Knights ready to join giants of Big 12
The foundations of a paradigm shift may be in place for UCF to live out its dreams of becoming a Power Five conference member.
The noise has been loud and prevalent, stirring the Internet abuzz. In some dimension, there lies an opportunity through which the Knights will join the Big 12, if expansion talks were to become of a reality.
It would bring the ultimate ending to a long, drawn-out journey that has seen landmines and conflict deter UCF's athletics program from basking in television revenue bliss.
Rumors first swirled after West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons said there was a presidential committee exploring "teams and partners" that could bring in value to the conference.
"I'm in favor of expansion if it's the right two teams to bring in," he said in a video interview with West Virginia Illustrated. "Obviously for us, it would be nice to have more of an eastern partner, but at the same time, I want to make sure it's the right partner from a revenue standpoint."
The teams in the discussion would likely center on UCF, UConn, Cincinnati and BYU, to name a few. And if you're a betting man, I would place a wager on UCF being one of those two finalists whenever Judgment Day comes.
The Knights have a compelling case to make, considering their athletics program has only been around for about 50 years. While they were passed over in favor of in-state rival USF when the Big East expanded in 2005, UCF has continued to overachieve with what little they have.
The university has managed to upgrade facilities, set records for academic success rates and share a current string of success across multiple sports, including football.
The Knights have consistently plugged that their size, TV market and potential will lead them to the promised land, despite a lack of resources. And never before has their brand been as valuable.
Understand that due to the systematic divide between the power and non-power conferences, it's difficult for schools in the Group of Five to keep up in today's NCAA world. Currently, UCF makes $1 million to $2 million in TV revenue, while most SEC and Big Ten teams rake in approximately $25 million to $30 million.
Add that to the guaranteed $50 million each Power Five conference gets from the College Football Playoff compared with the Group of Five's $12 million, and figure out why this means so much for UCF.
Although it used to be the No. 1 conference in terms of per-team TV revenue, like in most industries, if you're not evolving, you're dying.
Right now, the Big 12 sees the wild success of the Big Ten and SEC networks.
And with rumors of an ACC Network forming by 2017, the Big 12 must act soon to bridge the gap before becoming the only Power Five conference left without a network.
An easy solution: add two teams to gain a new media rights deal with FOX or ESPN, which also creates a conference championship game.
Now is not the time to be complacent, and I would expect interim athletics director George O'Leary to have some influence in UCF's quest to set its athletics program for life.
As O'Leary told Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi in a radio interview last week, "The revenue gap is going to probably force the Big 12 to expand, I would think. You can only have so many cake sales.
"The Big 12 doesn't have any face in the state of Florida."
Brian Goins is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter @byBrianGoins or email him at BrianG@CentralFloridaFuture.com.