The University of South Florida has made it clear over the years that a rivalry with the University of Central Florida was not a priority. That’s too bad, especially in football, where the upstart USF program has no natural rivalries, including all the teams in Conference USA.
Even though USF has been hugely successful — and nationally ranked last year — it still struggles to draw 30,000 to home games at the country’s finest facility, Raymond James Stadium. UCF, the I-4 corridor counterpart, would be a perfect non-conference complement. An actual, no-love-lost, heated rivalry looms. A low-budget, big home-and-home draw that the teams can shuttle to by bus.
Perhaps the scheduling planets are finally aligning. Within the last two weeks, USF has had two teams — Baylor University and Eastern Michigan — drop USF from their 2003 schedules. Baylor was to play here on Sept. 20, while EMU was to host USF on Sept. 13. USF, with only nine games out of the 12 allowed, is scrambling to fill two home slots and one on the road.
UCF now sees an opportunity that’s long been thwarted. It’s willing to allow USF to replace it in a Sept. 20 game at Syracuse. UCF would then make it up by playing USF — at RayJay — on Sept. 6.
Obviously, Syracuse will have something to say about this. If SU agrees, it’s up to USF, which so far is only committing itself to exploring its options.
For a lot of reasons, USF can’t afford to be the deal breaker.