Rooney’s vision: Knights as Orlando’s team, local kids wearing UCF hats
Published: Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 16:02
UCF baseball head coach Terry Rooney is onto something.
His program has a unique opportunity, one that both football and basketball, the higher-profile sports, lack.
Sure, football is the law of the land. We do, after all, live in Florida. And when columnist Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel recently suggested UCF was possibly a basketball school, I was inclined to agree. In a little over a year, the best college basketball teams in the country will regularly visit the UCF Arena.
But the baseball team has a unique opening neither program has, and Rooney came out and said it yesterday.
UCF can be Orlando's baseball team.
There is no professional franchise in Orlando. Sadly, there isn't even a minor league team since the departure of the O-Rays.
The Knights are a top-25 program, and they're the only act in town. So why can't they be embraced by the city?
Football can't do it yet. There is an ongoing battle to break out of the shadows of Florida and FSU. Baseball doesn't have that problem. While the Gators are the top baseball team in the land, the reach of a college baseball program just isn't quite as far.
UCF basketball has a loyal and dedicated fan base, one that is growing, but Orlando is a Magic town. At least until Dwight Howard is shipped out, that is.
Look at the circumstances for baseball, though. The Rays are too far away, even when they're contenders, as are the other state college powers. And the Orlando area is home to a deep, rich and talented high school and AAU baseball community. The Knights give that community a team to keep tabs on.
Rooney hinted at that, too. He said he wants young players growing up in the Oviedo and Orlando areas to grow up wearing UCF baseball hats. And why not?
Friday's home opener will be the debut of an upper deck at the Berg. Its construction could coincide with the bigger crowds this program could receive if the city embraces this team.
Why not? The home schedule is great (Florida State, Rice, USF, among others). The location is close. And, by the way, most unbiased baseball people expect them to be good. Really good.
Rooney really might be onto something.