UCF had been waiting for well over a decade for a shot to face Florida, and they made the most of the opportunity on Thursday night. While the two schools hardly ever face one another, they certainly looked like in-state rivals after the final whistle blew.
Things got heated on the field between some UCF and Florida players following the Knights’ 29-17 upset victory in the Gasparilla Bowl. Jason Beede of the Orlando Sentinel shared a video of the scrum.
There were some tense moments during the game, as well. Florida linebacker Ty’Ronn Hopper was ejected in the second half for throwing a swing at a UCF player. Hopper’s father said the punch was a response to a UCF player spitting in Ty’Ronn’s face.
The meeting between Florida and UCF was the first since 2006. The Knights have badly wanted a shot at the Gators since at least 2018, when both teams qualified for the New Year’s Six bowl games but were given different opponents.
Between the fiery incidents and the funny equipment malfunction, the Gasparilla Bowl certainly was not lacking in entertainment.
UCF got to challenge in-state rival Florida in Thursday’s Gasparilla Bowl, but one Knights player got a little bit more entangled in the matchup than he would have wanted to.
UCF offensive lineman Cole Schneider found himself blocking Gators linebacker Ty’Ron Hopper during the first quarter of the game, but the pair managed to get their facemasks locked together. That prompted something of an on-field operation by the UCF equipment crew.
The equipment manager seemed a bit taken aback by how well locked together the helmets were. That might have taken longer than even he expected to fix.
Hey, UCF wanted this game badly, and that sentiment goes all the way to the very top. You would certainly expect them to show it with some intense play, so in that regard, Schneider did not disappoint.
UCF head coach Gus Malzahn suffered a fractured right tibia during last week’s home game against Tulane, but he won’t let that keep him away.
On Saturday when UCF hits the road to take on SMU, Malzahn will remain on the sideline. Sort of.
For the first time in his 31 years of coaching, Malzahn will have a platform constructed on the sideline so that he’s able to coach his players face-to-face. It will certainly be different, but he prefers it to coaching from the box.
“[On Thursday] we had a dress rehearsal of how we’re going to do it in the game and I’m going to be up on a little bit of a platform on the sideline,” Malzahn told 96.9 The Game on Friday. “I just don’t want to go in the box. I want to be down there with players [and] my coaches.”
The platform will stand roughly seven feet high, which is a height they settled on during the week. It’s not quite as tall as a lifeguard seat, but it’s not very far off, either.
“It’s not going to be quite as high as [a lifeguard seat],” Malzahn said with a chuckle. “I’ve got to figure out how to get up there too. It gives me a good vantage point and I’m close enough to my players where if I need to call somebody over, talk to them face-to-face, or with my coaches, I think it’s the best we can do.”
With Malzahn climbing up on a platform, it will result in several other changes on the sideline and in the box. Offensive line coach Herb Hand will move to the coach’s box upstairs, while quarterbacks coach G.J. Kinne will move down to the sideline.
“I’m kind of an active guy anyway and I like to be up and down the sidelines and go visit the different positions during timeouts or when one side has the ball so it’s going to be different for me,” Malzahn said. “We’ll see how it works. . . It’s going to be a different deal for me, there’s no doubt.”
Kickoff between UCF (6-3) and SMU (7-2) is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. ET on ESPNU.
The Big 12 is moving very quickly to expand to 12 members again, even in light of the pending departures of Texas and Oklahoma.
According to Ross Dellenger and Pat Forde of SI.com, UCF, Houston, BYU, and Cincinnati are set to apply for Big 12 membership next week and a Sept. 10 meeting could lead to approval. Notably, the report states that the Big 12 has the sufficient votes to add the four members.
Also notable is the timeline. The four new schools would be expected to join by 2023 or 2024 at the latest. With Oklahoma and Texas set to remain in the Big 12 through the 2024 season, it could lead to one or two seasons in which they compete with the four incoming schools in a 14-team Big 12.
UCF, Houston, and Cincinnati are likely to have to pay a higher exit fee than the $10 million stipulated by the American Athletic Conference. This is because they would be giving 23 months notice for their exits, while the league requires 27 months.
In addition, BYU appears poised to join the Big 12 as a full member. BYU is independent in football, but is a member of the West Coast Conference in other sports. BYU is reportedly expected to leave the WCC entirely as a result.
At the very least, this secures the immediate future of the Big 12 and should allow it to retain Power 5 status. That group’s status looks secure as well, as the powerhouse SEC will be countered by a rebuilding Big 12 and an alliance of the three other power conferences. While this will provide stability to that group of leagues, attention will now turn to the AAC, which will be significantly weakened by the departure of three of its most successful members.
