Well, the Big East can count on at least one heated rivalry in its new-and-improved version, beginning in 2013: University of Central Florida vs. University of South Florida.
Now Bulls fans might not see this as much of a rivalry, considering their team is 4-0 against the Knights. But passions between the two fan bases run deep, as the schools are separated by a mere 90 miles on Interstate 4 through the heart of Central Florida.
You can sum up the way the two fan bases see each other this way: UCF cannot understand how or why USF was more deserving of getting into the Big East instead of its own school back in 2004; USF fans see UCF as the annoying kid brother who will never grow up.
All I can say is bring it on!
After the teams played from 2005-08, the series stopped, mainly because USF preferred to play bigger in-state schools Florida, Florida State and Miami. There was nothing to be gained from a game against UCF. You can say that rankled UCF, which has been pushing hard to revive the series since the day it ended. Now the Knights get their wish.
As for USF, many fans have wanted UCF to stay out of the Big East in order to be the only one among the two with a spot in an automatic qualifying conference. USF president Judy Genshaft also was accused of lobbying against the inclusion of UCF several months ago. But after four key departures left the Big East with only five football-playing members, USF was left with no other choice.
Genshaft was asked whether she had tried to keep UCF out during the Monday conference call announcing the five new members. She never answered the question. Both times she was asked, she responded in the same way: "I'm very pleased to welcome UCF and (president) John Hitt and all the athletic teams into our conference. I made the motion that they be entered into the league."
Hitt said, "I see a super rivalry. I think we could sell out each stadium in turn. We look forward to having a really fierce rivalry on the field and on the court, but a respectful one among the fans in the stands. We think this could be a tremendous thing for both institutions and for the Big East." UCF football coach George O'Leary said the opportunity to play USF was "outstanding."
Commissioner John Marinatto was obviously thrilled to have an in-state rivalry that could potentially bloom into one of the best in the league, now that the Backyard Brawl will not be an All-Big East affair, if it remains a game at all. He also added that this rivalry would create value once the league enters into negotiations for its new TV media rights deal.
"When we started talking about creating value for our conference, what we needed to do in order to enhance our position as we approach our upcoming television negotiations, one of the people brought into the room who helped us with these discussions was Paul Tagliabue," Marinatto said. "Paul kept talking about how rivalries drive value. There are certain rivalries that will enhance value just because of the nature of the schools. The one with regard to the two Florida schools is I think one that is going to help us moving forward drive significant value in our upcoming media negotiations.
"It's a natural. I think it's a rivalry now. Being under the auspices of the conference will not only enhance it with regard to the two sports of football and basketball, but obviously all the other sports, as well."