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No One Owes USF Football Anything

From USF's point of view, it's great that Florida State wants to play another home-and-home football series. But FSU doesn't owe the Bulls anything, and neither does anyone else.

Al Messerschmidt

There's been a back and forth recently between the FSU and USF Rivals publishers, debating the worthiness of another football series between the two schools. You should read both stories for yourself, but to boil them down to their most basic elements, Gene Williams doesn't see the point in the Seminoles returning to Tampa and thinks USF's program is small time, both on and off the field. Steve Berrey counters by saying that because other schools gave FSU an invitation to the big time, they should be obligated to pay it forward and play the Bulls every year.

Well, that's ridiculous. Am I glad Florida State decided to give USF another home-and-home series? Absolutely. It's a compelling pair of games against a quality opponent that will be just as good in 2015 and 2016 as they are now, if not better. Do I think FSU (or anyone else, for that matter) owes USF a series like that? No way.

College football is not a charity. Unless you're scrambling to fill a hole at the last minute, or you completely lose your mind and schedule a home-and-home with Ball State, you schedule teams because there's a mutual benefit. For teams that agree to travel to USF out of conference, it's a chance to visit one of the biggest high school recruiting areas in the country. Or it's a chance to let some of their snowbird alumni see a game in person. Or they're getting a paycheck out of the deal. Or they're looking down the road and they feel that it will be a quality matchup that can help their playoff resume. Or there's some other reason.* No one schedules because they feel like cutting a team a break.

USF certainly hasn't scheduled that way against in-state opponents. They kept the terms in their favor when they scheduled FAU and FIU, getting 2-for-1's with both of them. And if we're going to use the "they should play every year because it's an exciting matchup!" line of reasoning, then why weren't USF and C. Florida playing every year before they were put in the same conference together? It's because USF didn't feel like there was a mutual benefit. One of the reasons the two teams played their four-game series from 2005-2008 is because the Bulls had to play C-USA teams as a condition of leaving the conference to join the Big East. They could have played before 2005, but USF probably felt like losing to the Knights that early on would have stunted the program. They could have played since 2008, but USF felt they had proved they were the superior program by winning all four games. So it didn't happen.

(It works the other way, too. Remember when USF offered to play the Knights at the Citrus Bowl last year and split the proceeds, but C. Florida turned them down because they wanted to play on campus? That wasn't mutually advantageous, so the game didn't happen.)

Finally, I don't like the look of us acting like we're owed something. That runs against USF football's entire personality, one that's finally re-emerging after a couple of years of being beaten down. We're underdogs and upstarts and we always have been. We fight and scratch and claw to try and prove that we're worthy of respect. We don't sit around with our feet up and demand it... although there has been one pretty obvious exception.

The upside for USF in this new series with FSU is obvious. But even if all the Seminoles have to gain out of traveling to Tampa is a recruiting weekend, if they feel like that's enough of a reason to come down here and play again, then that's their choice. And let's be clear -- it was their choice.


* - One of those "other reasons" could be that outside forces make you do it. Berrey talks about how Florida once gave a fledgling FSU program their big chance. That's not entirely accurate. Florida resisted for several years and didn't give the Seminoles a game until the Legislature tried to make them do it. It didn't succeed, but finally the governor compelled the Gators to set up a series.