State Colleges

UCF, USF hope to land in Big 12 if league expands

UCF players celebrate in the end zone after dropping FIU quarterback Alex McGough in the end zone in September. FIU beat the Knights 15-14.
UCF players celebrate in the end zone after dropping FIU quarterback Alex McGough in the end zone in September. FIU beat the Knights 15-14. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

As the Big 12 Conference looks at expanding by as many as four teams, UCF and USF hope to find a new home in a Power 5 conference.

The two Florida schools — which compete in the American Athletic Conference which doesn’t have an automatic tie-in to the major bowls — have stiff competition, especially if the Big 12 only expands by two.

If that’s the case, Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports writes Brigham Young and Connecticut have the inside track.

Dodd also puts Houston and Cincinnati ahead of the Knights as he ranks UCF fifth in the Big 12’s race, even as he notes new coach Scott Frost is “the hottest thing out of Orlando since the Backstreet Boys.”

Dodd writes Memphis, despite big money from FedEx backing a potential Tigers’ move, and USF are longshots.

UCF president John Hitt told the Orlando Sentinel that the Knights belong.

“We ought to be considered very seriously,” Hitt said Wednesday.

“There ought to be a home for us in the Big 12. Whether there will be or not, we’ll see. But we’re going to do everything we can to be sure people make whatever decision they make based on good information.”

There are plenty of financial reasons why UCF — as well as USF, UConn, Memphis, etc. — are clamoring to join the conference.

According to Dodd, a source said a school moving from the AAC to the Big 12 would see its “annual media rights revenue go from $1.6 million to $23 million.”

For the Big 12, which currently stands at 10 teams, adding a few more schools would allow it to hold a conference championship as the other four Power 5 conferences do.

Conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Monday that the Big 12 title game will return in 2017.

In 2014, the conference was locked out of the first playoff round as Baylor and TCU tied for the regular season title. Oklahoma won the Big 12 title last year and was picked to play in the first semifinal game held at the Capital One Orange Bowl.

The AP gives UCF a chance for its “enormous enrollment (60,767),” location in a recruiting hotspot and recent football success —last year’s 0-12 finish notwithstanding.

The Big 12 currently has 10 schools scattered among five states: Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Kansas and West Virginia.

George Richards: 305-376-4995, @GeorgeRichards

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