Is it time for the Big East to take UCF seriously?

This question is generating a lot of discussion in light of UCF's 10-6 victory over Georgia yesterday. Georgia is having a down season, but that is still a relatively impressive victory. With their football team finishing at 11-3, and UCF men's basketball at 13-0, their candidacy for Big East membership has never looked better. With Temple remaining a wild card, UCF certainly appears to be the best available candidate if the Big East were looking to add additional members.

Surely they are a better candidate than Villanova, which may not even be an option any longer with their administration so candid about how many obstacles would be in the way of such a move. Erstwhile Villanova advocates like Sean Keeley are switching sides, although Chas Rich is right to point out that it's not appropriate to go overboard with outlandish hyperbole just yet. Florida, like Texas, is indeed growing like gangbusters, although going overboard with that demographic reasoning is how the NFL saddled with a Jacksonville Jaguars franchise that has to tarp off part of the Gator Bowl's upper deck.

I'm still not necessarily convinced that further expansion makes sense though. UCF is 45-44 under George O'Leary, and he is already 64 years old. By the time that they could theoretically prove that they are the class of Conference USA and warrant Big East membership, O'Leary could be near retirement. In no way are they as close to a sure thing as TCU was (the Horned Frogs had a 97-27 record over the past decade). TCU brought instant football credibility when that was in short supply for the conference, and access to a major market. UCF, even at its apex, does not. That doesn't mean that they would be a bad addition, but as of now they would be too risky.

The media market thing is really a killer. Big East member schools need every dollar of conference revenue they can get, and there isn't any evidence right now that UCF would be an asset in that respect beyond creating more television inventory to sell (although they wouldn't be the Villanova-style sinkhole). There's no need for swift action now that the Big East has a ninth member to balance out schedules, and the next wave of conference reshuffling is probably far into the future. UCF would likely cannibalize existing Big East member USF, and severely hamper the other Big East football programs that heavily depend on recruiting Florida.

The best reason to strike while the iron is hot would be if the Big East conference is planning to split across football lines. The Villanova proposal was a half-measure designed to sustain an unwieldy and ultimately-unworkable mess. If it means jettisoning Providence, then great, the Big East should add UCF post-haste and start finally realizing its potential after decades of self-sabotage. Otherwise, there's plenty of time to wait and properly vet any potential additions. The Big East ought not to be back in this position five or ten years from now of trying to prop itself up by plucking the latest mid-major du jour.

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