TAMPA – The future of USF and its football program is hanging in the balance as the landscape of the Big East Conference continues to change on seemingly a daily basis.
USF fans want to know where their school will be when all the dust settles, but in the always evolving world of college football, it is tough to tell.
“This is the biggest round of changes that we’ve seen in a long time and the problem is you don’t know when it’s going to stop,” said Greg Auman, who covers the Bulls for the St. Petersburg Times.
Unfortunately USF finds itself in a difficult position. The Big East is the most unstable of the Bowl Championship Series automatic qualifying conferences. That is due in large part to the unexpected departures from two of the league’s founding institutions, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, who decided to leave for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The latest news that Texas Christian University, who agreed to join the conference in November of last year, has accepted an invitation to join the Big 12 instead, also dealt a big blow to the conference.
Due to all these factors, Bulls’ fans are becoming more worried as the process of conference expansion evolves.
“I’m very worried, this is the one thing that could very well hinder our university’s future growth,” said USF senior and dedicated football fan Anthony Adduci. “Our football program is what brings in students and a good portion of money to the university, and if we aren’t in an (automatic qualifying) major conference we are going to lose more and more each year.”
It is worth noting that most of the money made from football is put back into athletics to support the non-revenue sports such as tennis, cross country and golf, among others.
What is a Bowl Championship Series Automatic Qualifying conference?
There are six BCS AQ conferences in college football. They are the six major conferences that allow one or two teams the opportunity to receive an automatic bid to one of the five major bowl games at the end of the year. The five major bowls include the Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl and the BCS National Championship game. Teams can earn a spot in one of these games by either winning one of the six conferences or placing in the top 12 of the BCS rankings at the end of the regular season.
The six conferences that currently qualify for an automatic bid are the Southeastern Conference (SEC), Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Pacific 12 (Pac 12), Big Ten, Big 12, and the Big East. Each of these conferences is reevaluated every four seasons to determine if they still meet certain qualifications to be considered an AQ conference. One of the major problems the Big East now faces is whether they will be strong enough to meet the qualifications to keep AQ status during the next review after the 2013 season.
What is the Big East and how did it start?
The Big East was started in 1979 and is currently the largest Division I-A conference, with 16 full-time members. The Big East is unique in that it is the only major conference in which half of its members do not play football. This is because the Big East started as a basketball conference with non-football playing schools like Providence College, St. John’s, Georgetown and Seton Hall being the driving force behind the conference’s inception.
Why are schools leaving the Big East?
There are multiple reasons why schools are leaving the Big East, such as a lack of cohesion between football and non-football playing members and a lack of future stability.
Many people believe that the reason the Big East is struggling as a football conference is due to the lack of cohesion between the football playing members and the non-football playing members. Unlike most conferences, where football is the driving force, the Big East is driven by both football and basketball. It makes it much harder to negotiate and move the conference forward as a whole when you have to please two groups instead of one.
But the driving force behind all of these changes ultimately comes down to money and future stability.
“It’s about the money and everyone knows it. Everyone is fighting for themselves, trying to stay one step ahead of each other, not caring who they have to jump over or trample to get to where they want to be,” said Adduci.
Syracuse and Pittsburgh jumped ship to the ACC partially because they knew they would make a lot more money under the conference’s new TV deal with ESPN. The deal is believed to be worth about $1.86 billion over the next 12 years with $155 million distributed annually to ACC teams, according to the Sports Business Journal.
Experts from sporting news outlets like ESPN have cited a lack of conference stability as another main cause for Syracuse and Pittsburgh leaving for the ACC, which boasts high profile schools such as Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech.
“The problem with the Big East is that there are very few people that don’t feel like they might have a shot at something better somewhere else,” said Auman.
A major contributing factor to the Big East’s lack of stability was its failure to negotiate a new TV deal when every other conference did. All of the other BCS AQ conferences recently negotiated new TV contracts that will increase the revenue each school will earn.
