University of South Florida football coach Skip Holtz joked Tuesday morning that the Bulls (5-7, 1-6 Big East last season) would enjoy an increase in road attendance this season because "we're going to be everybody's homecoming opponent.''
In reality, though, much bigger things could be ahead for USF, which returns 15 starters.
The Bulls were picked to finish second in the Big East Conference preseason poll, which was released during the league's Media Day. The Louisville Cardinals, who received 24 of 28 first-place votes, were a solid choice as conference favorites. USF got the other four first-place votes.
USF plays at Louisville on Oct. 20.
"It's a compliment, but what does it really mean?'' Holtz said. "I think it's a statement that even though we didn't play in a bowl game, we were really close, a few plays away from having a great season. We know it won't win us any games, so we'll take it for what it's worth.''
According to Louisville coach Charlie Strong, the poll isn't worth much.
"Louisville was picked for last two years ago and seventh last season,'' said Strong, whose team finished tied for the league title in 2011. "For some reason, they're picking us. It's a recognition of the players. They are the ones who changed our program. But we can't get complacent and start feeling good about ourselves because we were picked to win the conference. You've got to do it.''
For the first time since the 2000 season, Rutgers reported to Media Day without a head coach named Greg Schiano.
Kyle Flood was elevated from assistant to head coach on Jan. 31 to replace Schiano, who departed to become head coach of the Bucs.
"The transition has been more smooth than anybody could really imagine,'' said Flood, who primarily worked with the offensive line at Rutgers and hired eight new assistant coaches for his staff. "Greg and I still talk pretty often. He laid a great foundation at Rutgers and he's going to be a super NFL head coach.''
At the moment of the switch, though, the news was somewhat jarring for Rutgers players.
"Most of us heard about it on ESPN or on Twitter,'' Scarlet Knights WR Mark Harrison said. "I guess there's no really easy way to leave. We understand what a great opportunity coach Schiano has. Coach Flood is a different personality, but I still feel like we're in great hands.''
Rutgers plays USF at Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 13 — a Thursday night, nationally televised game on ESPN — then Schiano's Bucs travel to the New York Giants the following Sunday.
"Think there might be some storylines that week?'' Flood said. "Somehow, you have to think that schedule didn't happen just by coincidence.''
Big East future
Coaches and administrators worked to quell the uncertainty surrounding the future of Big East football.
Urgent business includes selecting a permanent commissioner and negotiating a long-term television contract. Joe Bailey has served in an interim role since the ouster of John Marinatto. Meanwhile, senior associate commissioner Nick Carparelli, a candidate for the permanent position, said he believes the league will emerge stronger than ever from its transition.
Syracuse and Pittsburgh, charter members of Big East football, will depart for the ACC next season. The Big East has added Temple to replace West Virginia, which jumped to the Big 12. Meanwhile, the Big East will welcome Central Florida, Houston, Memphis and SMU for all sports, plus Boise State and San Diego State for football only, in 2013.
"Change is the new norm,'' Carparelli said. "I would caution anybody who is jumping to conclusions about our future. I think that's premature. With the changes beginning in 2014 (a national-championship final four, plus the elimination of major-bowl automatic qualifying standards for league champions), none of us know yet what it's going to mean. We think we're going to be positioned well.''
Odds and ends
Holtz said the Bulls have planned scrimmages on Aug. 13 and Aug. 18 during training camp in Vero Beach. USF players report Sunday, and the first on-campus practice is Monday. … Temple coach Steve Addazio, the former associate head coach/offensive coordinator at Florida, said he's already wary of the Owls' Big East opener on Oct. 6, when USF comes to Philadelphia. "I think we'll be in the deep, deep end of the pool,'' Addazio said. "South Florida probably is the most talented team in our league.''