The University of South Florida women's basketball program is well past being satisfied with moral victories.
That explains USF's frustration with Tuesday night's 75-71 overtime loss against No. 2-ranked Notre Dame at the Sun Dome.
Beating Notre Dame, which was coming off an upset of top-ranked Connecticut, would have meant everything for USF (11-3, 0-1 Big East Conference).
Instead, it's another example of how USF has gotten closer, but not close enough.
"The depth of our league, as usual, is amazing,'' Bulls coach Jose Fernandez said. "DePaul beats Louisville. Cincinnati loses at the buzzer against Villanova. Seton Hall beats Pitt. St. John's beats Rutgers.
"When you shake it out, we've got eight or nine NCAA tournament teams in this league, but we all beat the heck out of each other. So in the end, you get let's say seven NCAA teams and three that should've gone, but go to the NIT. We've been on the wrong end of that stick.''
Since earning the program's only NCAA tournament bid in 2005-06, the USF women have reached the NIT in five of the last six seasons. The Big East records: 9-7, 6-10, 8-8, 6-10, 3-13, 8-8.
"It's a possession here, a possession there, a bounce of the ball,'' Fernandez said. "There can be such a razor-thin line between 8-8 and 10-6. We're playing in the best league in the country, and sometimes it's eight to 14 points total that separate you from getting that NCAA tournament bid. We have to make that up.''
Beating Notre Dame would've helped. Fighting Irish coach Muffet McGraw described USF's effort as "fantastic'' and said the Bulls "should be ranked in the top 25.'' Nice words, sure. But USF must put those sentiments into action when it plays at DePaul on Saturday night.
"I think we're very much a contender in this league,'' said USF senior guard Andrea Smith, who had 33 points to tie a career high. "We're earning respect and we should be at the top. We deserve that.''
Football moves on
Willie Taggart's football program received a startling amount of attention the last few days – all because of an assistant coach who accepted a job, stayed one day, then left.
Plant High School's Robert Weiner, a four-time state-champion coach who took USF's receivers coaching job on Sunday, then resigned and returned to Plant on Tuesday, obviously could've handled things better on the front end. But you can't fault anyone for following their heart and doing what makes them happy.
It's off base to suggest that USF goofed this one up. It was a great hire. Weiner would've been a fine addition and probably a boon to USF's local recruiting efforts. Taggart couldn't have anticipated such a change of heart.
Weiner belongs at Plant. He's one of those guys who, were it not for direct deposit, would have uncashed paystubs stacked up on his desk.
He's simply driven by different forces. In time, though, he will be an ally for Taggart and USF. Take that to the bank.
Time for everybody to move on.
Former USF graduate assistant Joe Sloan joined Louisiana Tech's football staff as inside receivers coach. Sloan is the only coach with USF ties to be hired by Skip Holtz. … Women's tennis, ranked No. 43 nationally, opens Saturday at home against Syracuse. … Men's tennis begins this weekend with events at Florida Gulf Coast University and Sunrise. … Men's basketball travels to No. 3-ranked Louisville on Saturday afternoon, seeking back-to-back wins at the KFC Yum Center (after last season's 58-51 road victory). The only time USF has won in consecutive years at a Big East road venue was victories during the past four seasons at DePaul.