Today we talked with Chas Short of Underdog Dynasty to get a sense of Central Florida's résumé. While he gave a good accounting of the Knight programs, and even expressed some indignation at one of the questions, there are still problems with this potential addition. Of course, this means that I'll probably have to spend three days fending off angry UCF fans.
And that's okay.
First, let's address that indignation. Chas is rightly irked at being asked about Central Florida and its perceived status. I'd be irked too, and while we're gleefully taking shots at potential candidates this week for the sake of humor and outrage, that's really not the intent with this section. Unfortunately, this isn't just a perception uninformed folks far removed from Orlando have; it's local too.
My stepdaughter and my son graduated from Orlando-area high schools (Cypress Creek and Kissimmee, respectively), and my daughter also attended CCHS before moving out here to live with me. My son's graduation program contained, with their list of graduates, those students' self-reported college plans. Seeing this did nothing to alter my (at the time) uninformed perception.
See, the problem is this: I've seen a lot of graduation programs which include this information, and I have never seen one school listed as a student's not-first choice more than I saw UCF in my son's graduation program. Further, my kids who went to school in Orlando who will all tell you exactly what I am saying here.
You can scream all you want about people misrepresenting UCF, but this is a major issue. It doesn't actually say anything about UCF as an institution, but it does indicate the local market's own perception of the school. At best, it's an option students choose when they don't really want to leave home -- the very definition of a commuter school. At worst, it's a safety school in the eyes of many local students.
And if a huge local university which actually does have relatively strong academics can't even convince the local kids it should be their first choice, then it's also probably not ringing the bell with local recruits either.
Fans of the Knights can be upset about this all they want, but it's simple truth. We'll be fair and point out, though, that this is not an insurmountable problem for UCF. A strong effort on the school's part to market itself better to Orlando-area students and at least remove the local perception that UCF is basically Orange County Community College on steroids would be a huge step. (So would getting an invitation to the Big 12, to be fair. But we're here to talk about whether such a thing is warranted, not how much it would help UCF.)
We already have an 0-12 team
I have argued that we can't just take one year's results and apply them to a school as an argument in their favor (hi, Memphis!). We also can't just point at one bad year as a red flag.
But when you go 0-12 while your Fiesta Bowl trophy still hasn't had to be polished, that's a really bad look. It shines a spotlight on the very problem I've attempted to get across to the Memphis fan base: you're good now, but you can be oh so terrible in the blink of an eye. In the case of Memphis, we're waiting to see how the program weathers the loss of Justin Fuente and Paxton Lynch in one fell swoop. With UCF, we see what happened when they lost their stud quarterback.
We don't need another Kansas in this league, guys. And at least Kansas has a bouncyhoops program of no small accomplishment. Central Florida's inability to build a consistently competitive football program despite playing against lesser competition is an issue.
Central Florida has never, as a member of the FBS, strung together more than three consecutive winning seasons. That's pretty bad, guys.
You know what? He's gone. Never mind. Bringing up all the bad things about George O'Leary gets us nowhere and will just make UCF fans mad for no reason.
Yes, I know. That's why we're doing all this anyway. But we have taste here, so we're only bringing up the fact that a kid died so that we can tell commenters not to bring it up. It's not an argument. Clear?
We can talk about this guy, though. He's a dirty stinking Cornhusker. We don't want him around our kids. So there.
Bright House Stadium
UCF plays in a stadium which would be the smallest in the Big 12. Look, the school is in a city with a metro population of over two million. That's UCF's greatest selling point. And the stadium seats ten thousand fewer souls than a stadium in sleepy little Manhattan, Kansas?
(Yes, we know there are plans to expand it to 65,000. Hush.)
Seriously, though. If UCF has such strong support, they should have a huge stadium. The two do sort of go hand-in-hand.
This "UCF" nonsense
I'm not going to lie. When your school has a name which isn't so damned unwieldy that nobody is ever going to type it all out (like UCLA), then fine. We'll accept you trying to brand yourself as a bunch of initials, because frankly you're doing us all a favor.
There's nothing whatsoever wrong with "Central Florida", except of course the perception caused by the word "Central". We're not dumb. We know you're trying to prevent people from thinking of you as a directional school. It's not working. And getting irked because people actually refer to your school by its actual name is a total party foul. We don't sanction this nonsense from Louisiana-Lafayette, either.
That time UCF played in Manhattan
Frankly, we're just terrified that we might have to deal with this every two years. Think of the children.
Finally, Orlando is a long, long way away from Big 12 country. Frankly, the only way inviting UCF works is if we also invite South Florida. And since neither of you really want the other to get an invite, our only solution is to invite neither of you. Sorry, them's the rules.