Let’s take a look at the UCF football and men’s basketball programs with the help of Orlando Sentinel reporter Iliana Limon.
City: Orlando, Fla.
Academic standing: No. 177 in U.S. News and World Report rankings of national universities
Football Academics: 79 percent graduation rate
Football history: Program started in 1979 and didn’t become Division I-A until 1996.
BCS Bowls: None.
Best season: 11-3 (7-1 in CUSA) to earn second league title, defeated Georgia 10-6 in Liberty Bowl
Best known for: UCF football has made national headlines for a multitude of reasons: In 1998, Daunte Culpepper set the NCAA record for single season completion percentage (73.4 percent)…In 2004, the Knights hired George O’Leary as head coach despite the fabrications on his resume that were made public when he was hired – for five days – by Notre Dame…Running back Erek Plancher collapsed and died during a 2008 spring workout. The University, specifically O’Leary, was held partially accountable for the incident.
Style of play: The rundown from Limon: “O’Leary stresses the importance of an aggressive defense and a ball-control offense. He favors pro-style sets, relying heavily on the run game to set up the passing game. UCF lost starting dual-threat sophomore quarterback Jeff Godfrey, who is transferring from the program. However, sophomore pro style backup quarterback Blake Bortles earned the majority of critical playing time the final three games of the season and seems to be a better fit for O’Leary’s offense.”
Signature moment: It’s still a relatively young program (kind of like UConn). To date, defeating Georgia in last year’s Liberty Bowl and finishing the season ranked No. 20/21 in both polls must be considered the “signature moment.”
Heisman History: Culpepper finished 6th in the 1998 voting; Kevin Smith finished eighth in 2007 after rushing for 2,566 yards, just 62 shy of Barry Sanders’ NCAA single-season record.
NFL Draftees: Given the program’s lack of history, it has produced a number of NFL players. Culpepper was the 11th overall pick in the 1999 draft. Smith, Brandon Marshall and Mike Sims-Walker have been terrific – at times – in the NFL. And Matt Prater, an undrafted free agent, came through in the clutch to help out Tim Tebow the other week.
Big East potential: Limon says, “This year’s recruiting class and the development of some underclassmen will dictate how smooth the transition to Big East football will be during the 2013 season. Long-term, I think the UCF football program has a solid foundation and should be competitive within the Big East.”
Basketball academics: 59 percent graduation rate
Basketball history: Program started in 1969 and didn’t become Division I-A until 1984-85. The Knights have appeared in 1994, 1996, 2004 and 2005.
Best season: Take your pick from the above four. UCF has never made it past the first round of the NCAA tournament. Perhaps the Knights can snap that streak this season. They’re off to a 8-2 start.
Best known for: The Jordan boys. Marcus and Jeff Jordan – both sons of the legendary MJ – currently play at UCF. Jeff transferred from Illinois.
Style of play: The Knights rugged, physical style certainly fits the Big East. Keith Clanton is a Big East-caliber forward, and coach Donnie Jones continues to put the proper pieces in place.
Signature moment: I think you all can guess what this link is.
NBA players: Not too many over the years. Jermaine Taylor, picked No. 32 overall in the 2009 NBA Draft, is probably the most notable. Taylor averaged 7.1 points per game in 28 appearances for the Sacramento Kings last season.
Big East potential: This is a program on the rise – no doubt about it. As Limon says, “the good news for Jones and is staff is that they are operating in a state with solid basketball talent and they have relatively new facilities at UCF. As a result, I think UCF may have a better chance than some other schools of surviving the transition to what is typically the best basketball conference in the country.”