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.
Dabo Swinney endorsement helped USF get Jeff Scott
It’s often said in the job hiring process: “it’s not what you know, but whom you know” that can help you get the gig. And, when it came to USF looking to hire Clemson a co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott, “the whom” was his boss, Dabo Swinney.
On Wednesday, Scott met the media and USF fanbase in a huge press conference setting on campus in Tampa, and in his opening remarks made it very clear that one of the big reasons he was so interested in taking over the Bulls was the endorsement of his boss:
"This is one of them jobs you want!" Thanks for the love, Dabo! 🤘 pic.twitter.com/J8LgWTKnIZ
— USF Football (@USFFootball) December 11, 2019
“He (Swinney) said: great university, great location, great conference, great recruiting base right in your back yard…you can win there. And, they have a great athletic director in Michael Kelly.”
Kelly, who was formerly an associate commissioner of the ACC before joining the College Football Playoff, as COO, has been on the job at USF for about a year and a half. And, he used his previous dealings with Swinney through the conference and the CFP to help him get his hire.
Swinney would know about taking advantage of opportunities, as he was made the interim coach at Clemson 11 years ago and has now built them into a powerhouse in the ACC and the national college football landscape. The Tigers just entered the College Football Playoff for the fifth consecutive year and will be going for their third championship in four years later this month.
Scott, who agreed to a five year $12 million deal, has been part of that as co-offensive coordinator for the past five seasons. And, he agreed to leave that post to come to USF to resurrect a program that as recently as three seasons ago, was in the top tier of the American Conference.
But, it will be a challenge to get USF back on track, as the Bulls lost 14 of their last 18 games over the last season and a half under Charlie Strong. And, the losing has seen fan base dwindle to fewer than 15,000 people at any of their home games at the end of this past season.
Scott, who’s had the chance to work with All American QB Trevor Lawrence and previously in his assistant career with the Tigers helped develop Clemson’s receivers. That includes previously working with the likes of DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, and Mike Williams who all have gone on to NFL success.
And, that definitely brings some credibility on Scott’s resume.
Still, when Bulls Kelly that phone call reaching out for both Swinney’s opinion and help in hiring Scott, that probably set it all to the new Bulls boss.
And four days after their ACC Title Game win, he was standing at a podium in Tampa.
USF officially hires Clemson coordinator Jeff Scott
The USF Bulls coaching search to replace Charlie Strong lasted only eight days and his replacement has a National Championship pedigree.
The school announced late Monday afternoon that they have hired Clemson offensive coordinator, Jeff Scott, to become their fifth head coach in program history:
Great Scott! We got our guy!
Jeff Scott named head coach of USF football.
— USF Football (@USFFootball) December 9, 2019
Scott, who actually shares the offensive leadership with Tony Elliott, will receive a five year deal to leave the Tigers and come to West Central Florida.
Bulls atheltic director Michael Kelly said in their statement about the hiring of Scott,
“Jeff is a very bright, enthusiastic and driven leader for our program and we are thrilled to welcome him to USF and back to Florida, where he was born and where he has recruited so well for Clemson for many years,” Kelly said.”
“He is a young and extremely gifted offensive mind, a developer of high-level talent and an elite national recruiter who brings the experience of having played an integral role from the beginning in helping to build one of the most successful programs in college football.
“We are thrilled that he and his wife, Sara, and their daughter, Savannah, are joining our Bulls family and will be part of the exciting future of USF football.”
As we wrote last night, Scott is Clemson through and through, as he played for the Tigers in the early 2000s for three years and returned to become a coach for the Tigers in 2008. Since then, he has been a receiver’s coach, recruiting coordinator, and now to co-offensive coordinator.
The Tigers, behind All-American QB Trevor Lawrence, just rolled through a second straight unbeaten season and a Saturday night 62-17 blowout win over Virginia in the ACC Title Game. The Tigers will play Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl on December 28th in one of the College Football playoff semi-finals.
Scott will reportedly stay and coach the Tigers in the CFP Playoff bid, as they attempt to repeat as National Champions.
Further, there’s some more that USF fans can be excited about: Scott’s successes with wide receivers. He has helped develop some great NFL prospects like DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, and Mike Williams. He currently has one of the best groups in the country.
After years of the inconsistent offense, it appears that the Bulls leaders felt a change in philosphy was needed.
Scott tweeted this photo Monday evening with his daughter showing him signing an agreement with USF:
— Coach Jeff Scott (@coach_jeffscott) December 9, 2019
Scott will bring knowledge of coaching from Clemson, as well as his stint as a high school coach. His father Brad, was also a coach in college, spending time as an offensive coordinator himself at Florida State, then onto South Carolina, and settling at Clemson.