Big East commissioner Mike Aresco, who visited Thursday night's game between South Florida and Rutgers at Raymond James Stadium, said he expects a "period of relative calm'' in the conference realignment shell game after Notre Dame's decision to join the ACC in all non-football sports.
"It clarifies the situation,'' said Aresco, who said he was disappointed to lose Notre Dame in the Big East, but still encouraged about the league's future. "Our sense is this might be it for a while. The ACC made the statement it doesn't want to expand beyond 14 and Notre Dame in basketball. The Big 12 has been steadfast in wanting to stay at 10."
"What we want to do is make our schools happy to be in the Big East. We need them to be proud of the Big East. What we need is for schools that left to wish they were back in.''
Aresco said reports of the league's eventual demise are "complete nonsense.'' He acknowledged that the Big East's negotiations for a new television contract — currently in a 60-day window of exclusivity with ESPN — are "crucial.''
In the last calendar year, the Big East has lost Pittsburgh and Syracuse (to the ACC beginning in 2013) and West Virginia (already in the Big 12). There also was the pseudo-loss of TCU, which reneged on its agreement so it could switch to the Big 12.
"The right kind of TV deal will create stability,'' Aresco said. "We've got to let people know who we are. We've got to perform on the field and on the court. When you take some hits, you have to deal with (negative perception). We are dealing with it. We have a positive outlook and a positive future.''
Before the game, ESPN announcer Rece Davis, who called the play-by-play, gave his assessment of the Bulls.
"The big games they've lost (over the years), frankly, they shouldn't have,'' Davis said. "If they're going to take the next step as a program, that's what they have to do. They need to take care of business at home if they're going to be a conference champion-type contender. Against Rutgers, a solid team, in my judgment this is the type of game USF needs to win."
Thursday night lights
USF players said they relished the experience of playing in an ESPN Thursday night game.
"It's definitely a challenge, being that we played such a physical game last Saturday (at Nevada),'' LB Sam Barrington said. "It's fun, especially when you see the SkyCam (above the field to give overhead shots), but you can't get caught up in that.''
"People from back home get to see it on TV,'' QB B.J. Daniels said. "It's fun being on prime time. It's an opportunity for the nation to see what we're all about.''
Daniels hit WR Terrence Mitchell on a 58-yard pass play during the second quarter, giving the Bulls four pass plays of 50-plus yards this season (they had just two in 2011). Daniels also connected with WR Andre Davis on a 44-yarder. … USF senior K Maikon Bonani, who missed a game-winning 27-yard field-goal attempt on the final play of regulation against Rutgers last season, hit on field goals of 41 and 46 yards in the first quarter. They were his first two field-goal attempts this season, making him 9-for-9 since missing at Rutgers last year. … USF hosted representatives from the Big East bowls, plus the BCS bowls. … USF plays at Ball State, a Mid-American Conference team, on Sept. 22. USF's next home game is Sept. 29 against Florida State.