danny White, disdain.
White’s been on the record for the last two off-seasons that UCF does not want to engage in the 2 for 1 practice to give away out of conference games on their schedule simply for large paydays. Particularly, when the second road game, is simply a smaller payday to play the bigger school.
There are points for this on both sides, but the bottom line is: USF has gotten much more important opponents already lined up on their out-of-conference schedules than the Knights do, because their athletic director Michael Kelly has been doing savy negotiating the past year on the job. In total, the Bulls have 17 “Power Five” opponents for out of conference games in the next 10 seasons.
Further, USF has already had Florida State and Miami agreed to play them in the past in “one for one” home and away game situations. The Bulls, in fact most recently hosted Florida State just back in the 2016 season.
And further still, USF previously played a road game in Gainesville and has since landed a deal with the Gators to play Florida twice at the Swamp and get a home game at Raymond James Stadium.
What this translates to is: that despite all of the posturing by UCF, their media and fans, the Bulls will have hosted: Florida State, Miami and Florida (the three most prominent programs in the state) at Raymond James Stadium.
All this before UCF will have ever hosted any of them in a home game in Orlando.
As national sports radio vaven Jim Rome often echoes on his shows, “That’s called Scoreboard,” for the Bulls.
Now, you take into account the deal with Alabama and the Crimson Tide agreeing to play USF in Tampa first, and it’s obvious that it will enhance USF’s national notoriety and schedule strength.
This subject is one that noted Orlando Sports columnist and radio host Mike Bianchi wrote about in the Orlando Sentinel on Saturday. Bianchi centered his piece on how UCF makes more, currently, on their home games than USF does due lesser attendance, etc. for the Bulls.
However, what UCF and their media members conveniently leave out is the Knights had an 0-12 football program in 2015. That year UCF “announced” their per game average at 26,000. However, at the end of that disastrous year, including the Knights blowout loss to conclude it to, USF, they had 30,000 or more empty seats on several occasions.
And even with Scott Frost getting them back to a six and six respectable season the following year, they still played frequently in a half empty Spectrum Stadium. And, they weren’t making anywhere near the revenue that Bianchi cites from the last two years of their winning streak and national attention.
No, the larger point is that while the Bulls and the Knight’s winning and losing may come and go over the next few years (and so too will attendance), there’s only one program, USF, that is doing deals to play the best teams in the SEC and the ACC, right now.
Yes UCF can declare themselves “National Champions,” like they did two years ago, and “hem and haw,” about trying to get one to one scheduling concessions with the biggest programs in the South.
However, hemming and hawing isn’t getting it done.
USF getting the bigger schools to “put pen to paper” and come to play them in Tampa, is.
Bulls AD Kelly continues indoor facility pitch
The Bulls are once again making their very understandable pitch for an indoor practice facility. South Florida’s Athletic Director Michael Kelly had a lot to say about the programs dire need to a room full of boosters on Thursday.
No earth-shattering news at luncheon, though Michael Kelly made another vigorous pitch for the @USFFootball Center
— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) August 15, 2019
At the inaugural “Bulls Kickoff Luncheon” at the Marriott Water Street in Tampa, he got on the podium to make the football team’s case.
“As you probably read, we had a lot of rain and storms (Wednesday) that inconvenienced the heck out of our guys and all of our staff,”
He added, “It’s one thing when we do it in the summertime and we don’t have class. We can navigate around that, as inconvenient as it is. But when you get to class time, there’s no way. … We’re not missing class.”
“This lightning and rain inconveniences the HECK out of our guys.” #USF VP of Athletics is giving a passionate talking about the ABSOLUTE NEED for the IPF.
— CHRIS TORELLO (@TorelloSports) August 15, 2019
Located in one of the most rain-prone cities in the country, the weather too often limits the available practice time for USF. And in their quest to compete with the most elite collegiate programs, they’re going to need that valuable time in practice.
“Many of you have heard us preaching this for over a year now,” Kelly said. “We’re gonna keep on preaching it ’til we get it built.”
