Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy was part of South Florida’s pitch to the Big 12 and former major league first baseman Tino Martinez also went to bat for the Bulls.
The Big 12 concluded a week of meetings Friday in North Texas with the 11 schools vying to join the conference. USF, Cincinnati and Rice made the final presentations, according to three people with knowledge of the meetings who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the conference was keeping its meetings confidential.
According to a person familiar with USF’s pitch, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik was part of the five-person team, led by university president Judy Genshaft, the school sent to Texas.
USF’s presentation included a video with Dungy, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts coach, and Martinez, a Tampa native, endorsing the Bulls, the person said.
“I think the Big 12 would be surprised to know how many people in the Tampa area are really behind the USF Bulls,” Dungy said, according to an excerpt provided to the AP. “There are so many sports fans here that just love the university and love to see college athletics.”
Dungy’s son, Eric, played football for USF in 2014.
“USF is definitely ready,” said Martinez, who played 16 seasons in the majors with Seattle, the New York Yankees, St. Louis and Tampa Bay.
USF plays its home games in Raymond James Stadium, home of the Buccaneers and the site of this season’s College Football Playoff championship game.
The Big 12 is also considering Air Force, BYU, Central Florida, Colorado State, Connecticut, Houston, SMU and Tulane. The conference has not committed to expansion, but Commissioner Bob Bowlsby has said it is exploring the possibility of adding two or four new members to the 10-team league.
There has been no timetable set for the Big 12 to make a decision, but the conference’s university presidents are scheduled for a regular meeting Oct. 19.
Follow Ralph Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP