Just because I’m not in Orlando doesn’t mean I’m not still paying attention!
For the new readers of the Inside The Mind Of Ditti blogs, this blog is dedicated to UCF Football. As a sports talk personality and online content provider in Orlando I was lucky enough to cover UCF sports and ingrain myself in the black and gold world.
I was fortunate enough to cover the incredible 2013 season, culminating in an epic Fiesta Bowl victory over Baylor…and unfortunate enough to finish my time in Orlando with the end of the O’Leary Era and an 0-12 2015.
Now, I am proud to consider myself a converted Knights fan and am excited to see what the next chapter of UCF athletics brings to my second home of Orlando, Florida.
Now that I’ve got that out of the way…let’s get down to business.
So much has happened since last I wrote about UCF Football. I had just attended the UCFastival and Spring Game and the Scott Frost era had officially begun with much pomp and circumstance. So let’s get right down to what I’ve missed.
Big XII Time?
After basically crushing all hopes of any kind of Big XII expansion early in 2016, Bob Bowlsby and friends seem to have changed their tune when they saw the ACC Network officially take form.
Now the Big XII stands alone and not in the way anybody wants to stand alone.
The Big XII has no network, no extra TV money and still no guarantee of their “one true champion” even with the return of a Big XII Championship game (which doesn’t even return until 2017).
If you recall, Mike Bianchi and I have been talking about the Big XII needing to look at UCF and possibly USF for a potential expansion for years. Suddenly this summer, the college football world took notice.
Yes, there are a TON of options when it comes to a Big XII expansion and no, the Knights are not on everybody’s short list…but I maintain the stance I took with the Bulldog a few years ago. UCF needs to be a part of the Big XII’s plans if the Big XII wants to do this the right way.
I personally feel like a 4-team expansion is the smartest way to go for the Big XII, including UCF and USF. I feel this way because if you combine the Orlando and Tampa TV markets, you bring the largest combined market in the country to the conference. TV money out the wazoo.
The other two, well that can go any direction Bowlsby and pals want. I only care about UCF.
So if the Big XII does finally wake up and get their heads out of their you-know-what…then UCF needs to be elevated to the Power-5 level. What will help their case the most is a great start to the Scott Frost era…which I genuinely think will happen.
O’Leary In Bronze
A new bit of news has dropped regarding the UCF program and I’m sure you all already know all about it.
George O’Leary will be immortalized with a statue.
I for one find this to be the very definition of buffoonery (tip of the cap to the Shot Doctor).
I spent the past few years constantly defending Coach O’Leary on air, on twitter and in person. I have nothing but the utmost respect for what GOL did for UCF (minus a certain controversy I don’t need to talk about) and think he deserves to be remembered as the man who laid the foundation for this program as it grows.
Some of you have told me that any coach could have done what O’Leary did at UCF.
That might be true…it also might not be. We can never truly know. What I do know however, is that George O’Leary did do what he did. He won conference championships, he won double-digit games multiple times and he took the Knights to unprecedented heights with a BCS Bowl victory.
He also took UCF to a level in which a young, up-and-coming head coach like Scott Frost wanted to take the helm after an 0-12 season.
Maybe others could have done that, but others didn’t…George O’Leary did.
All of this remains true and every bit of it is deserving of maybe a renaming of the field. I think George O’Leary Field at BrightHouse Network Stadium is very respectful and probably deserved.
A statue though?
I’m just not on board with this.
Show Up and Show Out
I’ve written this before and I meant it then…but now it’s more important than ever.
The Big XII has to see a fan base that’s hungry. A fan base that shows up (for kickoff) in numbers even after an 0-12 season. A fan base that won’t disappear at the first sign of adversity.
The fan base I KNOW that you can be.
I’ve seen what Orlando sports fans can do. We filled the Citrus Bowl for soccer. We filled BrightHouse Network Stadium for the UCF vs South Carolina game. We hosted an NBA All-Star game, the NBA Finals, the Copa America and the NCAA Tournament.
I would put the passion and loyalty of UCF fans up against almost any in the country in college football. Now it’s time for you to show it.
Show the cameras, show your new head coach, show the next crop of recruits and show the Big XII exactly what the Knightmare can and will be for the next chapter of UCF Athletics.
I wish I could be there for it all with you, but I promise that I’ll be watching from afar and I cannot wait to feel a sense of absolute pride when I see the “First Frost,” see you “Armored In Black,” and see you pull of “The Moat.”
I may be gone physically, but I’ll never be gone completely.
It was you who welcomed me in and made me a part of the fun…that is something I will never forget.
Here’s to turning the page to a new and incredible chapter of UCF Football.
Find me on Twitter (@Ditti33), Facebook (/ditti33) and Instagram (dittius33).