UCF touts growth, popularity in case to join Big 12

Not long before the Big 12 presidents met in Irving, Texas to discuss expansion, University of Central Florida president John Hitt made the case for UCF to join the Big 12 in a letter to Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis.

In the letter dated May 17, which ESPN.com obtained, Hitt touted the growth of the Orlando, Florida, market and UCF's popularity with high school students.

He also claimed that UCF could expand its 45,000-set Bright House Networks Stadium to 65,000 if it were invited to the Big 12.

"UCF's athletic profile fits well with the Big 12," Hitt wrote.

With the letter, Hill also included a report the school commissioned to compare the candidacy of UCF to fellow Big 12 expansion candidates UConn and Cincinnati.

The report, conducted by a Tallahassee, Florida-based economic analysis firm and titled "University of Central Florida in the Big 12," claimed that Orlando's population growth is expected to be six times greater than Cincinnati's and 500 times greater than the region of Hartford, Connecticut, over the next 10 years.

The report also stated that Orlando trumps Cincinnati and Hartford in employment and income, concluding that "Orlando has proven that it is capable of attracting and sustaining economic growth, making it an ideal candidate for joining the Big 12 Conference."

When asked for comment on the letter and report, UCF vice president for communications and marketing Grant Heston said, "If people are going to talk about UCF and Orlando, we want to ensure the facts are accurate and current."

The Big 12 presidents and athletic directors met last week and unanimously voted to implement a conference championship game in 2017. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said the presidents could hold a vote by the end of the summer on whether to expand.