Dear, Big 12: It’s time to give USF and UCF a serious look

By Josh Fiallo, Sports Editor
On January 10, 2018

USF Football is 6-8 all time against all current Big 12 opponents, including a win over Texas Tech on Dec. 23 in the rimingham Bowl.THE ORACLE/CHAVELI GUZMAN

Consider the following, Big 12, the War on I-4 could be all yours.

 The epic game that captivated the nation on Black Friday, with UCF coming out on top 49-42, could have belonged to you. The eyes of the 4.642 million viewers who watched the game, which was more than both Texas versus Texas Tech and West Virginia versus Oklahoma, could’ve been fixated on two Big 12 teams — with the conference’s signature roman numeral “12” gleaming on every jersey. 

It can be yours. 

It should be yours.

Whenever you receive Florida Representative Robert Olszewski’s recommendation letter, dated Jan. 10, to add both UCF and USF to the conference, I hope you consider its contents seriously — for your sake.

“I am reaching out to ask that you please keep both the University of Central Florida (UCF) and the University of South Florida (USF) at the top of mind when your member institutions consider expansion in the Big 12 Conference,” Olszewski, who represents West Orange County, said in the letter. “More than ever during this college football season, we saw how important television ratings are to bowl games, the conferences and the College Football Playoff.”

Olszewski, who graduated from both UCF and USF, has a point.

 “With UCF and USF representing the greater Central Florida and Tampa Bay media markets,” Olszewski said. “Our annual “War on I-4” was one of the top television rated games this season en route to a 13 and 10-win season respectively for the UCF Knights and USF Bulls as well as both with top 25 final rankings.

"There is no question the passion and revenue their respective alumni bases across the country would bring to the Big 12 by having two conference members in Florida.”

The success, highlighted by UCF’s perfect 2017 season and two New Year’s Six bowl game wins, is there. Against current Big 12 opponents in bowl games, USF and UCF are a combined 2-0. In 2017, the two teams went a combined 4-0 against Power-5 conference foes.

 With the money, resources and appeal of being in a Power-5 conference, the schools, and indirectly, the Big 12 would be able to secure coveted Florida recruits that would typically go to SEC, ACC, PAC-12 or Big 10 programs.

 The media markets, Tampa/St. Petersburg/Sarasota (No. 11) and Orlando/Daytona Beach/Melbourne (No. 18) are far larger than those of Manhattan, Kansas (Kansas State) or Ames, Iowa (Iowa State). Even if attendance for both schools aren’t the same as a typical Texas, Oklahoma or Oklahoma State home game, the ability to extend the Big 12 brand and TV revenue should be enough to add the schools.

 Look at the Big Ten, for example. Maryland, Illinois and Rutgers football aren’t exactly selling out the house — or even coming close, for that matter. Does the Big 10 care? No, because they can say that they’re in the Champaign/Springfield/Decatur, New York/New Jersey and Baltimore/DC television markets.

 It’s a win-win for both the conference and schools. The Big 12 gets more exposure and extends its brand into the southeast. For USF and UCF, its programs and fans get the extra resources they both need and deserve.

 If Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby needs any help with the transition of adding the schools, there’s a certain Florida politician who’d love to help.

 “If there is anything that I can do to help facilitate any discussions for UCF and USF, or promote the greater Central Florida and Tampa Bay regions in our great state of Florida, please do not hesitate to reach out,” Olszewski said. “Thank you again Commissioner Bowlsby for your time, as I look forward to seeing you again soon.”

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