UCF football’s announcement last week that they’d agreed to a home-and-home series with Stanford of the Pac-12 drew modest interest from college football fans. UCF coach George O’Leary didn’t appear to be too excited about it either at his weekly press conference earlier this week at Bright House Networks Stadium.
O’Leary was asked Monday if the new agreement, which sends UCF to California in 2015 and Stanford to Florida in 2019, might mean the Knights have plans to expand recruiting coverage to the West coast.
“No. I don’t see us recruiting more on the West,” he said with a tone that matched his disinterest in the topic. “It’s obviously a great opponent, [but] I’d much rather see us get opportunities to play teams that have some relative to recruiting for us. There’s a lot of teams from the Midwest, to the East, to the South that would be great opponents.”
But O’Leary’s never been blind to the fact that mid-major’s such as UCF are in no position to avoid these types of match-ups, even if they do make for a grueling road trip for both players and fan base.
“With the current trend, the way the power [conferences] and playoffs and all that stuff is going, you need to schedule a good schedule, and then do well against the people you play,” O”Leary said.
“Otherwise, don’t be talking at the end of the year if you don’t play anybody,” he said. “All these teams that are playing a lot of weak sisters early, those aren’t games. I won’t vote for those people, if I get a vote. If you want to get my vote you better play somebody, and I think that’s what should get done.”
Why this deal works for UCF is that Stanford is scheduled to return the home game, at least for now. UCF has had trouble over much of the past 10 years with scheduling opponents from power conferences because, O’Leary says, most schools are only interested in having the Knights play at their place.
He’s made it known in year’s past that the program is no longer interested in having those discussions. And although UCF is open to playing any and all competitors, filling those holes on the schedule have not been easy to do.
“I’ve always tried to schedule a great non-conference schedule, if we can,” O’Leary said. “I’ve always thought you get better as a football team because of that, and we’re always going to try and do that and play up if we can.”
UCF’s athletic department noted that dating back to the opening of the program’s on-campus stadium in 2007, that the Knights have hosted three teams from the ACC (Miami, NC State, Boston College), two from the SEC (South Carolina, Missouri) and one from the Big 12 (Texas).
UCF opened the 2014 season as hosts against Penn State of the Big Ten in Dublin, Ireland and will also host BYU this year. Next season South Carolina will visit Orlando, but the Knights are still in need of another home opponent. UCF hopes to avoid scheduling teams from the Football Championship Subdivision, as they had to do this year with Bethune-Cookman.
O’Leary said David Hansen, senior associate athletic director for internal operations, has made a number of calls to schools with openings on their schedule for next season, but that they “chose somebody else.”
“I’d much rather have that problem than the problem that everybody wants to play you,” he said with a grin.