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Here’s Your Solution to Florida-UCF Schedule Debate

The Knights and Gators have a ready-made answer staring them in the face.

Central Florida Golden Knights v Florida Gators
Steven Moffett was the Knights’ QB the last time UCF played Florida in football, back in 2006.
Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images

Over the last few weeks, there has been lots of chatter about how the UCF Knights should take a 2-for-1 scheduling deal from the Florida Gators where two of the games will be in Gainesville while the other one will be at UCF.

This whole discussion began shortly after the bowl game announcements, where UCF would be playing in the Fiesta Bowl against LSU and Florida would play Michigan at the Peach Bowl. There was plenty of speculation that part of the reason UCF was not in the Peach Bowl to play Florida was because Gators athletic director Scott Stricklin, who is part of the College Football Playoff Committee, made sure the Gators ducked UCF. The speculation would make sense, since a Florida-UCF Peach Bowl makes more sense than Michigan-Florida, who will be playing for the third time in four seasons. But it was clear even prior to Championship weekend that the Gators-Knights matchup was not going to happen.

Once the bowl matchups were set, many speculated on why UCF was not playing Florida in the Peach Bowl:

Stricklin denied the speculation that he was involved in UCF not playing in the Peach Bowl and he told Mike Bianchi in an Orlando Sentinel article that he would like to play UCF.

“I’d be OK with scheduling them — in the right situation,” Stricklin told Bianchi in the article.

Stricklin also said in the article that UCF athletic director Danny White has never reached out to him about the possibility of playing the Gators, and that he would be willing to pick up the phone, too.

“We haven’t had a spot where we thought this made sense at this point,” Stricklin said.

White responded to Stricklin shortly after those comments.

“I’m encouraged to hear that UF is open to the idea of playing us in football. Since I’ve been here, it had been made clear to me there wasn’t much hope of that,” White’s statement read. “Our scheduling philosophy has been transparent since I arrived at UCF — that we’re open to a home-and-home series with any non-conference Power 6 opponent. Top 10 programs don’t schedule two-for-one series where the balance is not in their favor. Our growing fanbase and our student-athletes deserve better than that.”

White continued: “However, it sounds as though a single game could be an option, and I’d bet there are plenty of neutral-site locations that would love to host a game of that magnitude. Perhaps we could work out a three-game series, with a home-and-home and a neutral site involved. I’m excited to follow up with Scott and his team to see if we can make this happen. It would be great for college football in the Sunshine State!”

Hmm. interesting move by White on mentioning a neutral-site location. We will get back to that later, but back to Stricklin, who said that any series with UCF would have to be a 2-for-1.

“We do home-and-homes with, like, FSUs and Power 5 leagues,” Stricklin told Bianchi. “We haven’t done any home-and-homes with non-Power 5 teams. I don’t think we would start that.”

“But I’d love to schedule them [the Knights] in a game,” Stricklin said.

Stricklin is right that Florida have not done any home-and-homes with non-Power 5 teams. However, Florida has not done home-and homes with any Power 5 schools in recent history, other than Florida State.

The Gators have not played a home-and-home with a non-conference team other than Florida State since Miami in 2008 and 2013. The last time Florida played a non-conference home-and home-series with a team not named FSU or Miami? Southern Cal in 1982 and 1983.

The truth is Florida does not do home-and-homes with anyone other than Florida State, which only happens because the state legislature got involved decades ago to make sure the two schools played every season.

Florida will play South Florida in a 2-for-1, and the Gators announced an adjustment to that schedule last week week, where Florida will play in Tampa in 2021 and the Bulls will come to Gainesville in 2022 and 2025:

In the press release, It appears the Gators are sending a message or even taking a jab at UCF with the following statement:

“This series is another example of the University of Florida’s history to play in-state schools in its recent past. Over the past 15 years, Florida has played Florida State, Miami, UCF, USF, Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic and Florida International.”

Gators Head Coach Dan Mullen also discussed a possible 2-for-1 offer, and that the Knights should take it as a “great opportunity.”

So let’s cut to the chase. Florida will NEVER do a home and home with UCF, or honestly anyone other than Florida State and maybe Miami, although that’s very iffy as well. The Canes and Gators will open the season in 2019 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.

So the question is should White and the Knights take a 2-for-1 deal from Florida? Many have chimed in on both sides. Here some of the responses:

Wolken makes some interesting points and I agree 100% with following statement that’s Brandon Helwig said here in response to a UCF fan:

UCF did not initiate any of this chatter. It was all Florida.

And why? Because of the perception that the Gators supposedly ducked UCF at the Peach Bowl, thanks to Stricklin’s influence. If there was no truth to the speculation by the fans, then why even respond to it?

