Each week during the football season, a few staff contributors will answer five questions regarding the upcoming game ahead. It’s a way to get the staff to come together as well as the rest of Knights Nation, to see if they agree or disagree with the crew at BGB.
In our first roundtable of the football season, Jeff Sharon, Jeremy Brener, Eric Lopez, Bryson Turner and Andrew Gluchov take their seats at the roundtable to answer questions about the UCF Knights and their matchup with Bethune-Cookman and the impending acceptance into the Big 12 conference.
1) What’s one thing that you saw against Boise State that you hope sees improvement against Bethune-Cookman?
Jeff Sharon (@Jeff_Sharon): The start. Even though that first drive was really good (up until the interception at the goal line), having to come back from 21-0 is sub-optimal. I hope we make it easier on ourselves this time.
Jeremy Brener (@JeremyBrener): I would love to see crisper tackling. Let’s get more of what we saw in the second half vs. Boise than the first half. The Knights need to play every snap like they’re playing Alabama, even if it’s Bethune-Cookman.
Bryson Turner (@itsBrysonTurner):
Sunday Knight @UCF_Football Media Availability w DC Travis Williams on the tackling vs @BroncoSportsFB. #UCF pic.twitter.com/gGpti1vBhY— Trace Trylko (@seinpez) September 6, 2021
Part of the reason Boise State scored as many points as they did was due to subpar tackling by the defense. Even Defensive Coordinator Travis Williams said on Sunday that the defense needs to improve at tackling, which was what the unit worked on during practice that day. I want to see that practice pay off on Saturday.
Andrew Gluchov (@StatBoyDrew): The coverage in the defensive backfield. It was incredibly soft and they gave up a lot of chunk yardage as a result. They can’t be bailed out by the defensive line all the time.
2) If and when UCF enters the Big 12, what is the biggest positive with the move?
Jeff: The money!
Even if UCF gets a pro-rated share for the first three or so years (as West Virginia and TCU did), that will still out-pace what UCF was making in The American by a factor of at least two to three. Add that to the new TV contract, which will be significantly larger for UCF (even if it’s a haircut for the remaining eight), plus the Big 12’s CFP payout, and it’s a windfall for UCF’s program.
Jeremy: The money is great, and so is the exposure. Visibility in college sports gives publicity to the school. I learned about UCF when they beat Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. In the AAC, the chances of playing high-profile games in front of larger audiences are not as high as if we were in the Big 12.
Bryson: Jeff pretty much nailed it talking about the (eventual) increase in money UCF is going to earn. However, I want to mention the projects those funds could contribute too.
Athletic Director Terry Mohajir unveiled his vision for a football campus in a UCF Board of Trustees meeting on Aug. 19. In addition to that, he later said that the football campus is just one part of the “overall facility plan,” which would impact all sports, including upgrading The Venue, the soccer field, and relocating the track. All of these projects are going to cost a lot of money, which would normally take a lot of time to raise with the money UCF gets currently, being in The American.
However, like Jeff mentioned, UCF will be earning an increased amount of money from conference shares and the Big 12 media rights deal. Therefore, by joining the Big 12, UCF can very likely expedite these projects, thus improving all of UCF’s Athletic facilities.
Andrew: Everyone says the money, but I have to caution fans that this is not an immediate green flag for a spending binge. UCF has plenty of debt that needs to be worked down too. Don’t be surprised to see UCF still take their time towards Phase 2 of their athletic vision plans. After 2020, schools are going to try to keep a little more in reserve.
3) What is one reason why moving to the Big 12 is not advantageous to UCF down the line?
Jeff: Competition. It’s a major step up for every sport. UCF has established itself as a big fish in a small pond in its eight years in The American. But the transition from C-USA to The American in 2013 was much smoother from a competition level, due in no small part to the gap between C-USA and the former Big East being much smaller back then, especially with several C-USA teams joining alongside UCF.
This is a whole new ball game in terms of resources, finances and prestige. There will be an adjustment period. But if we know anything about UCF, it’s that we’re always up for a challenge.
Jeremy: Call it a hot take, but I think UCF is not done climbing up the ladder. The Big 12 is not the mountaintop. I truly believe UCF’s end goal is to be an SEC school. It’s the premier conference in all of college football and it makes sense geographically. UCF is going to travel hundreds of miles to get to their closest destination. The pros certainly outweigh the cons, but the travel could be a pain down the line. Moving to the SEC will be perfect for UCF, they can play more opponents close and they can be at the top where they belong.
Bryson: The impact it will have on the fanbase. UCF Football has been climbing up the college football world, going from the bottom tier Division lll to the top tier Power 5. Now, there’s nowhere left to climb anymore, at least in terms of standing in the college football world.
We can’t have a fanbase that will look down on teams like the ones we’re leaving behind in The American and the other Group of Five conferences. We can't have a fanbase that goes back on the principles that made it stand out in the first place. We can't have a fanbase that gets complacent. Otherwise, we’d become the very type Power 5 fanbase that said the 2017 national championship doesn’t mean anything.
Now that we’re in the Big 12, I fear this may be a real possibility, and I don’t want that to happen. Not to this team. Not to this program that’s fought so hard to get here.
Andrew: Rivalries. UCF has good rivalries with Memphis, East Carolina, and South Florida. At this juncture, none of those look to be continuing without using up out-of-conference game slots. It’s not known if the Big XII will continue with nine conference games or slide back to eight.
4) Describe how excited you are about UCF joining the Big 12.
Jeff: Take the Christmas I got an NES, add the Giants winning Super Bowl XLII, then multiply it by my wedding to the power of the 2018 Peach Bowl.
Bryson: I’m not married and I don’t have any kids (Sorry, Jeff), which means that I can be allowed to say that UCF winning the National Championship Game would be the best day of my life. Can’t know for sure until it happens, but UCF joining the Big 12 brings it one step closer to that day.
This team went winless six years ago, and is now joining a Power 5 conference. I’m just as excited as I am impressed.
Andrew: Eric, Jeff, and I have been around since the days of being an FBS independent and in the Atlantic Sun. We remember when Memory Mall was nothing more than a dirt parking lot. To see the organic growth over the last twenty years from then to now has been quite the journey. There has been heartache with always being a step behind, but UCF continued to Charge On and now look where we are. Today is the pinnacle of the vision of many current and past administrators and many years of hard work.
Enjoy it, Knights fans.