Big East Commissioner John Marinatto decided that he wanted to wait to negotiate a new deal and has since been much maligned for that decision. So not only will Syracuse and Pittsburgh have more stability in the ACC, but they will make more money. Because of this, other current Big East members are looking to follow the lead of Pittsburgh and Syracuse by finding more stable conferences.
While some fans want to fault Marinatto for the trouble the Big East is in, there are also those who believe that the performance on the field has played a role.
“Maybe it’s the conference as a whole that hasn’t proven itself over the past few years that really started to paint the big picture and handed the brush off to Pitt and Syracuse,” said Casey Colliflower, a student intern for USF athletics.
It is no secret that the Big East has been one of the weakest major conferences in football throughout the past couple of years. This year has been no different as the Big East ranks last among the six major conferences and falls behind the non-AQ Mountain West Conference in terms of overall strength according to the Conference Power Rankings on ESPN.com.
What effect will this have on USF?
The big question USF fans are asking themselves is how all of this is going to affect the future of the Bulls?
At this stage the fate of the Bulls and the Big East may very well lie in the hands of the University of Missouri, which seems a little strange considering they aren’t even in the eastern part of the United States. They lie in the Midwest and are a member of the Big 12.
As ESPN Big East blogger Andrea Adelson said, “Who ever would have thought the future of the Big East now hinges on Missouri?”
Since the Tigers are rumored to be moving to the SEC, Big East schools such as Louisville, West Virginia and Cincinnati are some of the schools that the Big 12 has expressed interest in. And they would almost certainly accept an invitation if extended one.
If that happened the remaining members of the Big East would seemingly be left to fend for themselves when it comes to rebuilding or finding a new conference. The Big East would have to try and add enough schools to get back to the minimum required for a football conference.
Service academies like Navy and Air Force would be the top options, along with recent college football power Boise State. But they may not join if they feel the conference is unstable and could be in jeopardy of losing its AQ status.
Then the Big East would have to turn to inviting Conference USA schools such as Central Florida, Houston and Southern Methodist. These schools have shown promise in the lower-tier Conference USA, but would most likely do little to strengthen the Big East.
What’s the worst that could happen?
The worst-case scenario would be the Big East dismantling as a football conference all together. This situation would present the biggest problems for USF. Without any offers from the other major conferences, the Bulls would be forced to go back down to Conference USA or another non-AQ conference, with all the progress they’ve made over the years basically amounting to nothing.
Even if the league was able to add enough teams to fill the required quota, the ability of the Big East to keep its AQ status, which will be reevaluated in 2013, would be in question.
This would not only deal a major blow to the athletics programs but the university as a whole. The university would not earn nearly as much money as a member of a non-AQ conference. Not to mention that attendance at sporting events would likely decrease due to a lack of interest from fans because of playing lesser competition.
What is the best case scenario for USF?
At this point in time the best thing that could happen for USF and the Big East is for Missouri to stay put in the Big 12. This would allow the Big East to keep its six remaining football members intact and give it some leverage to add teams like Navy, Air Force and Boise State, who have expressed interest in joining but are reluctant at this point due to the unknown future stability of the league.
“The schools that would be eager to join the Big East aren’t willing to do so because they don’t know what they’re committing to,” said Auman. “If all the member schools that are in the league right now were truly committed to being in the league and were willing to raise the exit fee to a more prohibitive buyout, then I think you’d see Air Force and Navy and Temple and these kind of schools accepting invitations, and I think you’d see the league back in solid footing.”
If the Big East were able to build on the schools it already has and expand, it would likely keep its AQ status. In turn, USF would keep benefiting from being a member of a major BCS conference.
Only one thing is for sure at this point, and that is that change is imminent. The landscape of college football is changing and will keep changing as long as there is more money to be made.
It is impossible to know for sure where USF fits in this puzzle that is conference realignment. Only time will tell.
TAMPA– In a time where gas prices have risen yet again and trying to find a parking space on campus results in nothing more than a headache, students at the University of South Florida have begun to rely more on the university provided bus system, the Bull Runner, to navigate around campus.
