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Counterpoint: UCF is Moving to Greener Pastures

UCF is moving to the Big 12 and leaving their neighbors to the west behind.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at South Florida
Are you really going to miss these garish things?
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

This is in response to Jeff Sharon’s piece about the War on I-4. He feels that the UCF Knights and South Florida Bulls should keep playing football. He's very sad the series is ending and doesn't want it to, including the option of being in the same conference after UCF’s move from the American Athletic Conference to the Big 12 Conference.

I’m not going to wow you with all the media glitz as Jeff did. He’s better with that stuff. This is going to be a bit more blunt.

UCF does not need South Florida in the Big 12.

Does Utah need Utah State to bump up? They were both have-nots and then the Utes got the call. They seem to be doing alright with the Aggies looking up.

Florida State didn’t need Miami when they first joined the ACC. The Hurricanes joined the ACC almost a decade and a half later. Heck, Florida State spent 30 years trying to get in the SEC before the Conference was willing to let them in. The Florida Gators and the Noles are doing OK, albeit both through a lull at the moment. The Knights will also be fine.

During the Big East realignment saga of 2005, UCF was considered for a football-only invite before Boston College decided to leave the conference. That took UCF out of contention and South Florida got an all-sports invite. From 2005-2013 the Bulls had many opportunities to grow their program’s infrastructure with the larger revenue checks they were receiving. Even after the transition to the AAC, South Florida was still receiving more money than UCF because of the $100M settlement by the Catholic 7 to buy the Big East name and Madison Square Garden rights for their basketball tournament. Their administration was complacent in their facilities and their programs suffered down the road.

UCF was never considered for an all-sports invite. Their facilities were terrible. The basketball arena was a glorified high school gymnasium where you could yell from one side during the game and your friend could clearly understand you on the other side. After the snub, “message received.”

UCF was a bit more, dare I say, bullish at this point. During their time in Conference USA, they build a football stadium, a new basketball arena, a new softball stadium, and more. They were building towards the future.

Let's be honest here. The series is really only ending for football. The Knights and Bulls have met for decades in other sports and they’re going to continue to do so as non-conference foes. It's an inexpensive game that helps fill up non-conference schedules. Heck, they play enough that they can continue to compete for that all-sports trophy that UCF has won for all five years it has existed. If 2019-20 was completed, UCF was on its way to winning that one too.

Let's also take it a step further. UCF has had other rivals. In the Olympic sports, it was Stetson. At one point, it was Georgia Southern in football. Rivalries develop. Look at Cincinnati and Houston and how those are organically developing. Cincinnati has been the big dog as of late. UCF and Houston have had some major showdowns in multiple sports. UCF is going to be okay here.

I remember when the two schools were not on the same level and they tried playing football. I went to all four games. Jeff mentioned the 2008 game, which was a good UCF defense holding South Florida’s offense in check while the Knights’ offense stunk it up for nearly the entire game before tying it up. Was it exciting? Sure, but the crowd would be going nuts in any game UCF came back from. It doesn’t have to be them. The 2017 game was lightning in a bottle. The 2021 game was so bad, ESPN moved Florida vs. Florida State to Black Friday in 2022. UCF will be able to generate buzz and excitement based on the quality of play on the field. They don’t need South Florida to do that.

Yes, South Florida won’t stay down forever and they finally have an administration that is doing for them now what should have been done 15 years ago. That doesn’t change things. This is the same school that actively blocked UCF’s inclusion into the Big East until it was too late to save the conference. It’s karma to have them stew for a while UCF has that same opportunity the Bulls had. As Jeff said, they’re paying the price for that arrogance. That doesn’t mean to go throw them a lifeline. The big difference is that UCF Athletic Director Terry Mohajir has shown no signs of slowing infrastructure growth.

UCF has created for themselves quite the resume in athletics. Their run in football cannot be denied. We know that drives the gravy train. Their consistency in other sports has been pretty good. They are tied with Houston for the most conference championships as of the publishing of this article. They have earned what they got. This isn’t like Rutgers, South Florida, or other schools that just happened to be at the right place at the right time and moved up as a result. There are tangible results here.

So what’s going to happen in a year and change is that UCF is going to work on elevating their game in a conference with BYU and Oklahoma State. The Bulls are going to be working to stave off former UCF AD Danny White’s brother at FAU.

UCF does not need South Florida at this point. What they need from the Bulls is to see what they did wrong when they got called up and not make the same mistake. I think it’s pretty evident that the Knights are on the right track.