With college football roughly two months away, one piece of drama that will never die is conference realignment.
Thanks to recent conference realignment, the threat of teams switching conferences is always on the backburner of college presidents, conference commissioners, fans and teams alike. With the recent news of the Big 12 deciding to hold off against adding new teams such as Houston, BYU and Boise State, perhaps it is time for the Big ten to jump into the fray.
The B1G, who just added Maryland and Rutgers three years ago has successfully cornered the college football market from the greater Midwest all the way to the Atlantic thanks to Penn State and the aforementioned Rutgers and Maryland additions.
However, if they hope to further expand their brand and become ever more competitive, the Big Ten should look south and embrace a “Southern Strategy” in the hopes of remaining on a level playing field with its arch nemesis, the Southeastern Conference.
No other sport matters in the South than football. Period. End of story.
After being on family vacation in Orlando and seeing the passion that Southerners have for the pigskin, why should a Northern-based conference want to expand south, let alone what team would best fit for the Big Ten.
Answer. Central Florida.
While Memphis, East Carolina and Houston, seem like attractive options, I feel that Central Florida makes the most sense for a number of reasons. Not even three years removed from a BCS bowl win over Baylor in the Fiesta bowl, Central Florida is a program on the rise.
Below are my three reasons why UCF to the B1G makes perfect sense.
Competitive Program Ready to Compete In a Power Five Conference: It’s no secret that UCF wants to join a Power Five conference, as they were one of the finalists for Big 12 admission. Over the last five years, the Knights are 37-28 with a 2-2 record in bowl games, including a 52-42 victory over the Baylor Bears in the Fiesta Bowl.
Despite finishing the 2016 season with a 6-7 record, Central Florida has a lot of NFL-quality talent in a talent-rich state of Florida to choose from.
Chance To Establish Conference Brand Deep In SEC Country and Outside of Midwest: While the self-described kings of college football enjoy crowing about their constant success in winning bowl games and championships in football and basketball, nothing would gall an SEC fan or alum more than seeing their longtime foils from the Big Ten plant a flag right in their own backyard.
Adding a up-and-coming program like UCF would not only give the Big Ten a chance to tweak the SEC in having one of their teams 111.4 miles down the road from it’s nearest school in Gainesville, but it would also help the B1G establish a recruiting foothold deep in the heart of SEC country.
Think Cincinnati joining the SEC, see how quick Ohio State fans get triggered and riled up. Get my point now.
Ability To Better Recruit From Talent-Rich Florida: Imagine if you’re a Florida high school recruit on a recruiting trip to seeing a Knights game in primetime against Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State or Michigan State. Now just imagine after getting passed over by in-state programs such as Florida State, Florida and Miami (FL) and having new options such as playing for the likes of Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh or Mark D’Antonio.
As I said above, college football is KING in the South, and if you are a high school player from a talent-rich state such as Florida, it is your dream to play for the ‘Noles, Gators or ‘Canes. But what if you are passed over? What if you are a non Power Five school like UCF that has to often settle for the leftover FSU-Florida-Miami scraps?
Now just imagine if you’re head coach Scott Frost going into a potential recruit’s home in the affluent Orlando suburbs of Altamonte Springs, Oviedo, Winter Park or Lake Mary and sell them on the possibility of playing in front of a packed Spectrum Stadium of 45,000 screaming Knights fan clad in black and gold against the likes of college championship contenders such as Ohio State and Michigan with bi-annual trips to The Horseshoe, Big House and Happy Valley.
Going from the American Athletic Conference to the Big Ten, is a HUGE leap and big-time recruiting tool that Frost can sell at will.
For the B1G, who has been recruiting pretty well in the Sunshine State, most notably former Gators head coach and current Buckeye coach Urban Meyer, other Big Ten schools would be able to compete directly and immediately for recruits against Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Florida’s Jim McElwain and Miami’s Mark Richt.
A potential move to the Big Ten would be a win-win for both the B1G and UCF in terms of bolstering each other’s brand and expanding into new markets.