Big East Conference athletic directors are in Newport for the football media events but don’t expect any decisions on conference expansion. They defer to the college presidents on such matters.
That doesn’t prevent people from rehashing the complexities of expansion and the pros and cons of expansion candidates, primarily the University of Central Florida and East Carolina University.
Jim Weber, over at Lost Letterman, goes on the record in favor of UCF, citing as one factor the presence of George O’Leary as head coach:
“He’s literally built the UCF program from the ground up and, between the fact he’s about to turn 65 and the stigma still attached to his name from lying on his resume, this is almost certainly his final head coaching job. While he might not be on the UCF sidelines a decade from now, I do believe he will have built the program to a point it can land another quality coach when he retires.”
Weber also suggests that the school’s location in Orlando, Fla., a hotbed for college football fanaticism, as a major reason UCF is the logical choice, suggesting that the leftover recruits from Florida, Florida State and Miami (no mention of South Florida) would be enough to ensure that UCF would be competitive in the Big East.
Weber’s arguments are not convincing.
O’Leary does not quite fit the image of a coach destined to lead any football program to greatness. Having been turned away from Notre Dame in 2001 after padding his resume, O’Leary wound up at UCF in 2004. He’s currently in the midst of a wrongful death lawsuit and his recruitment of Damarcus Smith from Louisville was highly controversial. And let’s face it, at the age of 65, his career as a college football coach may be limited. Howard Schnellenberger he is not.
Plus, if the best argument for UCF is that it’s the fourth or fifth best college football program in Florida, that’s not much of a recommendation. UCF is already having problems filling its 45,000-seat stadium and Florida fans aren’t going to be switching their allegiances anytime soon.
On the other hand, East Carolina is filling its 50,000-seat stadium on a regular basis and could easily fill a 60,000-seat stadium with a Big East affiliation. Apparently this area of North Carolina is almost more fanatical about football than the rest of the state is about basketball.
The argument against ECU is that it’s all about the size of the TV market. That and the lack of a metropolitan market and other big time attractions are the only things that are keeping the Big East from embracing East Carolina. The conference is afraid to take the risk, and that’s unfortunate for ECU and the Big East.
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