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.
New Bulls coach Scott eagerly embracing new challenge
Fresh off a runner-up finish in Monday night’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game loss to LSU, former Clemson co-offensive coordinator, and new USF head coach, Jeff Scott is now going full throttle in his first few days back in Tampa with his new program.
— Coach Jeff Scott (@coach_jeffscott) January 17, 2020
This is not unfamiliar for the first-time head coach, as this was part of his role was procuring players for Dabo Swinney’s Tigers out of West Central Florida.
Scott also gave access to the Tampa Bay Times and beat writer Joey Knight on his inaugural meeting with his new team Thursday at the USF facility.
And, Scott began by prioritizing his team in the meeting room having the seniors sit in the front with the juniors behind and then, the underclassmen behind them.
— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) January 16, 2020
It will be a challenge over the next season or two for Scott to revitalize a program that essentially went “off the cliff in the middle of the 2018 season.” That’s when the Bulls under Charlie Strong lost their remaining six games, including their bowl game and then, were blown out twice early in the 2019 season to drop to 1-3.
USF regained their footing in the middle of the year wining against lesser American Athletic Conference competition in a couple of games, but promptly lost out, including their final 4 games to finish 4-8. That resulted in Strong’s firing.
The 39 year old Scott had Clemson through and through, as he played for the Tigers in the early 2000s for three years and returned to become an assistant coach for the Tigers in 2008. Since then, he has been a receiver’s coach, recruiting coordinator, and then, co-offensive coordinator for the last three years.
The Tigers, behind All-American QB Trevor Lawrence, rolled through a second straight unbeaten season and then, a 62-17 blowout win over Virginia in the ACC Title Game. In a bid to repeat as National Champs, the Tigers defeated Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl on December 28th in one of the College Football playoff semi-finals.
Alas, the “fairy tale” did end well, as LSU behind Heisman winning QB Joe Burrow, defeated them 42-25 Monday night in New Orleans.
There’s some more that USF fans can be excited about and Scott’s successes with wide receivers. He has helped develop some great NFL prospects like DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, and Mike Williams. His current Clemson group likely has at least two more NFL wideouts, too.
After years of the inconsistent offense, it appears that the Bulls leaders felt a change in philosphy was needed.
And Scott, the son of former FSU and Clemson offensive coordinator Brad Scott, appears to be the guy to change it all.
Coordinator musical chairs all related to Willie Taggart
Now that head coaching hires have been made at the prominent jobs in the state and around college football, the musical chairs of assistants and specifically coordinators is also fascinating. And in the case of FSU, USF and FAU they are all interrelated to former USF and FSU-now FAU, boss, Willie Taggart.
In Boca Raton, the new FAU coach has announced his first coordinator hire and it’s none other than his former defensive consultant at Florida State, his former defensive coordinator at Oregon and the former USF head coach, Jim Leavitt:
WELCOME to the newest resident of "Paradise." https://t.co/sQDMrJ6gld
— FAU Football (@FAU_Football) December 22, 2019
Taggart had brought Leavitt on board, as the season began to unfold in Tallahassee, initially, to consult, but eventually as a defensive coach on the field.
The tandem came together in Eugene, Oregon three years ago, when Taggart left USF and was hired by the Ducks. He then brought Leavitt with him from being the defensive coordinator at Colorado.
However, Leavitt did not follow Taggart to Florida State in 2018, as had been reported that he would. He stayed behind for one more season, in Eugene.
Meanwhile, Taggart had a disastrous 5-7 first season with FSU after having hired former Michigan State defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett to run his defense. Meanwhile, Leavitt was fired after the 2018 season by Oregon coach Mario Cristobal and then, was available to come join Taggart this year.
However it was to no avail , as Taggart was fired himself, on November 3rd after just nine games into his second season.
Continuing, Taggart had hired Kendal Briles to run his offense in 2019 from Houston, but Briles had previously been at, wait for it… Florida Atlantic as the OC. And now, there’s word of where Briles is headed, and, that’s to the University of Arkansas, as their new offensive coordinator.
The Hogs made a surprising coaching hire of former Georgia offensive line coach, Stan Pittman, who has never been a head coach at the college level before. Desperate to improve in the SEC West, Briles up tempo offense did help the Florida State in terms of increases of yardage per game and points per game output this past season.
Meanwhile, back at USF, new coach Jeff Scott had already announced on Sunday that former FAU defensive coordinator and head coach for their bowl game, Glenn Spencer, is his new defensive coordinator in Tampa.
Spencer has extensive experience, especially as a defensive assistant and coordinator for over a decade at Oklahoma State.
Staying with the “musical chairs” connected to his current and former jobs:
On Monday evening Scott also announced that Charlie Weis Jr., the son of the former Notre Dame coach and Patriots offensive coordinator, would be joining his staff with the Bulls.
Welcome to the Bay, Charlie Weis Jr. ! 🌴
Named Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach.
✅Led FAU offense that ranked 14th in FBS in scoring (36.4 ppg) and posted 6,280 yards & 65 TD.
➡️https://t.co/cqjC1ROYcW#United #Bullieve #HornsUp 🤘 pic.twitter.com/9dbeXxTnav
— USF Football (@USFFootball) December 23, 2019
Weis had most recently been the offensive coordinator for…..you guessed it again, the last two years at Florida Atlantic taking over for Briles with Lane Kiffin. But, Kiffin did not take Weis with him, when he left FAU for Ole Miss two weeks ago. And, Taggart did not retain Weis.
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So, to recap: Taggart and Leavitt are back together for the third time in four seasons in the third different location.
Spencer and Weis, who were the coordinators at Florida Atlantic for Kiffin, weren’t kept by Taggart, but are now are now both at USF, where Taggart and Leavitt used to be head coaches.
And Briles, who coached for Taggart and for part of the year with Leavitt in Tallahassee is now on his way to the SEC with the Hogs.
It’s never dull with a coaching carousel.
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