UCF AD: Knights can 'elevate' Big 12 if invited to join conference

ByJake Trotter ESPN logo
Wednesday, July 27, 2016

As the Big 12 continues to mull its expansion options, University of Central Florida athletic director Danny White touted UCF's potential and said his school would "elevate" the Big 12, should the Knights receive an invitation.

"We check every single box," White told ESPN.com in a phone interview Wednesday. "It's inevitable that UCF will be a top 25, even top 10 athletic department. Of the Group of 5 athletic departments, our place has been at the pole position for some time. When you consider the future, it's not even close.

"We can build a monster here."

Last week, the Big 12 announced it had authorized commissioner Bob Bowlsby to begin negotiating with expansion candidates, and the following morning, UCF president John Hitt told the Orlando Sentinel the Knights "ought to be considered very seriously."

"There ought to be a home for us in the Big 12," Hitt said. "Whether there will be or not, we'll see. But we're going to do everything we can to be sure people make whatever decision they make based on good information."

White hinted UCF's location and the resources at its disposal, which includes the largest undergraduate enrollment in the country, would be a big part of the school's Big 12 information pitch.

"Being in the most fertile recruiting territory in the country is an enormous asset for us," White said. "Orlando is also the largest city in America without an NFL team.

"We think our market on the college athletics stage is as good as any in the country."

The Knights, now a member of the American Athletic Conference, have only been competing at the FBS level since 1996. UCF went 0-12 last year, which prompted coach George O'Leary to resign. But in 2013, the Knights enjoyed a breakout season, when behind quarterback Blake Bortles, they went 12-1 and defeated Big 12 champ Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl.

"This place has every competitive advantage you could think of," said White, who hired former Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost to take over for O'Leary. "We have so many assets."

UCF is only an hour's drive away from its primary rival and fellow Big 12 expansion candidate, the University of South Florida, located in Tampa.

White said he'd prefer to remain in the same conference as USF if possible, but that there's been no "formal partnership" to pitch the Big 12 as an expansion tandem.

"We love our rivalry with USF," White said. "But we're just focused on building up UCF. ... with all the potential we have here."