The Case for UCF to the Big East

Last Updated on June 5, 2014

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.

Automatic Qualifier

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.

Football Revenue

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:  $15,173,200.00

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.

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  • Jeffery Roy
    October 19, 2011

    Always a pleasure to see your posts. Forgive the non-PC term, but the Big East football maneuverings read like a Chinese fire drill. Increasing the exit fees are going to keep this tenement from burning down? Here in Houston, UH is still smarting from losing out its chance to join the Big 12 fifteen years late. Missing out on the chance to travel to Storrs every other year isn’t worth $10M if the conference loses its BCS slot. I thought Louisville was mentioned as Missouri’s stand in when they go SEC. It’s easier to identify the GOP presidential frontrunner than keep track of this realignment dance played out like musical chairs.

    In fact, Sam Khan Jr. published this today in the Houston Chronicle:

    Do you think the Coogs should stay put?

  • Alicia Jessop
    October 19, 2011

    Thanks for reading, Jeffrey. I’ll be digging a bit more into Houston’s case in the coming days. However, Kristi has definitely written a lot on the subject and seems to think UH is a good fit for a larger conference. Whether the Big East is the right fit is to be seen.

  • Warren Bruhn
    October 19, 2011

    Isn’t a lot of UCF’s revenue generated by student fees, to the tune of at least $5 million? I recall reading something about that, probably on this website in an article about Conference USA football income. But now I can’t find the article. I think it’s a shame that so much of the income is coming from student fees.

  • Jeffery Roy
    October 19, 2011

    Just read Louisville football coach Charlie Strong extended his pact to seven years at $2.3M/season. A second year coach with a 2-4 record following a 7-6 bowl win season gets what would have been the top salary in college football circa 2003. Does anyone out there recognize the systemic dysfunction this represents? This appears to be nothing more than an effort to maintain program stability while trying to attract the best suitor for a conference move.

  • Alicia Jessop
    October 19, 2011

    Yes, Warren. Student fees make up a huge percentage of UCF’s athletics budget–44% according to these posts on and

  • Warren Bruhn
    October 19, 2011

    Thanks for the links, Alicia.

  • superdestroyer
    October 20, 2011

    Central Florida is a large commuter school where the students grew up in Florida being Gator or Seminole fans but did not get admitted to those schools. Central Florida is a fit with the Big East because many of those schools such as Rutgers or Cincinnati have low alumni support and zero hangers-on.

    The college football landscape is divided into those schools that have hangers-on fans (Wal-Mart alumni) and those that do not. In the SEC all of the schools except Vanderbilt have hangers-on. In the Big Ten all of the schools except Northwestern (and maybe Minn and Indiana) have hangers-on. The Big 12 and the ACC are split between schools that have hangers-on and those that do not.

    Disucssions of media markets and television are pointless when discussing schools that do not have hangers-on. Orland is a Florida Gator market. The idea that Central Florida (or South Florida in Tampa) can compete with the winning Florida or Florida State programs is laughable.

    Central Florida would be better off giving up sports instead of wasting millions of student service fess trying to compete with schools that have Wal-Mart alumni.

  • Warren Bruhn
    October 20, 2011

    Universities are not going to give up sports. However, I think many would do well to give up football. I attended a university that once had a football team, California State Polytechnic University Pomona. But after some losing seasons, the university president had the guts and common sense to pull the plug and do away with college football. That sport is so expensive, and so dangerous, that it’s hard to comprehend why so many universities are devoted to it.

    Few things seem more embarrassing to me than to see a college football game with less than 25,000 fans in the stadium. If Central Florida can do better than that and get up to perhaps 35k to 40k fans in the stadium, then they might as well go for it.