TAMPA - For the first time since Stan Heath was fired by Arkansas, the University of South Florida coach will return to SEC country when the Bulls play Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn., next season in the 2008 SEC/Big East Invitational.
USF will play Vanderbilt on Dec. 16 at Nashville's Sommet Center as part of a doubleheader along with Marquette vs. Tennessee. Both games will be televised on ESPN or ESPN2.
"It's a great opportunity for our team and our program," Heath said. "It seems like it's light years away since we're in the middle of our season now.
"At some point and time that will be an exciting game. Going to Nashville, that will be like a home game for Vandy in their backyard."
This will be Heath's first opportunity to play an SEC team since he came to USF this season.
"It's great to be in it but then when you're the team in it, you wonder, 'Do I really want to be in it?'" Heath joked.
The other half of the 2008 SEC/Big East Invitational will be held at Cincinnati's U.S. Bank Arena. Cincinnati will play Mississippi State, and Louisville will play Ole Miss.
In this year's inaugural SEC/Big East Invitational, the Big East won three of the four contests. The SEC and Big East conferences have won four of the last five NCAA men's basketball championships.
In other USF news, guards Jesus Verdejo (back), Solomon Bozeman (knee) and Aaron Holmes (undisclosed) did not practice Thursday because of injuries, Heath said. All, however, are expected to play Saturday against St. John's, Heath said.