UCF must be prepared to leave the AAC

Courtesy UCF Athletics Communications

The new wave of conference realignment is truly upon us. And that means it’s time for UCF to take advantage. The AAC has been a very nice home for the last nine years, but if the Big 12 looks to expand, the Knights have to join at all costs.

There are couple unfortunate realities that we have to confront here. First off, The Athletic has reported that the ACC, Big Ten and Pac 12 are in talks to form some sort of alliance to curb the SEC’s growing power since it swiped Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12.

This pretty much puts the nail in the coffin on the idea of the Big 12 remaining a power conference. Not ideal but also not unexpected.

And second, the Big 12 has gone out of its way to disrespect UCF in the past. Whether in 2016 when the conference essentially organized a pageant of G5 teams just to add no one, or in 2017 when commissioner Bob Bowlsby vehemently argued against the idea that UCF could be a playoff team, there are hurt feelings here.

But none of that changes that fact that, if the Big 12 calls, the Knights must go. It’s the only path forward and the only way to move up as realignment sweeps through the sport. The Big 12 has estimated that it will lose half of its TV money when Texas and Oklahoma leave. That means that the new Big 12 will distribute almost $19 million per year to its remaining members. And that’s assuming a split among 12 teams.

UCF receives just $7 million a year from the AAC. How can you turn down an opportunity that could potentially almost triple your TV revenue? And the benefits go beyond that.

All signs point towards an expanded 12-team playoff when the current contract expires in 2025. It’s absolutely critical that UCF put itself in the best position to be a regular factor in the postseason. The AAC is a much better conference than it’s ever been given credit for, but eight former P5 teams with two to four top tier G5 teams is going to be perceived as the more talented and respected conference.

And trust me, if UCF opts to stay in the AAC, that doesn’t mean everyone else will. Do we really want to live in a world where the Knights stay loyal to their conference as Houston, Cincinnati or even USF leap to a richer league? UCF must be an aggressor here, just as it has been in the past.

The Knights have always done whatever it takes to succeed when it comes to realignment. They jumped into a horrifically mismatched conference in the MAC in order to make it to bowls. Then they left for a shifting Conference USA that had recently been raided. And then they leapt into the crumbling Big East, gambling that the conference would find a way forward. And that gamble paid off, as the AAC turned into the best G5 conference by a mile.

In college football, you’re either moving forward or backward. There is no standing still. It’s time for UCF to gamble again. If the Big 12 expands, the Knights have to go.

About Christian Simmons 168 Articles
Christian Simmons is the founder and editor of Knight Sports Now. You can follow him on Twitter at @ByCASimmons.