UCF coach: 'Everything in place' for Big East move
Central Florida coach George O'Leary said Tuesday that he's hearing from friends around college football with no ties to UCF that ''everything's in place'' for the Knights to soon be invited to join the Big East Conference.
O'Leary declined to identify his friends, but said he's been kept in the loop by UCF officials. However, the coach said he had no idea as of early Tuesday afternoon if UCF had been extended an official invitation from the Big East.
''I would think that just looking from a numbers count, we'd be on the lips of a lot of people obviously,'' O'Leary said. ''I would hope that they strongly consider us. I would think it would help them as much as it's gonna help us.
''...Just the people I've spoken with, no UCF but the people from the outside - everything's in place. It's a matter of putting the gavel down and making a decision.''
In an e-mail to The Associated Press, UCF spokesman Grant Heston wrote that there was ''nothing new to report from UCF,'' adding that ''the university continues to work for the best possible outcome for the Knights.'' He declined to say if that meant the school had not been contacted by the Big East.
Big East schools gave a go-ahead Monday for the conference to expand to as many as 12 teams for football, a move that could involve adding six members.
UCF officials have said moving to any conference would require an all-sports invitation.
The Big East has lost some longtime members during the ongoing conference shuffle. Monday's move by the school presidents and chancellors is its first formal attempt to make up for its losses.
Syracuse and Pittsburgh started the exodus by deciding to leave for the Atlantic Coast Conference. The governor of Connecticut has said UConn also is interested in the ACC, and there have been reports that Rutgers, too, could leave the Big East.
The league thought it had strengthened its football status by adding Texas Christian. But TCU reversed course and accepted an invitation to join the Big 12.
O'Leary said that he isn't worried about moving to the Big East and it possibly losing its BCS automatic bid when contracts expire.
''You hope the administration has done due diligence as far as their homework regarding all that and I'm sure they will,'' he said. ''But I'm given a schedule and I play the schedule that's given and we go from there.''
Asked if he would like a college football setup controlled by a few super conferences O'Leary, who coached in the ACC at Georgia Tech for eight seasons, said he's always been more in favor of playing regionally.
''That's what football is built on is regional play,'' he said. ''Everybody looks, when you bring in teams from 6 or 7 states away it may be great for TV and all that, but it really hurts players' families (and) the fan base. The popularity of football came because of regional play and rivalries and all that. You may have one rival, but you have people who you play four or five years in a row. That becomes a mini-rival type of game.''
He said that a super conference system would be a threat to that, though he said he realizes that in a tough economy that the ability for schools to be able to rely on guaranteed money from television contracts is a big draw for many decision makers.
Still, O'Leary said he wonders who will be left out if there are just a handful of conferences.
''They have an avenue right now between bowl games and between the BCS games themselves to get the best teams playing each other,'' O'Leary said. ''I think the major conferences are gonna eliminate a lot of the other teams, which I don't want to see happen.''