Here's the Q&A with the athletic department's leader.
Are you pleased with how the football season went?
I think any time you win nine games and have a chance to play for a championship that’s a pretty successful season.
How positive do you feel about the direction and future of the program?
I think when you look at how many underclassmen contributed this year, we’ve got an underclassmen quarterback that’s already really, really good and just going to get better. That and the fact that you add to the fact that this team as a whole averaged 3.1 GPA for the fall with 67 of them getting 3.0s or above, it’s just a solid, solid team both on the field, what they’re doing in the classroom, what they’re doing in the community, so I feel very, very good about the future.
I’ve heard from a number of fans this week who sent emails to tell me why they’re not attending the bowl game. How important a role do they play in the growth of UCF and in speaking to the growth of the school and program when you’re on a bowl stage like this?
They play a huge role. Whether it’s your opponents, potential opponents, TV, bowls, they want to know that you’ve got a fan base. So they are not only important because they play the role of the 12th man, but they also play a role in showing how much support UCF has as a program.
Is it frustrating when they say they are sending a message to the administration? Do you think it sends a message elsewhere than they intended?
It definitely can have unintended consequences. When you look at the fact that this team for the eight years they’ve been in this conference they’ve played for a conference championship in four of the eight, it’s a pretty good program.
There has been a lot of news surrounding the Big East, from Rutgers and Louisville to the seven Catholic schools. Are you confident in the standing of the conference going forward from here. I know you have said there is a core group of 13 schools, but there is concern about what happens next.
I think I feel very, very good about the group of 13 institutions that are part of the Big East. Of course there’s a lot of moving parts, but I’m confident in the assets that we have and looking forward to giving Mike Aresco the opportunity to do what he does and that’s get this media deal finished so that we can just move forward.
Some reports have Mike Aresco reaching out to West Coast schools to solidify football in the Big East. Some of those reports do not include UCF in the picture. Have you been assured of UCF’s spot in whatever version of the Big East that exists?
That type of stuff has never come up in any discussions whatsoever. I think that’s just conjecture, rumor, whatever. We are full members of the Big East and are looking forward to moving forward.
People were surprised when UCF and USF made a joint statement regarding the Big East. Obviously there is a history there that is there. Is that a sign that of a partnership that has formed between these two schools in creating a package for whatever movements happen and understanding that you are more attractive together? What was the purpose of doing it together?
I think it’s just the fact that when you look at, there’s already a lot of synergy between UCF and USF when you look at the high-tech corridor, when you look at a lot of our corporate partners are also their corporate partners, the business community in Orlando also typically have offices in both Orlando and Tampa. So there’s so many reasons why together we can really highlight the strength of this region. And I think the fact that we’re natural rivals, we’re going to be playing each other together every year, and I think have an opportunity not only to be a part of the Big East, but be leaders in the Big East as we expand on our footprint and work together to establish this rivalry. Which will include not only, I think as we look at it it will be an opportunity to obviously play games but also the opportunity for our alumni bases to work on projects together. I see our competition during rivalry week where we do blood drives, where we compete against each other, so I see it as just being a great situation for both institutions.
I think it’d be considered the growth of the program to have a partnership with UCF versus prior years before where USF was not as willing to bring UCF in, that maybe now it’s a sign of strength for the schools.
I think it’s a sign of strength and I also think it’s a way for us to show, if all of sudden now you look at the media market Tampa to Daytona Beach, it’s a pretty significant market. And I think both of us recognize that working together we have the ability to deliver that market.
There’s been some questions about how proactive UCF has been in the whole changing scene. Have you reached out and had conversations trying to figure out what may happen so you are more protected or have an understanding of what could be next for UCF if the Big East falls apart?
Us being proactive is us making UCF the best it can be. We’ve got a great market, that’s obviously important. We’re winning, and we’ve got a great fan base. We’ve got a great institution. So what we’re working on is making sure that that is well known. And that’s what we’re focused on. Obviously there’s a lot of things going on out there that we have no control over, but what we do have control over is making UCF the best it can be and making sure everybody knows how good it is.
I think there is a misperception about where UCF stands now as compared to where it was a few years ago. Even simple things like complaints about C. Florida versus UCF this week. How important is it to have a focus of rebranding going into the Big East? Is there a plan to educate the country about UCF? Something like uniform changes or logos that bring attention to the program?
I think as far as logo, we love our logo, but when I got here we had 15 of them. We’re simplifying that and we’re UCF. The stacked logo is our logo. I think the other thing is that anything you see coming out from us is just going to reemphasize what we think are our bragging points and are the points we want to make. The academic strength of the institution, the fact that we have a medical school, the fact that we’re in Orlando. Things that as we have a much bigger platform to kind of tell the UCF story, we want to tell that story and it’s not just about athletics. And that’s also where the partnership with USF comes in. Because there are some people that especially outside this region that are like, ‘UCF, USF, you know which one are you?’ And this gives us both an opportunity to really show the country two great institutions, two great markets, two great young fan bases. And I think when you look at the future, the fact that we’re both graduating 12,000 graduates a year, and most of them like to stay here, I think the future is very, very bright and it’s really focusing on those things that is what we are working on.