Former USF coach Jim Leavitt was a guest on ESPN radio's the Beat of Sports with Marc Daniels and Jerry Greene Monday morning. Daniels and Greene both interviewed Leavitt, who made some surprising remarks.
He said he has been impressed by the UCF football team so far this season and shared his thoughts on possibility of restarting the UCF-USF rivalry series.
On watching college football games during the weekend:
I've been really impressed with what they've been able to do andhow they beat UAB. Of course, I was at Kansas State [previously as an assistant coach] so I watched that game. It's fun for me to watch UCF now in a different way than before, you know. So that's all been kind of fun.
On how UCF fans would react to his comment praising the Knights:
"[Laughter.] People have no idea the whole history of the whole thing. Many, many years ago -- I don't know if I say that many -- when I was coaching at Morningside College, we came down and played UCF and we had a heck of a ball game. And I wanted, I was interviewed with [former UCF coach Lou] Saban to be an assistant coach at UCF, and he turned me down. I didn't get the opportunity. Little did I know I'd be the coach at South Florida and have a chance to face UCF four times.
"But I've always been intrigued by UCF, and I really enjoyed playing them. If people really knew the story behind al of that and how that series really began. I kept hearing it over and over and over again about the games that we didn't want to play and all those things. I didn't want to play them my first year, but as we got going, I asked Lee Roy Selmon he happened to be our interim AD after Paul Griffin left I asked him to call UCF and say let's go. Let's play now. And he did that. And that really is the truth of the matter of how it really happened.
"And then we went ahead and played the two years, and we went to the Big East. We had the two-year agreement after that. And then, I thought we would play them last year in our bowl game. I was really looking forward to it after we had played Miami and up at UConn, we ended up playing in Toronto up in the bowl game up there. I thought we'd play them. And I suspect that they'll each other again real soon. I think it will happen again."
On whether UCF and USF should play every year:
"Well, you know, probably with the economy today. It depends on. My big push was, you know, I grew up in Florida and lived here all my life pretty and I really wanted to see if there's a way that University of South Florida could ever push because we were going into the Big East, a BCS conference could push towards any resemblance of being part of the Big Three. Because you know I have great respect for Florida, Florida State and Miami and what they've been able to do. They've all won national championships and all have done great jobs. And we went out and beat Florida State, for a moment. I never said we were part of the Big Four when we beat Florida State. All I said was it's jus ta step. I knew we had a long way to go. And you don't join an exclusive group of those three by one game. You've got to win a championship. You've got to win national championships and those kinds of things. But I thought If we kept playing Central Florida, that would always be our biggest rival. And I worked real hard at trying to see if we could get it going with Miami. Now and with the loss to Florida and depending on how they do against Miami, I think they'll settle back in to Central Florida. I think that'll happen and it'll be a good series.
"Central Florida's a very good football team. We had great games with them. I always had great respect for what was going on over there with Coach [ George] O'Leary. I really did. And I knew it always would be a great game, and we were just fortunate to win."
On whether Leavitt hated UCF and did everything possible to avoid the Knights:
"Well, it might have been because we won. We beat them the four times. But it was never that way. Now, I did know that game was very, very important. And I really felt like because Central Florida started their program about 23 years earlier than South Florida. So I really felt like if we were ever going to get a chance to have any credibility, we had to beat them. But it was never with like you're saying, to be real honest with you. It never was. You know, I enjoyed. I really looked forward to that game. Almost like when I was at Kansas State, I really looked forward to playing KU because Kansas State never beat KU. In fact, the time we beat them in Manhattan 14-12, it was the first time like in 25 or something. It was ridiculous. So I really enjoyed that, the whole thing.
"I just knew if Central Florida became our rival, then we never ever would have a chance to be looked at with the Floridas, Florida States, the Miamis. And that was really the only thing. But are you kidding me? I think they've done a great job. My best friend probably on earth lived in Orlando forever and worked for Holler Chevrolet and was comptroller there a guy named Howard Hall. And he remembers. In fact, I stayed at his house when I tried to interview for an assistant's job at UCF and didn't get the opportunity. In fact, I tried twice because I wanted to come home so bad and the only college football was at UCF. So it's really, it's not what people think at all. But I never came out and said anything. I just kept working."
Listen, with that big offensive line that UCF has right now. And I love their quarterback out of Miami. We recruited him very hard. He's a great young man. I really like him a lot and relaly wanted him. It was hard for us because we had B.J. Daniels. I think they've got a real chance and there's some energy going on with them now. They played N.C. State tight, they played Kansas State tight, the way they beat UAB on national TV was good. Now they've got to beat some nationally-ranked people. And I'm sure they'll have a great chance to win their conference again this year. So I think they're very good. It will be fun to watch. Now, I'm looking at it a little diferently now. Watching all the Florida teams play."
Click on this link to listen to Leavitt's full interview with the Beat of Sports, which airs Monday-Friday from 9-11 a.m. on 1080-AM in Orlando.
Is former USF Coach Jim Leavitt really a UCF fan?
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