If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the Big East in this expansion process it’s that they want to get the heck out of the cold weather. Houston? San Diego? Orlando? Those are some pretty temperate locations. The Big East brass clearly wants to go vacationing year-round. Well, they already go vacationing year-round considering they do as little work as possible running this conference but I’m pretty sure adding these schools is just a convenient excuse for John Marinatto to try his new banana hammocks. I’ll give you a few minutes to clean up as you most certainly puked after picturing that.
Anyways, a less nauseating thought is that of adding Central Florida to the Big East. Here’s more about them:
The one thing you should know about Central Florida is that it’s like the fastest growing university on the planet. Students flock here faster than a Tino Sunseri sack (bazinga). In the past decade, UCF has invested millions of dollars into their campus and athletic programs (more on that in a bit) and has thus seen enrollment grow to the tune of 40% since the early 2000′s. There are currently a whopping 58,000 students spread throughout all of their campuses. UCF isn’t a commuter school anymore and the size as well as the quality of their facilities speaks to that. The school’s administration has spared no expense in not only bringing the university up to speed but also in a position to compete with the big boys Florida, Florida State, Miami, and even South Florida.
Recently thought of as a sleeping giant, UCF not only brings a massive (and growing) fanbase but the 19th ranked television market to the Big East. That’ll help bring a nice chunk of change to entire conference when a new media deal is hashed out later this year. While still shadowed by the more established state schools, a BCS tag should create interest in the city of Orlando much like the same tag did to UC in the city of Cincinnati. A few Big East championships and trips to BCS bowls have helped but playing big time football clearly does wonders for the local market.
UCF Knights Athletics
Central Florida has fielded a varsity football team since 1979 but has only started playing FBS football for 16 years now. When the Big East raided Conference USA the first time in 2004, UCF was invited to stem the loss of Louisville, Cincinnati, and South Florida’s football programs. The added competition, as well as tons of backing from the university’s decision makers, has allowed Knights football to thrive. In just seven years Central Florida has secured three divisional championships, two conference championships, four bowl bids, and has made more than a few appearances in the rankings recently. The Knights have clearly made their argument on the football field to warrant an invite to an AQ conference.
Like I mentioned, UCF has poured oodles of cash into upgrading their athletic facilities among other buildings. You can see it everywhere around campus from the new football stadium to the basketball arena to the training facilities. I guess you could say they are trying to buy their championships but to compete in the current environment of college football, investing in your program is the way to go. That investment has paid dividends in terms of the championships I mentioned and the shiny, new buildings even spurned Michael Jordan’s kid to commit to the Knights.
But is Central Florida moving too fast? Like driving a car, sometimes accidents happen if you don’t pump the brakes every now and then. This is what has happened at UCF most recently as the athletic department is amid NCAA investigations of having outside agents pay their basketball and football players. As we saw with the Pony Express (more on them in the next segment), that’s a big no-no to the boys in Indy. Central Florida is in major clean-up mode right now but that didn’t stop them from getting a much deserved Big East invite.
The Cincinnati-UCF Relationship
As I mentioned, Central Florida hasn’t been around for that long. I mean, they’ve been around for about 50 years but in terms of other schools their size, they are relative infants. I’ve been scouring the Internet and haven’t found a lick of evidence that the Bearcats and Knights have hooked up on either the football field or basketball court. The Knights simply haven’t been playing football long enough to have a chance to schedule Cincinnati and the fact that UC left as UCF entered C-USA took out the possibility of some conference games even on the hardwood. If there’s one Big East member that has some bad blood with Central Florida it’s their cross-state rivals the USF Bulls. While undoubtedly this will become one of the most bitter rivalries in the New Big East, Cincinnati and UCF still has an opportunity to spark some good, ol’ fashioned hatred for each other in the coming years.
Want to know more about 3 of the other New Big East members and their relation to UC? Bearcats Nation is all over it: