April 14, 2011

What About UCF?

Filed under: Big East,Conference,Money — Chas @ 10:01 am

Any talk of Big East expansion and Villanova, always brings us back to UCF.

Inevitably in any post on the matter, there is the usual complaint that Villanova isn’t worth bringing into the Big East, and the Big East should just invite UCF into the Big East.

The reasons in favor of UCF are well known:

— Quality and new facilities including a sparkling 45,000 on-campus football stadium, and a new 10,000 seat arena for basketball.

— Located in Orlando, which is now a top-20 TV market (35th in radio) –links are PDFs.

— Located in Florida which is a fertile football recruiting state.

— Is the Number Two university nationally in enrollment when you include the 10 satellite campuses, and their community college partnerships.

— A rising program in C-USA under George O’Leary after winning their first bowl game ever in 2010 — a 45-44 record in the past 7 years.

So what?

I don’t ask this entirely facetiously. I ask this, because what does all that mean for Big East expansion?

What does adding an 18th member overall, do for the Big East?

What kind of ratings do the Knights get for their games? Are they the top draw on TV in their home market or are they somewhere behind Florida and FSU?  They averaged just over 38,000 per game last year — also known as Cinci levels. They’ve made progress in basketball, but does anyone really go to the games or are they attended like DePaul and USF games? Answer: apparently a nice improvement this year

Just as Villanova does not deliver the Philly market — merely a claim of it — is that all UCF offers for Orlando right now? Will the presence of UCF markedly increase the money for the Big East’s next media contract significantly more than without them? Enough to offset the loss to each school for splitting the pie further?

We know why UCF wants into the Big East. They want the larger TV revenue. The greater exposure. The better access to competing nationally and recruiting at that level.

What does UCF do for the Big East right now, or even in 3-5 years? While the Big East has been painfully stupid about a lot of things, I will try to give them the benefit of the doubt that they have considered the economics and impact of adding another full member. That they have talked to their TV partners and consultants about what kind of value would be expected from adding UCF.

I’m not talking about a Big East where the football and basketball schools finally split. Where it makes sense to have 10-12 full members. I’m talking about the present configuration that splits the basketball revenue 17 ways and football revenue 9 (or possibly 10) ways.

The Big East is in a catbird seat with UCF. Just as the Big 10/11/12 is with Missouri, Rutgers or Pitt. Or the ACC is with Syracuse, UConn or Pitt. The conference has the strength with their money and stability, that when they want that team they will jump without a look back.

No one else is going to poach UCF. Not the Big 12/10. Not the SEC. Not the ACC. The best and only option for UCF is the Big East. Second-best is an MWC-C-USA alliance. That is a very weak second option.

This situation right now is very different from when the Big East expanded to 18 and raided C-USA for Louisville, Cinci and USF in football. The Big East needed 8 football teams to preserve their spot in the BCS. They had no choice but to take the chance on Cinci and USF — especially USF. They had to hope they were as committed as claimed and would develop.

Now, though, the Big East may be the weakest of the BCS conferences, they are not in the same spot. Big East Commish John Marinatto may be an ineffectual commissioner, but he was right when he said that the Big East doesn’t have to expand right now.

Getting TCU was different. The Big East’s recent slippage in football necessitated the reaching out to the geographically awkward Horned Frogs. UCF offers none of that. They are a promising program, but no history and definitely not there yet. Plus, with 9 teams, that puts the conference games up to 8. A full slate, and one less non-con to schedule. Making sure that each team always has 4 home conference games every year. UCF is not anywhere near that level in terms of on-the-field performance. Right now, they haven’t shown the consistency of a mid-level Big East program.

UCF for lack of a better way of describing it, is the back-up girlfriend (or boyfriend). Wants you. Nice enough, decent looking and at times can really look hot. Yet, you aren’t totally sold. Maybe aiming higher. Maybe there’s someone else. Yet you don’t want to completely close that door.

What happens if the Big 12/10 does implode like it nearly did last year? Texas goes independent or does make a move to the Pac-12 with another school (Oklahoma). Texas A&M goes off to the SEC. Suddenly there are options with the rest of the Big 12/10. Missouri, Kansas, K-State all just sitting there. Maybe even Texas Tech or Baylor.

It’s easier and cheaper to add teams to a conference than kick one out. Unless there is concrete evidence and the money on the table showing that UCF adds immediate value, there is no compelling reason to add them to the Big East right now.

Unfortunately the Big 12 isn’t going anywhere
link to

Comment by biggz 04.14.11 @ 10:12 am

I know about the deal, but Texas nearly split even with the new deal a year off and based on what the ACC had gotten, this was not an unexpected pricetag. The fact that Texas has their own network starting up, always makes it a threat.

Plus, given the way contracts have grown in just 4-5 years, the fact that this is a 13-year deal could come back to bite the Big 12/10 a lot sooner.

Comment by Chas 04.14.11 @ 10:17 am

All good points. Why any conference would sign a 10+ year deal in this day and age is BAD BUSINESS

Comment by biggz 04.14.11 @ 10:24 am

I agree, why pursue Villanova when UCF has some qualities Villanova is lacking.

I really feel Big East Management is more worried about basketball.

Comment by WLAT and the Big Beat 04.14.11 @ 10:54 am

Regarding the back-up girlfriend analogy, I guess that depends on what you’re comparing UCF to. I think the sentiment is nearly unanimous among Pitt fans that UCF is the most desirable school out there that the BE could get. So if we’re going to add another member, they’re not the back-up to anyone. They’re only the back-up if you feel like staying at 9 football members is better.
I can see that point as being valid. However, I still want the BE to get UCF for a couple reasons. First, as you stated, they have immense potential. They’ve gone from nothing to something in a very short period of time, and I think they have a very high ceiling for improvement (given their size and location). Second, the BE needs a school or two to carry the banner in football each year. Not only are we at a strength disadvantage compared to other conferences, but we’re at a numerical disadvantage too. In other words, our teams are a bit weaker, AND we have fewer teams too. So it’s that much harder to have one or two elite teams at any given time. The more we have numerically, even if the new schools are at the same basic level of the old ones, the more chances we have that someone will emerge as elite at any given time. Instead of needing one or two of eight, we need one or two of ten or twelve.

Comment by Lollard 04.14.11 @ 11:10 am

Also, I think some of the criticisms of UCF in terms of attendance and performance are unfair. OK, so they averaged 38,000 last year – Cinci levels, as you say. But they did that in C-USA as well, playing the likes of Marshall, Tulsa, SMU, Memphis, and UAB. I’d say that’s not too bad.
What they’ve done, compared to other non-AQs, is tremendous. And if you just use some vision, and imagine what they could do in a more legit conference, I think the upside is enormous.

Comment by Lollard 04.14.11 @ 11:13 am

That’s great, but the key word you use is “upside.” The Big East doesn’t need them for upside. This is not 2003.

That’s why TCU got an invite last year, not UCF. TCU has done much more in a tougher conference and for longer. The incentives for the Big East are not there.

Comment by Chas 04.14.11 @ 11:22 am

Ok, two points. First, forget upside for a moment. UCF finished 21st in the final AP poll in 2010, and 20th in the final USA Today poll. No Big East team finished in the top 25. So based on 2010, UCF is ALREADY better than every single football team in the BE.
Second, please use a little vision here. We’re talking about decisions that will possibly impact the landscape for decades. Why is looking at potential such a bad thing? People on this site like to talk all the time about what the Pitt basketball team will look like three years from now, when the “upside” of all our recruits is reached. And yet somehow the conference as a whole doesn’t need upsdie. Interesting.

Comment by Lollard 04.14.11 @ 11:28 am

Still the expansion/realignment talk, really????

Comment by Dan 04.14.11 @ 11:30 am

We should split bring in memphis and temple so that our basketball is still very high rated. Temple keeps ourfoot print in philly and UCF because of all the good players in Florida and Tcu. Plus our 8 schools gives us 12 we still have the NY market because of Rutgers and Syracuse.

Comment by FRANKCAN 04.14.11 @ 11:37 am

Thank you! Every news/blog/report seems to automatically assume UCF will be invited if ‘Nova falls through (which I hope it does). IF the Big East goes through with adding a 10th (and/or 18th) school, my gut tells me it will be Houston. I’m not totally sold on Houston either, but I point them out because: 1) Pretty much every argument I have heard in favor of adding UCF more-or-less applies to Houston as well; 2) Except for the fact that Houston’s basketball program has SOME legitimate history (although its very remote at this point); 3) Everyone seems to forget USF is dead-set against inviting UCF. USF may only have one vote in the matter, but hasn’t the ‘Nova debacle taught us anything? Right now, somewhere, someone from USF is having shady back-room dealings to work out an arrangement that would keep UCF off the proverbial table. Say, for example, “We promise to vote against _______, if you promise to block UCF…”

Comment by Chuck 04.14.11 @ 11:44 am

Houston does make plenty of sense to me. If expansion is about money and TV’s, go West young man. And yes Dan, chuckle away. The sooner this conference splits with the basketball schools, the better off Pitt will be.

Comment by TX Panther 04.14.11 @ 12:02 pm

I live in Texas, and I honestly don’t see Houston as being close to UCF in a few different departments. In theory, they’re a natural rival for TCU. But the distance between the two is about 5 hours. It’s hardly a backyard rivalry, the way UCF/USF would be.
Their size is quite a bit smaller than UCF’s, and they don’t have nearly the stadium. There are plans to tear down their current, 32,000 seat stadium. But in most cases, they can’t even fill 32,000 seats.
Frankly, I don’t see how UH is better in the money or tv department. They woudln’t deliver the Houston market much better than Nova would deliver the Philly market. They’re often called “Cougar High” for a reason.
Not only are they inferior at the moment to UCF in football, but I don’t think they have nearly as much room to grow either.
Anyway, if we ever did split and get to 12, they’d still be at the top of my list to get there, despite all this. I’d just put them below UCF when getting to 10.

Comment by Lollard 04.14.11 @ 12:22 pm

I agree with you. Add CFU first if the objective is to go to 10, but also understand any new school added won’t be delivering the market unless its Missouri or Kansas. Personally, I’d ask those two schools before others and expand all the way to 16. The way I see it, Houston is a travel partner for TCU. Plus, it could open up the fertile recruiting state of Texas even more much like what CFU could do with Florida. This is the beginning of the end for the Big East as we know it. It will implode from within.

Comment by TX Panther 04.14.11 @ 12:48 pm

There are a ton of Big East Alumni in southern Florida who would love to go to UCF to catch a game.
UCF is a highly respected school in Florida and I think they would make a fine addition.

Comment by Palm Beach Panther 04.14.11 @ 12:55 pm

Perhaps you’ve not been to Heinz Field lately. 38,000 is also known as “Pitt numbers”.

Comment by JTC 04.14.11 @ 1:02 pm

I was thinking the same thing, JTC.

Comment by Jeff 04.14.11 @ 2:57 pm

Tx Panther, my chuckles are sarcastic, I actually love talking about expansion and re-alignment, the past couple of times I brought it up, lets just say, I felt a couple comments were directed my way about bringing it up!!! LOL

I have learned one thing about expansion/re-alignment the past couple of years. It never goes the way I hope or want, that is why, I think the league (it is a league, not a real conference), and it’s leadership will muck it up again.

My wishes over the past two years,

1. Pitt, Notre Dame, Missouri to the Big Ten
2. Pitt in any way to the Big Ten
3. Pitt, Syracuse, UCONN, WVU to the ACC
4. Pitt in any way to the ACC
5. Big East goes to 12 or 14 to finally have a real conference.
a. TCU, UCF and Houston on board, and a split.
b. Same as above with possibly some Big 12 teams, KU, K-ST, Missouri etc. etc.
c. Army, Navy, added.
d. Have a championship game, possibly even in New York City, Yankee Stadium around Christmas, would add some excitement and get a buzz going.

What I’ve finally realized?? It’ll pretty much just stay the same mish-mash mess it’s been for the last 30 years. TCU was a nice add, other than that, it will just stay some sort of hodge-podge conglomerate of different wants and needs.

Just enjoy Pitt football and basketball for what they are, and don’t vision Pitt ever being part of a solid, sustaining group of universities in a conference in the real sense of the word. i.e. Big Ten, Pac 12, ACC etc. etc.

Comment by Dan 04.14.11 @ 3:55 pm

I say bring em all in. Top priority is UCF. Kids get another trip to FLA which helps recruiting. Fans get to go to Disney, never a bad thing. I was in Orlando in December. Their fans love the idea. This is a no brainer. They will get better every year and this will help the Big East more than any other possibility. (realistic) Penn State, Notre Dame aren’t coming.

I also like Houston, if we have one in Texas why not two, again recruits get to go home twice as often and it opens another TV market. Temple could come back but it has to include BBall. Villanova adds little. Either an easy win or another very disturbing loss. No hype no viewership no nothing.

With more BBall teams make two divisions, a title game and a tournament. One more possible banner and trophy for the case.

One more thought, make a play for BC, they have disappeared and are irrelevant in the ACC, bring them back where they belong.

Comment by gc 04.14.11 @ 4:13 pm

I have realized myself that an invite from the Big 10 or the ACC ain’t ever going to happen so the best thing for the Big East is to be the hunter and not the hunted. Break apart from the basketball only schools, expand your footprint in new markets and go straight to 16 teams. A football first conference with the following teams would be solid:
East Division – UConn, Rutgirls, Cuse, Pitt, Hoopies, SFla, CFla, ECU
West Division – TCU, Kansas, K-State, Missouri, Louisville, Houston, Memphis or SMU, Cincy

Screw BC. BC lied and stabbed the Big East in the back. Sorry Temple you had your chance. Nova – you want some cheese to go with that whine. I’d ask Va Tech back but its a packaged deal with Virginia and they’d never bolt the ACC. Maryland will probably go to the Big 10 if asked. And, if the Big 10 wants Rutgirls for the New York market, they can have her…that dirty whore.

I have no idea what you’d call this mega conference from the Plains to the Atlantic, but I would think this new conference would be at least as attractive as the Big 10 or ACC and would be a major upgrade over the Big Least.

I still have hope.

Comment by TX Panther 04.14.11 @ 5:21 pm

the only advantagetwo advantages when giving Nova their open invite a while back was that it added some security in case of a defection and it would not add another basketball team to what is too extensive of a league as it is.

But that was before TCU? Now, I canot honestly think of any advantage of bringing in Nova in lieu of UCF for all of the reasons listed in Chas’ post plus now tht we have 17 teams, we may as well get an 18th.

UCF may only averaged 38,000 but that is still 20,000 more than what Nova would average. Plus, I assume BE teams would draw a bit more than CUSA teams.

Comment by wbb 04.14.11 @ 6:42 pm

I personally wish the ACC would come calling…Pitt, Syracuse, USF and UCONN. Won’t happen but would be fun.

Classic Big East Division:

VA Tech
and then UVA or MD

Classic ACC Division:

Wake Forrest
Florida St
NC St.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 04.14.11 @ 6:59 pm

The attendance at UCF last year was 41k not 38k, and I just read that UCF is expanding their stadium to 60k. They have over 10k alumni getting pumped out of there every year. I have a sad feeling that one day we will look back and think we really screwed this up…….think ‘Nova.

Comment by Kevin 04.14.11 @ 7:53 pm

Kevin, the UCF home football game attendance averaged 39,376 last year. Perhaps your 41K number figured in away games? Doesn’t really make sense to figure those in when considering fan support… too much of the number depends upon the other team’s fans.

Comment by UCF93 04.14.11 @ 11:47 pm

Ucf does nothing without Houston for a champ game. We dont need any more mediocre teams to add for bball. Only TCU makes an impact. Go to 12 and 19 or stay at 9/10 and 17

Comment by Tony C 04.15.11 @ 12:09 am

For all the reasons you list and more Chas and this:

“Unless there is concrete evidence and the money on the table showing that UCF adds immediate value, there is no compelling reason to add them to the Big East right now.”

Substitute Villanova in this sentence, it’s more a than perfect fit.

Comment by melvinbennett 04.15.11 @ 6:40 am

Worried about bball??? Dump DePaul and Seton Hall and bring in UCF and Houston.

Comment by BCPITT 04.15.11 @ 6:41 am

Also I agree with the above on attendance…whether it is 38K or 41K or even 30K….@ PPL stadium where Nova wants to play, the max capacity is under 20K, and it is completely up to the soccer team in Chester whether they want to expand or not.

Comment by BCPITT 04.15.11 @ 6:54 am

The smart move would be to add Houston University.
Houston as some might know is the 4rth largest city in America, some 500,000 larger than Philly. The Houston Cougars do have a basketball tradition (Phi Slamma Jamma) and do have a football tradition (the Bill Yeoman years they were one the best team in the old SWC and represented the SWC in the Cotton Bowl several times). Under Yeoman, UH finished the season ranked in the Top 10 four times and in the Top 20, ten times. They’ve also produced some of the most prolific QB’s in NCAA history such as Andre Ware(Heisman Trophy winner), David Klingler and more recently Kevin Kolb and run a very exciting offense, now with Case Keenum and were nationaly ranked most of 2009. Under new coach Kevin Sumlin (who I believe Pitt would have liked) UH is 18-9 since he took over in 2008. Clearly a team back on the rise that has had a great tradition. When Pitt was #1 in 1976, Houston was #4, so they are in some respects similar to Pitt. Something UCF & Nova do not. They would also be a perfect stable mate for TCU.
This should be a no brainer. Maybe Marinatto wil get a brain transplant.

Comment by melvinbennett 04.15.11 @ 7:11 am

Oh and UH has actually finished 1rst or tied for 1rst in C-USA 3 of the last 5 years. Something UCF or Tulsa (TG) didn’t do. UH probably would have won C-USA in 2010 had Case Keenum not been hurt very early in the season, but he will be back in 2011 and UH is the odds on favorite to win C-USA again.

Comment by melvinbennett 04.15.11 @ 7:30 am

Regarding Lollard’s comment, I attended four of Houston’s home games last season. The Cougars had a couple of sell-outs. Yes, the stadium is small but it’s on campus. The new stadium will also be on campus. Texas and Houston have a similar relationship to the one Pitt & Penn State have. Keep in mind the only BCS market in the state has been the Big 12. With TCU in the BCS Big East, Houston, if invited, would enjoy an immediate step up. If the Cougar’ basketball program could find its footing, it would eclipse Texas’ influence and guarantee sell-outs for Big East home games at Hoffeinz Pavilion – which, by the way, is being remodeled. Villanova is making noises about the ACC being interested in them (VU Hoops in the comments but I think a few of those guys having been smoking Dro). Yes, Villanova has been in the league a year longer than Pitt etc., but Temple football is way ahead of Villanova and Temple basketball makes the NCAA tournament annually. They could step right in if Villanova leaves. How can you find negatives in expansion plans that include Florida & Texas?

Comment by TonyinHouston 04.15.11 @ 1:35 pm

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