Back in 2017, USF unveiled its plans for a $40 million, 160,000-square-foot football center. The facility will be added to the Morsani Football Practice Complex and include an 83,000-square-foot indoor practice facility with a 110-yard turf field. The center will also feature a two-level, 80,000-square foot building to house the entire football program’s offices.
"The USF Football Center will be a profound and transformational step forward in providing a world-class student-athlete experience across all of our varsity sports programs." – Mark Harlan
— USF Football (@USFFootball) November 9, 2017
So far the Bulls have secured about 20 million dollars of funding towards the project. The university is searching for “private and corporate support,” and has announced that no student fees or tuition will be used to finance the facility.
Kelly’s hopeful of breaking ground as early as next spring.
The much-needed “IPF” could be another selling point to show recruits during their on-campus visits. Florida, FSU, Miami and UCF all have indoor practice facilities.
In fact, when former FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher was campaigning to Seminole Boosters to fund Florida State’s IPF, his main sell was that in modern day college football, he couldn’t guarantee that FSU would win a national championship with an IPF, but he could certainly guarantee they wouldn’t win one without it. The facility was completed in early 2013… the same season FSU won the national championship.
For USF, it will also allow other sports programs, such as the baseball, and soccer teams, to train during unfavorable weather conditions. Players will also have a team auditorium with tiered seating where they can review plays from previous games and scout upcoming opponents.
Kelly told reporters after the luncheon that it was a great opportunity to talk to a larger group of supporters, 500 in total (including Tampa’s Mayor Jane Castor), who might not have known the severity of the issue.
“I know our die-hard fans are intimately aware of it, but this was an expanded group. When you have a lot of people that invite seven, eight, nine, 10 people that are guests at a table to kind of hear the vision of USF football and to hear what we have in store for the future…it’s a great opportunity for us.”
With the momentum USF has going into the next couple of seasons, this addition would certainly allow them to capitalize on it.
USF QB Blake Barnett excited for new offensive scheme
After ending last season with an injury, second year USF QB Blake Barnett has some unfinished business to take care of this upcoming season, and he’s going to use his new offense to do it.
At the “American Kickoff” luncheon on Tuesday, Barnett was asked by Tampa Bay Times USF Beat writer Joey Knight, about his thoughts on the Bull’s offensive scheme under the new offensive coordinator, Kerwin Bell. He had a lot of positive things to say.
— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) July 16, 2019
Barnett emphasized that it was really important that this offense allows him to spread the ball around. He added:
“The offense itself is very diverse. We can run a single play out of six, seven formations, put motions involved…put different personnel and switch it in. There’s really endless opportunities and options… so it’s going to do a really good jobs of not only showing our strengths, but exposing our opponents weaknesses.”
This season is a critical one for the Bulls, and especially for head coach, Charlie Strong. Replacing former OC Sterlin Gilbert with Bell could be the move that will make his third year leading the program a more successful one.
While Strong has had a bad history with hiring OCs, Bell has proven much more promising than the less than elite hires of his past. He is a name older football fans in the state of Florida remember well — and fondly — due to his years as the Florida Gators’ star quarterback. Had Florida not been hit with NCAA and SEC penalties due to various violations under Charley Pell (whose tenure preceded Bell’s playing career) and then Galen Hall, Bell might have led Florida onto the field in one or more Sugar Bowls He was robbed of that opportunity, but the quality of his performances spoke for itself.
Bell, as head coach, led Valdosta State to an unbeaten season this past year and the Division II national championship. He has been around the block, coaching at various levels of college ball plus the CFL and high school. He is 53 years old and a true survivor in the football industry. In addition to his many stops along the way as a coach, he also carved out a professional playing career which lasted over a decade — not bad for a seventh-round pick at No. 180 in 1988.
Bell and Barnett give Strong and the rest of the USF roster a reason to be hopeful that this will be the bounce-back season in Tampa.