Losing out on Big East is good news
Published: Sunday, August 22, 2010
Updated: Sunday, August 22, 2010 19:08
Tunnel vision can be dangerous.
All the talk just a few weeks back was about conference re-alignment. Things were going to change in a big way. While there were a few moves made — and the feeling lingers that more are still to come — it wasn't the massive shift that caused speculators to either drool or break out in hot sweats.
For UCF, the move seemed obvious: The Big East.
An automatic qualifying BCS-conference. A renewed series with rival South Florida. It seemed too perfect; the Big East would fix all of our problems. We'd be in the type of conference that would enable us to recruit BCS-caliber athletes, get more national exposure, and finally realize our potential.
That was supposed to happen. It hasn't.
However, it's not necessarily a bad thing that it hasn't happened yet, and it could even be a good thing, that we're "stuck" in Conference USA.
First, to play devil's advocate with the Big East: I'm not saying joining the conference couldn't do all these positive things for UCF's athletics programs. It could do all of them and more. But it's just not as perfect as some would like to think.
For starters, though the Knights would pretty much be guaranteed a renewed series with USF, they're UCF's only geographical rival in the conference. The Big East is a northeastern conference. Notre Dame-Southern California aside, most rivalries are based on proximity (at least in their origins) because teams didn't travel as far as they do now.
C-USA, although labeled as spread-out and random, actually fills out fairly nice as a Southern Conference with East and West Divisions, UTEP in west Texas being the farthest west and Marshall in West Virginia being the farthest North.
USF is the red-headed stepchild in the Big East map, and by joining, we would only become the red-headed stepchildren. Neither school truly fits geographically.
Also, the Big East has an automatic BCS bid, but does anyone know why? It has some high-profile schools, especially in basketball, but even the best Big East football team can't stand up to the upper echelon SEC, Big XII, Pac-10 or ACC. Look at any preseason poll and find the Big East teams. Well, there's Pitt and West Virginia … and … um … that's it.
Any conference jump is largely a football move, which makes sense; football makes the most money for the school, and for the most part other sports aren't nearly as limited by their conference. The Big East is a basketball conference with football teams. Why would you jump to a basketball conference for football reasons?
Finally, depending on how things play out, UCF could have other options.
The SEC is a tradition-steeped conference and therefore a long shot, but Orlando fits well geographically. The long shot is if the SEC decides to expand to a super-conference.
The ACC is probably the best option for an upgrade, both geographically and competitively. As opposed to a series with one in-state rival in the Big East, the ACC provides two of them: Miami and Florida State, which are higher profile and more tradition-rich than USF, despite that the Bulls have been on the rise the past few years.
There is the possibility of two mid-major conferences, including C-USA, forming a new conference and getting a BCS bid. Then UCF definitely wins.
It's far-fetched to some, but then again, wasn't most of this re-alignment chatter not too long ago? Nonetheless, it's a rumor, and thereby a possibility.
The underlying point here is this: We're in C-USA, and that's just fine. It's time to stop using our conference as a crutch.
UCF can become a national power; the kind a university of this size should be, in all sports, regardless of conference.