The Big 12 is trying to chart a path forward after the pending departures of Texas and Oklahoma, and the league appears to be eyeing four schools in a bid for survival.
According to Max Olson of The Athletic, the Big 12 wants to add four new members, and the leading contenders are BYU, UCF, Cincinnati, and Houston. If the league’s commissioners can agree on which members to invite, the process could move quickly.
Cincinnati, UCF, and Houston would have to leave the AAC, which requires 27 months’ notice and a $10 million fee to exit. BYU retains independent status in football, and may join as a football-only member. Several other Group of 5 schools are said to be interested in moving to the Big 12, but these are the choices preferred by the league at this point.
The Big 12 was left out of the recent alliance put together by three other Power 5 conferences. They are essentially on their own as they fight for survival and continued relevance. The addition of these four schools would at least give them a chance to remain nationally viable.
UCF players displayed an eye-catching bit of style during Saturday’s spring game, wearing uniforms with their social media handles on the nameplates.
Instead of their last names, UCF players had their social media names, particularly their Twitter handles, displayed on their backs. That applied to everyone that participated, too.
So what was the thinking behind this? Coach Gus Malzahn explained that UCF was embracing the “new age of personal branding,” adding that it was a good way to reach UCF’s younger group of alumni.
“You look at, what, 322,000 living alumni and the average age is 36. 72,000 [students] and they’re all on Twitter,” Malzahn said. “Some of these big schools, the average age of their alumni is 65 and they’re on Facebook. So we’ve got a big advantage there.”
With the NCAA increasingly backing down on players taking advantages of their names and likenesses, we’re probably going to see more things like this. UCF is getting out ahead of it, which is exactly what a school of its caliber should be doing. They may well reap the benefits of such an approach, or at least serve as a template for other schools that may ultimately follow in their footsteps.
The UCF football program has always had a bit of a chip on its shoulder, and that continued Monday despite a rather high-profile hiring.
UCF athletic director Terry Mohajir took a shot at rival programs within the state while introducing new head coach Gus Malzahn. Mohajir called Malzahn the best coach in a state that also contains Florida’s Dan Mullen, Florida State’s Mike Norvell, and Miami’s Mario Diaz.
Malzahn has actually coached in a national championship game before, something that cannot be said about Mullen, Norvell, or Diaz. UCF did really well to land the former Auburn coach, and they might as well gloat a bit.
We don’t know whether Malzahn appreciated the heightened expectations. That said, he’s been known to troll a bit too, so he probably won’t mind this introduction.
Gus Malzahn was fired by Auburn roughly two months ago, but he has now landed another solid head coaching job.
Malzahn has agreed to a deal to become the next head coach at UCF, Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports first reported. An official announcement could come from the school as soon as Monday.
Central Florida had a head coaching vacancy after losing Josh Heupel to Tennessee last month. Heupel was poached by Tennessee, which is now led by former UCF athletic director Danny White.
New UCF athletic director Terry Mohajir made Malzahn his top target, as the two have a history together. Mohajir was the athletic director at Arkansas State when Malzahn coached there in 2012.
Malzahn went 68-35 in eight seasons at Auburn. His dismissal came as a surprise given how much money he was owed.
UCF went 6-4 last season and 28-8 overall in three seasons under Heupel.
Could Gus Malzahn be back in the college football mix this fall?
Malzahn has been offered the head football coach job by UCF, according to Auburn Undercover and the Orlando Sentinel.
Central Florida has a vacancy after losing Josh Heupel to Tennessee last month. Heupel was poached by Tennessee, which is now led by former UCF athletic director Danny White.
New UCF athletic director Terry Mohajir likes Malzahn and made the former Auburn head coach his top target. Mohajir was the athletic director at Arkansas State when Malzahn coached there in 2012.
Malzahn went 68-35 in eight seasons at Auburn. The 55-year-old was owed over $20 million from Auburn after they fired him.
Cincinnati once again lived up to its top-10 national ranking with an impressive road win over UCF on Saturday, and the Bearcats wasted no time rubbing it in to their opponent.
UCF’s football stadium in Orlando is known as the “Bounce House” because of the way it would shake when fans jumped in unison when it opened years ago. The school eventually took steps to make the stadium a bit more structurally sound, but the name remains. After their 36-33 win over UCF, Cincinnati sent a clever tweet trolling the Knights.
Cincinnati improved to 7-0 and has been one of the surprise teams of the season. Their final two games are against Temple and No. 25 Tulsa, so they have a great chance to go undefeated.
Of course, UCF is no stranger to being mocked. We all remember how much mileage people got out of the Knights crowning themselves national champions.