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Posted Oct 28, 2008 by Brett McMurphy
Updated Oct 28, 2008 at 10:52 PM
Since becoming the University of South Florida’s coach, Jim Leavitt has strived to build the Bulls into one of college football’s elite programs.
He has succeeded in one area: committing penalties.
USF is the nation’s only program that has finished among the top 10 in penalties every season since 2000, the first year the NCAA began ranking penalty statistics.
While the Bulls are a fixture among the top 10 most penalized teams, no other program has even been ranked annually among the top 20 most penalized teams during that time.
USF led the nation in penalties in 2002 and was the second most-penalized team in 2001, 2004 and 2007.
This season, the Bulls rank fourth nationally, averaging 8.62 per game, after committing 14 penalties in Saturday’s 24-20 loss at Louisville.
“The Louisville game, we had too many penalties,” Leavitt said. “Is that one game? Yeah. We had too many penalties. We got a couple of those that have been told to us that shouldn’t have been called, but that’s still too many. We have to do a better job there.”
In the past nine seasons, USF has averaged a penalty about every seven minutes. Leavitt would not comment on USF’s past penalty problems.
“I’m focused on the future here,” Leavitt said.
This season, penalties cost the Bulls an opportunity to win at Louisville and nearly cost them a win at UCF.
At Louisville, a defensive holding penalty against USF’s Tyrone McKenzie on a missed field goal with 1:19 remaining allowed the Cardinals to run out the clock. Leavitt and McKenzie both disputed the call, but UL coach Steve Kragthorpe said the hold was something he had seen on film from USF in previous games.
At UCF on Sept. 6, Leavitt failed to call a timeout with 11 seconds left. USF was penalized for delay of game and Delbert Alvarado missed a 42-yard field goal, but the Bulls won in overtime.
After the game, Leavitt took responsibility. “Put that [penalty] on me,” he said.
Last season former Iowa coach Hayden Fry, whom Leavitt worked under as a graduate assistant, said USF lost at Rutgers, 30-27, because USF “committed too many penalties in key situations.”
While USF ranks No. 1 in penalties, since 2004 Florida State ranks second and Florida is tied with Texas Tech as the third most-penalized team.
Since 2000, the University of South Florida is the nation’s only team to rank among the 10 most penalized teams in every season. A look at USF’s final rankings in the NCAA stats each year in average number of penalties committed per game.
Year Rank Avg
2008 No. 4 8.62
2007 No. 2 8.61
2006 No. 3 8.00
2005 No. 6 8.83
2004 No. 2 9.54
2003 No. 6 9.36
2002 No. 1 11.64
2001 No. 2 10.00
2000 No. 9* 9.91
*Classified as Division I-AA