Q&A with Jim Leavitt (Part 1)

On Friday, USFNation.com had an opportunity to sit down with South Florida Head Coach Jim Leavitt for a lenghty question and answer session. Here is part one of a three part series in which Coach Leavitt discusses everything from the Bulls move to the Big East to their challenging 2005 schedule. Coming on Tuesday Coach Leavitt previews his team (by position) and his expectations for the coming season.

Josh Newberg: Talk about the Big East and how it has helped USF in recruiting
Head Coach, Jim Leavitt: We are excited about the Big East because we're going into a BCS conference. When you sit in a home of a young man in the state of Florida, you need to be able to at least tell him he will have a chance to compete for a National Championship. This really hit me when we were recruiting Courtney Denson, we recruited him 2 years ago, and I remember he looked at me and said, ‘coach can you ever play for a National Championship?'. I looked at him and said, ‘ No Courtney we can't'. Boom, right then we lost him to Auburn. Now he might tell you we lost him for other reasons but I knew then I could not go after the best kids in Florida and the country without a BCS conference. Everyone wants at least a chance to play for National Championship. Nobody wants to go to a place without hopes and dreams.

JN: How has the Big East helped in gaining respect and more credibility as a program?
JL: I think the tradition of the schools in the conference helps. Pittsburgh has won a National Championship, Syracuse has played well over the years, West Virginia has had some great teams. There are so many teams that are well respected through out that league. I think the media market is going to be huge, especially when you add the Tampa/St. Petersburg market.

JN: You have not played a conference game yet, but USF has been successful against the Big East.
JL: We are 1-1 against Louisville, we are 1-1 against Cincinnati, 1-1 against Pittsburgh, and 2-0 against Connecticut. We know that is in the past, we know every year is a new year. But what it does is shows your players you have a real chance to be successful.

JN: What are your realistic expectations of this coming season?
JL: I'm unsure because most people won't believe we will win many games because we were not real strong last year and played poorly in the Pittsburgh game. I really don't know how many we will win or lose this year, but honestly, we are very talented. It all depends on the discipline of the players, the confidence of the guys, and the execution. I know this program is strong and I know we will be successful, I just don't know how long it will take, but it will happen.

JN: Something the fans will be excited about is the schedule, not only do you have the Big East but you throw in UCF, Penn State, and Miami.
JL: Well, this is the thing most people don't realize. You open at Penn State, one of the most powerful programs in the country traditionally. It's funny, when you schedule a team they might not be as strong but when you play them everyone thinks it's going to be their year. When you talk to people they feel this might be their best team in years. This is supposed to be an outstanding group.

Then you come back and play Florida A&M, which is Florida kids against Florida kids for the most part. When you do something like that the emotions are high. This will be the biggest game of the year for FAMU, they will come in here playing lights out football in front of 40,000 – 60,000 fans. Then we play another emotional game against Central Florida. Nobody is going off their record from last year, or ours. You know George O'leary is a tremendous coach and will have them ready to play. They will play with heart and it will most likely come down to the last play of the game.

Then we have our Big East opener against Lousiville after two very emotional games. Last time they played here it went to double overtime and it will be a big game with a big crowd. After that we got West Virginia, they are loaded again and we should have another big crowd. Then Cincinati at home and they have had some good teams. In between there we have Miami and Pittsburgh, how can fans not be overwhelmed by the schedule.

Coming on Tuesday Coach Leavitt previews his team (by position) and his expectations for the coming season.


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