Let's give credit to the parties involved who finally made a Florida-UCF series happen
Golf clap, all around.
Florida and UCF are finally going to battle on the football field, and not just on Twitter. New UCF athletic director Terry Mohajir and Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin deserve a round of applause for making something happen that should’ve been in the works 3 years ago. Kudos to Gus Malzahn for stepping into a new job and declaring that he’ll play anyone, even if it meant playing in a parking lot.
As entertaining as it would be to watch Florida and UCF duke it out on some American asphalt, they’ll instead play in each other’s home stadiums, just as the college football gods intended.
The 2-for-1 series agreement between the 2 programs is for games in Gainesville in 2024 and 2033 with a game on UCF’s campus in the Bounce House in 2030. Assuming we’re all still here in the 2030s and the robots haven’t taken over, what an epic showdown that’ll be in the Sunshine State. Who knows where either program will be. Who cares?
What we should care about is that the powers that be did something that once looked like it would never happen.
It took former UCF athletic director Danny White, who famously declared that UCF would only seek a home-and-home with the in-state Gators, leaving for Tennessee to finally make this message board fantasy a reality.
No golf clap for you, Mr. White.
While you earned the respect of your fanbase by trying to stand your ground, you ultimately didn’t get anything done because you didn’t understand the power dynamics like Stricklin and Mohajir. You, Mr. White, believed that 2 seasons of national relevance put you on the same level as Florida. As impressive as those seasons were, that’s just not the way big-time college athletics works.
Go back and read some of the comments to this tweet:
AD Danny White said no one from Power Five conferences will play UCF.
Florida AD Scott Stricklin said he’d like to discuss a 2 (at home) for 1 (on the road) deal.
White says UCF deserves better than that. He wants home and home.
— Tony Barnhart (@MrCFB) December 8, 2018
Anyone could’ve seen why Stricklin turned that down. Where was the upside for Florida? The Gators weren’t the ones trying to show the world they were better than UCF. Three national championship rings in the last 25 years — titles that were acknowledged by the NCAA — did Stricklin’s work for him. UCF didn’t even sell out its season ticket allotment until 2019. When UCF and USF faced off in the epic 2017 chapter of “The War on I-4,” it was the first sell out crowd at the Bounce House in 4 years.
It wasn’t “running scared” for Florida to turn down a home-and-home with UCF. It was sticking by its universal scheduling strategy. Florida doesn’t do home-and-homes with any Group of 5 team, so why break that rule with the in-state Group of 5 team with a ton to gain off that?
Stricklin looks like the real winner in all of this because he stuck to his word. If UCF had Mohajir and Malzahn repeatedly saying they were in for a 2-for-1, then it would’ve been a weak look on Stricklin’s part to not make it happen.
With this 2-for-1, the upside is there for Florida. The Gators get the chance to silence UCF for the decade if they can take care of business in The Swamp in 2024 (Florida is set to play UCF, Florida State AND Miami that year). UCF can put all the billboards in Gainesville they want. It’s still a football-crazed state that understands real battles are decided on the gridiron.
It’s probably wishful thinking to assume we know where both programs will be in 2024. Perhaps by then, we’ll be talking about a game with major implications for the 12-team Playoff. By 2030, there’s a chance that Florida could have already played at UCF in the event that the Knights host a Playoff game in the Round of 12. If you think that’s impossible, perhaps you’re forgetting that last year, the 12-team field would’ve put Georgia in a matchup at Cincinnati.
But it’s a win for the rest of us that Florida and UCF didn’t assume that matchup would present itself. White might’ve assumed that Florida would eventually cave and agree to a home-and-home, though that was ambitious at best with how much nonconference scheduling Stricklin did in a 2-year stretch.
In a weird way, it’s Tennessee who got the ball rolling for this to finally happen. By poaching White from UCF, it allowed for someone with an outside perspective like Mohajir to step in and capitalize on this opportunity instead of just talking about the injustice of the system.
“It’s a precedent I don’t like being set in our conference for schools to start doing a much higher volume of two-for-ones,” White said. “As a conference, we’ve been successful historically getting home-and-homes with Power Six opponents. I’d like to see our conference peers continue to do that as we have done.”
He left out the part where not all Power 5 programs are created equal. Or as White said, “Power Six.” Florida isn’t Stanford or Pitt.
Oh, in case you were wondering, White has yet to agree to a home-and-home with a Group of 5 team at Tennessee. It’s not like White reached out out to in-state Memphis, who played in a New Year’s 6 Bowl even more recently than UCF, in hopes that it could set up a home-and-home with the Vols.
If you’re an upset UCF fan who thought your program was bullied, think again. Your program got what it wanted. Florida is coming to Orlando, and it’ll be playing on your team’s campus instead of Camping World Stadium. That’s a big deal. It’ll be an incredible atmosphere that’ll bring national attention to the Bounce House.
If you’re an upset Florida fan who thought your team stooped too low by agreeing to play in a Group of 5 venue, also think again. Your program got what it wanted. It got 2 chances to host UCF and cash in the benefits of what should be 2 sellout crowds for Group of 5 home games. Win in The Swamp in 2024 and even the most vocal UCF fans won’t have anything new to argue about until 2030.
This is a win all around. As a whole, college football lacked creative scheduling in the 2010s. It appears now, we’re finally getting it.
A tip of the cap to Stricklin and Mojahir for putting egos aside and making this sport a little bit better.