Earlier today, we spoke with Collin Sherwin of The Daily Stampede to find out just what South Florida fans think they have to offer. And now, JT's going to argue against it, because we're contrary like that.
Take yourself back seven years ago. It's early January 2010 and your team has just finished off a decent-enough 8-5 season after defeating a Jerry Kill-led Northern Illinois squad in the International Bowl. Then something bizarre happens. The only head football coach your school has ever known, the one who built your program and took it as high as #2 in the rankings while beating top teams in your conference and region, has just been fired after allegations of striking a player during halftime of a game during the current season and then telling other coaches and players to change their stories. Right or wrong, you are now on to the next era. An era that saw the downfall of your program, a fall from a BCS conference, and being exiled to the dreaded confines of the "Group of 5" that keep your ceiling low. There is a light on the horizon, but can you reach it?
Football drives the ship in conference realignment, that is without question. So why should that ship pull itself into Tampa Bay? Well, as far as the Big 12 Conference is concerned it shouldn't, and there are plenty of reasons why.
Let's get the most obvious out of the way first. Tampa Bay is a LONG way from even its closest ally (nearly 1,000 miles to Morgantown, WV) in the hunt for the Big 12. Geography plays a big factor, even in the modern Internet age. That's still a LOT of travel for games, just ask West Virginia. So why would the Big 12 push its already too-far boundaries for a school that has never even won 10 football games in a season? At least West Virginia brought decades of football success and history.
So you think having a school in Florida would help football recruiting? Well, it seems like the Big 12 already does well enough in Florida to support the conference's main base of talent-rich Texas. A Big 12 school in Florida would actually further dilute the pool there, especially for the second-tier schools, making it harder to pull that second-level talent out because those kids missed by the SEC and Florida State would no longer need to head to the Heartland to play in a major conference.
Okay, so football is the main driver here, but what about the other sports? Women's basketball at USF is only slightly better than men's, the women consistently a WNIT team in the last decade with an occasional NCAA bid. Historically, the best team sport may be baseball, and even for a team located near the spring home of the New York Yankees, the Bulls have not been a consistent winner since long-time coach Eddie Cardieri resigned from the program in 2006.
So what about this school founded in 1956 (33 years after current Big 12-baby Texas Tech) and housing nearly 50,000 undergraduates makes it a viable expansion partner for the Big 12? Sure, it's got sun, and it would allow for in-roads into the Florida TV market (but are we even sure that's still going to be a "thing" in a few years?), and it would give KU someone in-conference they might have a slim chance to beat in football for a couple years. But nothing athletically about the University of South Florida screams "Big Time" or even "Big 12" in the way TCU or West Virginia did back in 2012. Sure, South Florida is doing some really good things academically, and has AAU aspirations, but we're talking about the Big 12 here not the B1G, and academics has never been a big part of the membership considerations.
So, sorry to our friends down in Tampa, but: Hard. Pass.