In today's installment of EXPANSIONPALOOZA we'll head over the the Atlantic Coast of Florida to learn about Florida... Atlantic. Duh. (Although there are a ton of other schools on Florida's Atlantic coast, like Florida International, Bethune-Cookman, Florida Tech, and that school that isn't actually in Miami.) Joining us today is Ryan Lynch (@ryanlynchwriter), a proud FAU alum who happens to cover their archrival FIU for Underdog Dynasty.
Jon: Does the FAU fanbase even discuss the Big 12? This would be like walking into 7-11, buying a Powerball quick play, and winning, yeah?
Ryan: Yeah, I'd equate the chances to winning Powerball and getting struck by lighting twice in the same place. The probability of a Big 12 move for Florida Atlantic is not likely, especially since the team just changed conferences a few years ago. I would think they would rather become a big fish in a little pond than a shrimp in an ocean, which is what they would be if they made that kind of a jump at this point.
Jon: How's the administration feel about social climbing? Do they openly make comments about how great it would be to not be in C-USA?
Ryan: Nah, not from what I've seen. Athletics administration is pretty happy with the pace of growth within the program and aren't looking to rush anything. As for university officials, everyone from the bottom up to university president John Kelly has their focus more shifted towards the academic improvement of the school than the athletic improvement. I like that approach from a general standpoint and I think more schools should follow this model, but looking through a football only lens makes me wonder how concerned with the team they are.
Now Kelly came from Clemson, which is a huge program with a long tradition of winning. Its the same thing with AD Pat Chun, who came from Ohio State. I think a move to a power five conference is up there as one of their goals for the future, but they are certainly not publicly bashing or letting their negative opinions out about Conference USA.
Jon: Putting aside money, academics, and success, what crazy benefits would Florida Atlantic provide the Big 12?
Ryan: One huge benefit if Florida Atlantic was considered for the move is a more even conference structure. If the Owls and another team from the east were added, it would make for the ability to form more even regional divisions. West Virginia would then have two conference games in close proximity, easing their travel obligations.
They also provide a potential site for a conference championship game if they are selected. I know some teams in the north would love to feel their fingers when it comes down to clutch time, and a game in South Florida would provide that. FAU Stadium has hosted bowl games in the past, so the ability to provide a venue for bigger games is there as well.
Jon: I realize that Oklahoma would loathe and despise the Owls due to the "That Man Never Coached Here That One Year, No Sir" effect, even through the Almighty has retired. But who would FAU latch onto as a rival?
Ryan: Yeah, the Schnelly hate is definitely there from Sooner fans. They say time heals all wounds, but that is not going to be the case there. In their program history, FAU has never had a record better than Oklahoma or even played them, so I don't see it likely that a rivalry will form from that match-up. It's more likely a game with a "storyline" to follow than anything else.
My pick would be for a rivalry with West Virginia. That would have the makings of a "same state, wrong team" vibe because of the Owls' past history with Marshall. If both teams were in the east division, that would make an even better case for a yearly showdown.
Jon: Why do WE want to come visit FAU? What's great about Boca Raton that we can't just get from Orlando or Tampa? What's your fanbase REALLY like (warts and all)?
Ryan: FAU has a much smaller fan base when compared to a lot of FBS teams, especially when it comes to attendance at games. South Florida sports fans will only pay for a winner, which makes it so hard for the team to draw when they struggle. They also don't have much history or tradition, which has left the fans without an identity to run with.
Any team this new is going to run into those problems, especially if they haven't had lasting success in a long time. The Owls have been trying to build their reputation, which they have done with a few strong recruiting classes and trying to create an experience for fans. If they start winning consistently again. I think that will be the catalyst for change.
As for Boca's nature, it is a very old and gray city with some families in the area. In terms of a college atmosphere, there is not a huge amount of off-campus bars or hangouts that exclusively cater to the college crowd in the immediate area. The university is trying to create an environment like that, but I feel that it will be manufactured.
Worth noting is much of the student commuter population is outside the Boca Raton area, which means if the team stinks people do not travel far to games. That also plays into the culture of the University and program, making it hard to establish something when students just don't care.
Jon: And now, the big one. Pretend we're the Big 12 Board of Directors. Half of the goobers in this room think you're actually Florida Atlantis and don't want to play games underwater. You have to give us your best sales pitch. Go.
Ryan: For those of you that don't know what I'm talking about, I'm with Florida Atlantic University, Not Florida Atlantis. Now, I know what some of you may be thinking. 'Ryan, I wanted to take advantage of all the riches your underwater college provides?' or 'Ryan, how am I going to buy scuba gear for a whole team of football players?'. I'm here to tell you that you don't have to fret about any of that. While the college is not underwater, we are hit by rain that makes it seem like that sometimes.
The campus and stadium are both beautiful, much like one could imagine the lost city would look in present day, While they don't have as much lore as Atlantis, the Owls are looking to build upon their quick rise to the FBS. The fanbase may not be there yet, but it is a program that you cannot ignore. In fact, the only sinking they have done anywhere is in the standings the past two years.
With a more experienced team coming into this season, the Owls will potentially have their first winning season in a long time. If you're banking on FAU, you want a sleeper that is growing as both a team an a university (and that is not underwater).
Let's be honest, folks. Discovering that the Big 12 can't lay claim to either Aquaman or Prince Namor will probably completely ruin someone's day. Like mine, really. We all know there's no chance in hell of this one happening, but if you've got any thoughts on FAU after reading this, by all means share with the class.