With the 2023-24 athletic calendar only a few months away, it’s almost time to officially welcome four new members to the Big 12. BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF are the newest additions to the conference, with all of them having legitimate reasons to believe they add to the Big 12’s overall product.
Here’s a look at some of what UCF will bring to the table in the new-era Big 12:
Strong Football Program
UCF has established itself as a national brand in football, and you have to look no further than the win totals to verify that. They’ve posted nine-win seasons in five of the last six years, have a pair of New Year’s Six and BCS bowl victories over the last decade, have produced NFL-level talent and a number of All-American type players, and are consistently among the best at recruiting at the G5 level. The Knights are coming off a 9-5 season where they appeared in the AAC championship game in year two of the Gus Malzhan era, and even with some flaws on the roster, they seem primed to be in the middle echelon of the Big 12 on the gridiron from day one, with the potential to eventually grow into a yearly contender.
The rest of the athletic department could use some work, with UCF Basketball struggling over the last three years and the Olympic sports being mediocre (although softball and volleyball were fantastic last year), but the success for the Knights on the football field should add to an already strong group of teams within the conference.
Expanded Media Market
Regardless of what you think about UCF’s athletic success over the last decade, there’s little doubt that bringing a city like Orlando into the conference scope will help on the business side of things. Conference purists will point to the geographical distance as an issue, but bringing in the Knights is still nowhere near as bad from that perspective as the Big Ten bringing in the LA schools. Sports is a business at the end of the day, and having direct ties to a market with over two million people in it’s metro population will help significantly. Add in another possible host city for various Big 12 events, as well as the recruiting benefits that come with having a guaranteed game in Florida every couple of years for most sports, and there’s a lot of value to bringing in the Knights due to their location.
UCF has been a hot topic on Twitter over the last few days and not necessarily in a good way, but even with their hilarious beef with Cyclone Larry, there’s a heavy contingent of Knight fans that show up in waves on the bird app. That translates to their actual athletic environment, as they’ve made FBC Mortgage Stadium (or The Bounce House) one of the more feared environments at the Group of 5 level. With an undergraduate enrollment of over 60,000 and one of the largest university networks in the nation, there is no shortage of UCF alumni and rabid students out there. They might do a great job of ticking off every single other fanbase in the conference in a matter of days on Twitter, but honestly, that’s impressive in its own right and indicative of the sheer presence they carry. UCF has built a brand that is unrivaled at the G5 level (not counting BYU), and even for Big 12 standards, its social media presence and brand recognition are impressive.
Why are you excited about UCF joining the conference? Let us know in the comments below!