Recently, the Big East announced that it wishes to add six football teams to its conference, bringing the conference up to twelve participating football teams. Several schools have been touted as being sought after by the Big East for this purpose, including the University of Central Florida. When looking at the business aspects of this move, it’s clear why the Big East has its eyes on UCF.
Arguably one of the biggest factors the Big East is concerned with when extending invitations to universities to join the conference, is that it maintains its BCS Automatic Qualifier status. UCF is poised to assist the Big East in accomplishing this.
Last season, the UCF Knights finished ranked 25th in the BCS standings. Although this season the Knights only have a 3-3 record, their success last season arguably depicts that they are a football team to contend with and someone who will help the Big East maintain its BCS AQ status.
While the Big East has formerly been known as a basketball powerhouse conference, the fact that the conference is specifically seeking out institutions to create a 12-team football conference depicts a shift in its sport of choice.
UCF boasts football revenue that is on par with other Big East schools. The following depicts conference and institution football revenue for the fiscal period between July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010:
Big East: $18.8M
UCF’s football revenue during this time period was greater than other Big East school’s, including UConn, whose football revenue was $14,400,371.00. Additionally, another school the Big East reportedly has its eyes on–the University of Houston–only had football revenue of $7,719,733.00 during the period.
Thus, UCF’s football revenue puts it on par with other schools presently in the Big East and those set to join the conference.
As noted above, the Big East has been known for some time as one of the biggest basketball contenders in the NCAA tournament. The Big East Tournament hosted at Madison Square Garden has always drawn a loyal basketball-loving crowd. With the defecting by Syracuse and Pitt to the ACC, the Big East arguably loses some of its basketball prowess. However, the conference remains a basketball talent hotbed, as teams such as UConn, Georgetown, Louisville and Marquette continue to be conference members.
While UCF isn’t on the same level in terms of basketball talent as these schools, it will likely be able to compete. The Knights made the NCAA tournament in 2005.
Additionally, during the 2009-10 fiscal year, UCF’s men’s basketball team actually turned a profit. As seen here, this is not something that every basketball team accomplishes. The fact that UCF turns a profit in men’s basketball is arguably attractive to the Big East, as it was the only conference to make more money from March Madness than the BCS during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 fiscal years.
UCF’s facilities are set for the big stage.
The Knights’ football team competes in the Bright House Networks Stadium, which is the nation’s newest college football stadium. The stadium is a 24-acre, 45,301 seat state-of-the-art facility. The stadium was built as part of a $60 million construction project, which also included building practice fields for the Knights’ football, soccer and baseball teams.
The Knights’ basketball team also is sitting pretty in terms of its facility. Basketball games tip-off in the UCF Arena, which opened its doors in the 2007-08 season. This arena can seat 10,000 fans.
Orlando is a huge market that the Big East would be smart to tap into.
While Orlando has the third-largest media market in Florida (behind Tampa and Miami), it is still the 19th-largest in the United States.
Additionally, in terms of licensing opportunities and merchandise sales, UCF is a great target. The school is the second-largest in terms of enrollment, after Arizona State University. In 2009-10, UCF received $3.3 million in revenue from licensing, royalties, advertising and sponsorship. This number surpassed that earned by other schools in its current conference, including UAB, East Carolina and Memphis, by up to $2 million.
All in all, numerous factors make UCF a very favorable candidate for Big East expansion.