New York Times Blindsides USF Football

Amid the hoopla over the Buccaneers, these final thoughts on the successful season that was at the University of South Florida.

*Head Coach Jim Leavitt got a hefty raise, but his new contract only carries a $50,000 buy-out clause. That means, regardless of his obvious fondness for this area and loyalty to USF, he’s year to year. And how close did he come to becoming the head coach of Alabama? One consummate insider, who was on the receiving end of a frantic, last-minute call from Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore, said USF came “within about four hours” of losing Leavitt.

*Maybe it was a “make-up” call. Last month the cover of The New York Times Magazine featured USF gridders above the words: “How Football Can Crush A College.” Not satisfied with such subtlety, the story inside was titled: “Football Is A Sucker’s Game.” USF wasn’t so much singled out for notoriety as puzzlement. As in why would you aspire to major football renown? Football at that level, underscored the Times , is too often hypocritical, demeaning of what higher education is all about and a money-losing proposition.

Having said that, the Times’ Final Computer Ranking had USF 14th. In the country. Penn State was 19th, Notre Dame 20th. Florida and Florida State didn’t make the top 25.

*By the way, this was Bear Bryant’s response to a reporter who once questioned the role of football amid more pressing priorities at the University of Alabama: “It’s real hard to rally around the math department.” No, that quote never made it into the Times’ piece.

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