According to statistics from USF’s Parking and Transportation Services, ridership has increased 20 percent during a one year span from the end of last March to the end of March this year. The buses are free for all students and staff with a valid USF ID Card and provide service to approximately 3,784 riders per day.
Rick Fallin, who works for Parking and Transportation Services, attributes the increase in riders this year to more than just high gas prices and bad parking. “The most significant change this year is our new AVL system, this increases rider confidence and makes the bus easier to use,” Fallin stated in an e-mail.
The AVL (Automatic Vehicle Location) system, also known as the Bull Tracker, provides students with approximate arrival times for all routes at all stops as well as the ability to track and see where the buses are at all times via a live map. Arrival times and the live map can be viewed online and can be downloaded on mobile hand-held devices.
Some of the other factors that have contributed to the increase in riders over the past year are high gas prices, high prices for parking permits and a lack of parking on campus.
A substantial percentage of the students who regularly use the Bull Runner for their transportation are the ones who do not have their own cars. “The only reason I ride is because I don’t have a vehicle of my own and if nobody else is there to offer me a ride then the Bull Runner is the most convenient way to get around this campus,” senior Marcus Hicks said.
Even though many of the students that ride the Bull Runner are ones who do not own vehicles, the number of students with cars are also beginning to realize the benefits of the Bull Runner.
Ryan Kraft is a junior majoring in business and didn’t start riding the Bull Runner until the Summer of 2010 when he moved off campus. “I paid for a parking pass the first two years I lived on campus, so when I moved off campus and realized I could park for free at my girlfriend’s apartment complex on 42nd Street and take the bus from there I refused to buy another parking permit.” “Driving to and from work four to five times a week costs me enough in gas, the last thing I need is to spend $150 on a parking permit,” Kraft said.
Not only have students without cars or permits started using the Bull Runner more often, but many students with parking permits have begun taking advantage of the service as well. Much of this is due to the fact that students have grown tired of prowling the parking lots for extended periods of time hunting for open spaces.
“Sometimes I will drive to my morning classes when there are open spaces, leave my car there, take the Bull Runner back to my apartment and then take it back to campus for my afternoon classes just so I don’t have to worry about finding a spot in the afternoon when everyone is on campus,” junior Brittany Willis stated.
After switching to bio-diesel fuel in 2002, the Bull Runner also appeals to those students going green. According to Fallin, the university switched to the bio-diesel fuel for a number of reasons. “It is environmentally better from an ecological standpoint and takes away the smell of regular gasoline. It also makes us less dependent on foreign petroleum oil and allows the engines to run smoother and quieter.”
Even though certain routes already go off campus to pick up students from apartment complexes on 42nd, 46th and 50th Streets as well as the University Mall, Parking and Transportation Services are planning on expanding the routes for next year.
For all these reasons the Bull Runner has seen a considerable increase in ridership over the past year. “The buses are definitely more packed than previous semesters, probably due to convenience and parking troubles on campus,” Kraft said.
Until gas prices come down and the university addresses the parking issues on campus more students will continue riding the Bull Runner to commute to, from and around campus. Even then many students may still utilize the services provided by the Bull Runner to save money.
URL (In case embed does not work): http://youtu.be/mGxvO6SeDZY
University of South Florida hurdler David Aristil surprised a lot of people last season by taking home the title in the 400-meter hurdles at the Big East Outdoor Championships, by placing fifth at the NCAA Championships and by becoming an All-American as a sophomore. This season, the junior hurdler looks to defend his title as Big East Champion as well as improve his previous fifth place finish at the NCAA Championships.
Aristil had a successful indoor season this year, but suffered a leg injury at the beginning of the outdoor season and has only been able to run a few outdoor meets.
“My goals for the season have been a little bit altered because of a recent injury, but I should be back in effect very soon,” Aristil said. “God willing, I am planning on running sub 14 in the 110 hurdles and a sub 50 in the 400 hurdles. I still plan on maintaining my 400 hurdle title, and attempt to win the 110 hurdles as well, we’ll see how that goes when the time comes.”
