Now the University of South Florida knows the feeling.
Last night’s disappointing hoops loss to Florida State was the last encounter between the schools for the foreseeable future. FSU wants out and USF, which needs games like these more than the FSUs and University of Floridas, loses a valued, intra-state rivalry game with more crowd appeal than most Sun Dome match-ups.
Too bad for USF, but the Bulls have seen such scenarios before. From the other side.
It was USF’s call in the early ’90s to discontinue the popular, intra-city basketball series with the University of Tampa, a guaranteed big draw for a program in chronic need of such games. The rationale was that playing a Division II school didn’t help its chances of getting into the NCAA tournament. Never mind that USF’s record against the other 30 teams on its schedule counted a lot more.
There was also the spirited USF-UT rivalry in soccer than ended in 1997. The Mayor’s Cup game could pack Pepin-Rood Stadium. But there was that Division II damper. And never mind that UT was — and is — really, really good. The Spartans are the current Division II national champions.
Moreover, USF didn’t encourage the University of Central Florida to pursue an intra-state series in football. Florida or Florida State would be more than acceptable, thank you, because they are prestigious programs who dangle big guarantee money for visiting teams. UCF, which did beat Alabama last season, is not in that class. Almost no one is.
That a natural I-4 rivalry could transcend the appeal of Conference USA foes — Cincinnati, Memphis, Texas Christian? — was never a factor. It should have been.
So be it. Those were USF’s calls; this was FSU’s. All of them were made with a narrow self-interest in mind. And none of them were good for the schools involved.