College football realignment could pay off big for UCF, Orlando

Spectrum Stadium, also known as The Bounce House, opened in 2007 and is home to the UCF Knights Football team [Courtesy: Casey Kennedy/FOX 35 News]

There is nothing quite like the buzz in the air on a college game day. That feeling is only amplified when the game on the field means a little something more. 

With talks of the University of Central Florida possibly joining a Power Five conference, the Bounce House will be ready to come alive.  The Power Five conferences are considered to be the "elite' in college football and include the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference, Pac-12 Conference, and Southeastern Conference (SEC).

"It’s very exciting times," said UCF Alumni and Super Bowl champion Darcy Johnson. 

"This is a big event town and we want big events," said Orlando Sentinel sports columnist Mike Bianci.

It could come to fruition as UCF has a shot at joining a conference such as Big 12. That conference recently lost the University of Texas and Oklahoma University to the SEC, making UCF an attractive candidate to help fill the void. 

"Orlando is ripe for big-time football," Bianci added.

A move to the Big 12 would mean better competition, bigger draws, and millions of dollars. Even doubling TV revenues before ever playing a down. 

"That’s a big deal for UCF’s athletic budget," said Bianci. "That would pay for a lot of women’s volleyball trips."

RELATED: SEC votes 14-0 to invite Texas, Oklahoma to join conference

A 2019 Forbes report of college football’s richest teams shows former Big 12 schools like Texas and Oklahoma brought in $147 million and $129 million, respectively, in average revenue from 2015 to 2017. The University of Florida generated $117 million. Of course, with on-field success comes the possibility of even more. 

"In the SEC, you can get 10,000 fans traveling to a game, and you’re right, that does trickle into the economy," Bianci explained.

Johnson last played for the Knights in 2005 and he also played in their first-ever bowl game. Since then, he has watched the program grow into something special. Now, he is excited about the hopes of a Power Five membership to give the program the respect it deserves. 

"It will be mutually beneficial," said Johnson. "We are the up-and-coming new kids on the block."

He believes more exposure on a national level and success on the field will allow the program to create a legacy that reaches far beyond the gridiron. 

"This is family. This is for life. When your years are up it doesn’t mean that your time a Knight is up," said Johnson. 

There is still a lot of uncertainty in the college football landscape as conference realignment plays out. What is for sure is that UCF could be one of the players and the university as well, as the entire city of Orlando, could reap the benefits. 

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