Nonetheless, if I am UCF, I say HELL TO THE NO to a 2-for-1 with Florida , but not because I am anti-2-for-1 deals, as I am open to it, depending on the opponent.

For example if Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Notre Dame or a major program of that type of a national appeal that transcends the sport with tradition and the brand name that those programs bring called and offered a 2-for-1 with a chance to bring those teams on campus for a game, I’d strongly consider taking it. But not Florida.

The truth is UCF does need Florida. UCF could benefit from Florida from a strength of schedule perspective .... in some years. Maybe it would have helped in 2018, but it would not have helped in 2017, when the Gators failed to make a bowl game going 4-7. 2018 was the just the 4th time the Gators have won more than 7 games since Urban Meyer left following 2010 season. 2018 was the just the third time the Gators have won 9 or more games since 2010. The Gators are playing in their 2nd major Bowl game since Meyer left ( 2013 Sugar Bowl) on December 29th against the Wolverines looking for first major bowl win since 2009 Sugar Bowl while the Knights will be playing in their 3rd major bowl during that time frame (2014 Fiesta Bowl, 2018 Peach Bowl) looking for 3rd major bowl win in as many tries.

The point is the Gators have not been a consistent football program except during the Steve Spurrier era ( 1990-2001) and the Urban Meyer era (2005-2010).

But I’ll offer a possible resolution to this whole debate for both schools, because Florida also has the right to say no to coming to UCF.

The Answer to the UCF-Florida Scheduling Spat

Let’s go back to White’s statement where he said, “It sounds as though a single game could be an option and I’d bet there are plenty of neutral-site locations that would love to host a game of that magnitude.”

White is right! And I know of a couple. Let’s start with one that many would bring up: The Camping World Kickoff in Orlando. They will have Florida and Miami to open 2019, and LSU and Florida State in 2023. There are openings in 2020, 2021, and 2022 at this time.

Now here are . the schedules for Florida and UCF in those years:

  • Florida: 9/5 vs. Eastern Washington, 9/19 vs. South Alabama, 11/21 vs. New Mexico St., 11/28 at FSU
  • UCF: 9/5 vs. North Carolina, 9/19 at Georgia Tech
  • Florida: 9/11 at South Florida, 11/20 vs. Samford, 11/27 vs. FSU
  • UCF: 9/18 at Louisville
  • Florida: 9/17 vs. South Florida, 11/26 at FSU
  • UCF: 9/17 vs. Louisville, 9/24 vs. Georgia Tech
  • Florida: 11/25 vs. FSU
  • UCF: No games scheduled yet.

Realistically, UCF and Florida will not schedule a game between 2020-2022 unless some adjustments are done to the schedule. The Gators are locked down in 2020 and will not add UCF in 2021 with a game at USF. I do not think both schools would be interested in adding a game in 2022 with games they already have lined up. So 2023 would be most ideal, as both teams have room to fill. But that would knock out the Camping World Kickoff as an option as they will have LSU and Florida State.

So no 2023 right? Well, actually, I found one site that could perhaps host UCF-Florida in 2023: Atlanta.

The Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game just so happens to have an opening in 2023. Below is the future schedule:

  • 2019 – Alabama vs Duke (Saturday, August 31)
  • 2020 – Florida State vs. West Virginia (Saturday, Sept 5)
  • 2020 – Georgia vs. Virginia (Monday, Sept. 7)
  • 2020 – North Carolina vs. Auburn (Saturday, Sept. 12)
  • 2021 – Alabama vs Miami (Saturday/Monday)
  • 2021 – Louisville vs. Ole Miss (Saturday/Monday)
  • 2022 – Georgia vs. Oregon (Saturday/Monday)
  • 2024 – Georgia vs. Clemson

So if we’re all honest for a minute, we know Florida will not do a home-and-home. UCF will not do a 2-for-1. So the most realistic option is a game at a neutral site, and 2023 in Atlanta to open the season would make sense for both sides.

Florida has been looking to schedule games recently, playing in Arlington vs. Michigan to open the 2017 season, and opening 2019 in Orlando. UCF fans showed up in droves to Atlanta for the Peach Bowl last year and would show up for a season-opener against Florida. Neither school loses a home game in this deal, so both schools can still play as many home games as they choose.

So that is my proposal as a compromise to both sides: Florida vs. UCF at the Chick-Fil-A Football Kickoff, Saturday September 2, 2023. It would be full circle, as what started all this conversation was the result of these two programs not playing in Atlanta on January 1st, and ends with a game in the same stadium. We just have to wait four more years for it.

But at least all the talking can come to an end of who’s ducking who and we can finally settle things where they should be settled: on the field.