In his first meet back at the Texas Relays, Aristil struggled, posting a time of 55.20 (well above his personal best of 50.13) and finishing 41st, failing to reach the final.
However, this Friday at the Sea Ray Relays in Tennessee, Aristil looked like his old self by finishing first with a time of 51.13. His time is 11th best in the nation this year and the best by any athlete in the Big East.
Aristil looks to be in good shape with just a little over two weeks left before the Big East Outdoor Championships in Philadelphia, Pa.
“The strategy is to build off each practice as if it were a race. I will be working on the various areas I need to improve on during the race in practice,” Aristil said.
Holding his title as Big East Champion will be no easy feat as Aristil is no longer an unknown competitor among other athletes in the Big East and across the country.
Jared Thomas is a junior on the University of South Florida track and field team and has been one of the team’s top performers over the past three years. Thomas had an up-and-down season last year where he broke his own school record multiple times before sliding towards the end of the outdoor season. He is looking to use that as motivation toward winning a Big East Championship this year.
Thomas is originally from Pensacola and was a state champion in the discus in high school. However, Thomas said he was more concerned with football for most of his high school career.
“I was a football player all through high school and discus was second to that until my junior year after winning the state title. Then, the discus became my main focus,” Thomas said.
Thomas holds the USF record in the discus– a record he set as a freshman at the Florida Relays in 2009 with a throw of 179-2 feet. Since then he has broken his own record multiple times, most recently on March 27, 2010 at the Florida State University Relays with a toss of 193-6 feet.
Despite breaking his own record multiple times, Thomas was disappointed with the way he finished the outdoor season.
The University of South Florida men’s and women’s track and field teams hosted their first outdoor meet of the year on Friday, March 11. The meet was a huge success as the men’s and women’s teams took home 15 first-place finishes and set a number of personal bests.
Leading the men’s team was All-American David Aristil, who won the 110-meter hurdles as well as the 800-meter dash. He set a personal best time of 14.08 seconds in the 110-meter hurdles, breaking his best time of 14.15 seconds from last year. His new time also places him second all-time in the USF record books for the event.
Antillio Bastian’s first-place finish in the 200-meter dash came as a pleasant surprise to the entire USF coaching staff as it was Bastians first time running the event. Bastian ran a time of 21.59 seconds, putting him in third all-time for USF and qualifying him for the Big East Outdoor Championship in May.
Dariel Jackson led the way on the women’s side with personal bests in the 100 and 200-meter dashes. Jackson’s times of 11.75 in the 100m and 23.92 in the 200m moved her up to No. 3 on the all-time list for USF in both events. Her times qualify her for the Big East Outdoor Championship as well.
The women’s team also swept the top three spots in the pole vault with senior Stephanie Duffy taking home first place with a jump of 13-1.50 feet. Nicole Smith finished second and Dana Webb came in third.
For a complete list of results for USF click here.
University of South Florida‘s Denise Von Eynatten will be the lone pole vaulting representative for the Bulls in the 2011 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championship held in College Station, Texas, March 11-12.
Von Eynatten entered this season as the school pole vault record holder and has since broken her record twice. She cleared 14 feet on Jan. 28 at the Jayhawk Classic in Lawrence, Kan. and then jumped for an all-time Big East meet record of 14-1.75 feet at the Big East Indoor Championship in Akron, Ohio on Feb. 20.
“It was a very emotional moment for me because last time I jumped that high was in 2007. Ever since then I worked very hard to get back there. It was amazing to see my teammates and the coaches who were so happy for me. They are a great support,” Von Eynatten said.
Von Eynatten, a graduate student from Germany, did not compete for USF during the last two years due to injuries, after setting the previous school record of 13-11.25 feet in 2008. Currently, she is ranked fifth in the nation for the pole vault and looks to improve her school record at the NCAA Championship.
“I think everyone that jumps at nationals wants to become an All-American. That is my goal for nationals. Heights don’t really matter at championships, it’s all about placing, but I’ll try to improve the school record even more,” Von Eynatten said.
To find out more about the NCAA Division I Indoor Championship click here.