An opportunity like this doesn't come around very often but UCF has found a way to move up in the ranks very quickly. UCF competed as an independent in football from the inception of the program at the Division III level in 1979 until joining the MAC in 2002. The Golden Knights moved to Division II in 1982, Division I-AA in 1990, and its current status in Division I-A in 1996. UCF joined the A-Sun, known then as the Trans America Athletic Conference, in 1992 and has won five all-sports trophies for women, four all-sports trophies for men, and claimed 45 conference titles.
Conference USA chose UCF for the potential of its athletics program, desirability, and location. UCF joins SMU, Tulsa, Rice, and Marshall as the five new members to accept invitations to Conference USA.
"It's another milestone that we can put on our charts in the growth of UCF athletics," UCF Athletic Director Steve Orsini said. Or is it? Orsini had said that he was waiting for a decision from the Big East before letting the other conferences know about UCF's future plans. After hearing that the Big East's decision did not to include UCF, Orsini was waiting for a call from Conference USA. Luckily, they came calling, putting the final touches on a deal that will go in effect in 2005.
Orsini's decision does not only benefit those on the athletic field but everyone affiliated with UCF. "We looked for a good academic fit, and that was important to Dr. Hitt, faculty representative Dr. [Bill] Callarman and myself," Orsini said. For the fans," this is an opportunity for us to tighten our geography, group similar institutions together, create a divisional model, and possibly stage a football championship game," Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowski said on the conference website. For the student athletes, this is a time to develop new rivalries and to continue the ones we have, Orsini said, referring to Marshall who is transferring as well.
By joining Conference USA, UCF has committed to the development of their student athletes, athletic programs, facilities and competition at the highest levels, according to Dr. Shirley Raines, chair of Conference USA's Board of Directors.
UCF got to this point with the help of the two conferences they are affiliated with today, the MAC and Atlantic Sun. Steve Orsini sent his gratitude for their help, competition and relationships. "There are no negatives, only positives in this," Orsini said. "I'm glad this day has finally arrived."
That is easy for him to say. His lifetime goal was just accomplished by following the trend of every other athletic director in the country, by taking the money and run. You must give him some credit because he put UCF in this position solely on the fact that UCF has a lot of potential.
On Tuesday UCF made a good business move and proved it is looking out for itself in the long run. Conference USA has a multi-year TV agreement with ESPN that provides for extensive national coverage of football, men's basketball, and women's basketball, and has ties to the AXA Liberty Bowl, GMAC Bowl, Plains Capital Fort Worth Bowl, Sheraton Hawaii Bowl and New Orleans Bowl.