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What are UCF Football’s Scheduling Options?

With power conferences bailing on non-conference games, what do the Knights have left?

UCF Helmet Photo: Derek Warden

The 2020 season schedule for UCF Knights Football is, well, who knows at this point?

With COVID-19 still wreaking havoc across cities - and college towns - across the nation, conferences are re-calibrating their plans to play football in 2020, leaving UCF’s schedule, which once looked promising, in a severe state of flux.

It started a few weeks ago, when the MEAC announced that it was cancelling fall sports, with a spring season to be determined.

This wiped out UCF’s planned November 7th match-up with Florida A&M.

Then the Big Ten and Pac-12 announced they were playing a conference-only schedule.

After much rumoring, the ACC this week announced they were moving to a 10+1 schedule, where their teams (including Notre Dame) would play ten conference games and one non-conference game, under certain conditions:

This effectively eliminated UCF’s planned home date with North Carolina on Friday, September 4th, but did not fully wipe the game at Georgia Tech on Friday, September 18th, since it’s in Atlanta. However, with Georgia Tech down to only UCF and Gardner-Webb, which is only a 3-hour drive from Atlanta, on its home slate, it seems extremely unlikely that UCF will face the Yellow Jackets at this point.

There has not been an official announcement of that. UCF released a statement merely saying it was aware of what was happening and they continued to await guidance from The American.

Pat Forde’s report may have shed some light on that:

But again, this is just a report, and not a confirmation of anything. And given The American’s geographical spread, plus the discrepancy in state policies regarding COVID-19, and the difficulty MLB is showing in handling sports travel right now, it seems like this preliminary report is, well, just that. Preliminary.

So at this point, what options do UCF and the American have?

AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco also told the Orlando Sentinel that while the American prefers a 12-game schedule, They can also play a 10-game schedule with a hybrid of the eight conference games and two non conference games. Aresco also said they can do ten conference games only if they had to.

Scheduling non-conference games will be very complicated for The American members. They should not expect the ACC, SEC or Big 12 to go out of their way to help out with scheduling. Maybe UCF might have a shot at keeping the Georgia Tech game, but again, that seems extremely unlikely. Indeed, after the SEC announced a conference-only slate, and the ACC’s hopes of maintaining some in-state rivalry games with SEC schools went out the door, there’s still a chance the ACC might drop its slate back to ten conference games.

As of right now, UCF’s only non-conference game is FIU at home, on September 12th.

So if nobody helps the AAC members with non-conference games, that means the AAC is left with certain G5 conferences as options for non conference games. Could teams like UCF also schedule FAU in C-USA, or other Group of 5 leagues as non conference games?

Maybe, but the question is is it worth it?

What is there to gain in playing those games if you are UCF, especially if fans are limited or not in the stadium? Also, what’s in it for leagues like C-USA, who are losing out on paycheck games vs. power schools?

Let’s break down the possible scenarios:

American Plays 10-Game Schedule

Now keep in mind, currently the AAC is at 11 members for football. So if the AAC goes to 10 games, in theory they can have everyone play each other once. In this scenario, SMU and Navy would be added to UCF’s schedule, one being at home with the other on road. My guess would be UCF would travel to Navy and host SMU as the Knights already have a trip in Texas to play Houston. But that is just speculation on my part.

Another route you can do with a 10-game or even eight-gamer slate is play a home-and-home with 4 or 5 designated schools that make the most sense from a travel standpoint.

So if they went that route, here’s what UCF’s opponents could be based on travel miles:

  • USF - 102 miles
  • ECU - 646 miles
  • Tulane - 656 miles
  • Memphis - 826 miles
  • Navy - 884 miles

These would be shortest flights, or in USF’s case, bus trips. UCF is already scheduled to travel to South Florida, ECU, and Memphis while they host Tulane. The issue is you lose out on the Cincinnati game, which you can argue is the marquee game of league. I would guess ESPN would want Cincinnati and UCF to play if possible. So do you keep Cincinnati at the expense of a further trip? Perhaps after all, these teams fly charter. Still there is no perfect solution. If I was the American, I go to a 10-game conference only schedule. At that point the league will have to decide which option they prefer: Home-and-home or round robin. Or maybe something else. I would have everyone play each other personally. For UCF as I mention earlier that would mean adding SMU and Navy to the schedule which is more attractive to TV and fans than a game vs CUSA

American Plays 8 or 10-Game Schedule + 1-2 Non Conf

I can see Aresco letting each member make that call as they would like option of non conference games for financial reasons.

They could also decide to keep it at 8-game conference schedule and add 1-2 non conference games to the slate. The question is what can AAC members add to non conference that would be worth it?

For example, UCF can keep the FIU home date and try to add a team like Florida Atlantic and stock up home games to get some of revenue back.

Is it worth doing that? Only Danny White has the answer perhaps.

Those are all scenarios and questions The American’s members will more than likely have to decide in the next week or so as they hope they find the right plan to save the football season. My prediction is American will go with 8 conference games and as many non conference games the respective schools can add.