Big East officials snubbed UCF forever and ever because they felt the Knights weren't worthy of their high-and-mighty conference. Now the Big East is scrambling to add schools like UCF in order to save its down-and-out league.
USF President Judy Genshaft and the remaining presidents of a league that is rapidly circling the drain are in extreme panic mode, doing everything possible to keep the Big East from becoming the Big Deceased. You have to wonder if it's too little, too late. Can this bumbling basketball league overcome its extreme lack of football vision and save itself from BCS vaporization?
The Big East announced earlier this week that it will try to expand to 12 members in football and reportedly has already contacted UCF about joining its meager ranks in the next few days. But in the league's current sorry state, the Knights must be feeling a little like Groucho Marx, who once said, "I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member!"
Is it just me or does joining the Big East right now seem sort of a like diving off your lifeboat, swimming across a mile of icy ocean and then climbing aboard the sinking Titanic?
Now that Conference USA has made it known that it would require UCF to pay an exorbitant $7 million exit fee if it leaves for the Big East, school president John Hitt has some tough decisions to make. Especially when you consider that Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky says the league could be close to merging with the Mountain West and acquiring an automatic-qualifying BCS bid of its own.
How hilarious would it be if the Big East folds and UCF then blocks USF from getting into the BCS-affiliated Conference USA/Mountain West?
The fact is, joining the Big East is no longer a no-brainer for cash-strapped UCF. In today's economic climate, UCF simply cannot afford to throw away $7 million to join a league that could easily lose its BCS status in the next year or two.
The sad part is that all of this might have been avoided if the Big East leadership had a clue about football. If only they had listened to their football schools months and years ago and tried expand during a time of strength instead of this time of desperation. UCF coach George O'Leary says the league is fading because it has allowed its basketball-only members to call the shots even though the league's football television contract makes most of the money.
O'Leary says he has studied the numbers and found that football "pays 73 percent of the bills" in the Big East. He believes that's why football-basketball combo schools like Pitt and Syracuse have already left and others such as West Virginia, Rutgers, UConn and Louisville would love to leave, too. The only reason USF doesn't have an exit strategy is because nobody wants them.
"I think that's why a lot of the (football) schools have departed because they're carrying the show and too many people with the round ball are making the decisions," O'Leary said a few days ago on his weekly radio show. "People think the Big East is a basketball conference, but it's driven by football money, which is why it's ridiculous for the football-basketball combo schools to put up with what's been going on."
Even with this lack of leadership and foresight, the Big East is probably still UCF's best option. But first President Hitt, Athletic Director Keith Tribble and the Board of Trustees must find the answer to a very serious question:
"Does it make financial sense for UCF to pay millions of dollars to get into a league that everybody else is paying millions of dollars to get out of?"
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