Here’s hoping UCF isn’t ducking USF in a bowl game | Commentary

Let’s get right down to it, shall we?

UCF and USF should play in a bowl game.

We want them to play in a bowl game.

We need them to play in a bowl game.

Any bowl game.

Preferably right here in Orlando at the Avocados From Mexico Cure Bowl, which has raised millions of dollars over the years for cancer research and is actually played in UCF’s home stadium.

UCF-USF would sell out the Bounce House and raise even more money to help cure cancer.

A good game for a great cause.

Or if USF doesn’t want to play a bowl game in UCF’s home stadium then play the game in the Gasparilla Bowl at USF’s home field — Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium. Remember the “Thrilla in the Gasparilla” when UCF beat the Gators a couple of years ago? How much fun was that?

UCF vs. USF.

Play it anywhere.

Play it in the Boca Raton Bowl.

Play it in the Birmingham Bowl.

Play in the Scooter’s Coffee Frisco Bowl.

Just play it.

What amazes (and disappoints) me is that both schools aren’t lobbying loudly and publicly to temporarily renew “The War on I-4” rivalry that was killed when UCF made the jump to the Big 12 this season. Because UCF-USF are in different conferences and because non-conference schedules are booked years in advance, UCF athletic director Terry Mohajir and USF athletic director Michael Kelly have said the matchup could not be fit into each other’s non-conference schedules for the next few years.

However, both ADs also said they would love to someday renew the rivalry if there’s any way possible. Said Mohajir last year when asked about a series against the Bulls in the future: “We definitely want to play them.”

Well, here’s your chance.

Get ESPN on the horn and make it happen.

You see, the bowl games themselves don’t decide who goes where; ESPN creates matchups that make sense — for TV ratings and ticket sales. Those conference tie-ins to certain bowl games are essentially just a suggestion; not a mandate. For instance, even though the Cure Bowl and Gasparilla Bowl don’t have a tie-in with the Big 12, ESPN’s bowl matchmaker — aka The Exalted Grandmaster of the Gridiron — can override the tie-in to create a bowl game that the general viewing public might find interesting.

Quite frankly, a third-tier bowl game between two 6-6 teams is not exactly must-see TV,  but UCF-USF certainly has more appeal than most of these mundane games. In fact, it would have considerable allure in the large Tampa and Orlando TV markets, throughout the populous Sunshine State and, yes, it would even have a modicum of national appeal as well. Let us not forget the 2017 Black Friday game between UCF and USF, which drew 4.7 million viewers, is the highest-rated regular season game in UCF history. In fact, it doubled UCF’s highest-rated Big 12 game this season against Oklahoma (2.2 million viewers).

There are rumors and rumblings that UCF doesn’t really want to play USF in a bowl game because the Knights have outgrown the rivalry and don’t have anything to gain by playing the Bulls. Puh-leeze! I hope that’s not the case because, if it were true, it would be the height of arrogance and hypocrisy.

Remember how angry and indignant UCF fans got when USF, under former coach Jim Leavitt, was in the Big East and refused to play UCF, which was then stuck in Conference USA? Leavitt told me in a recent interview that he did not want to be aligned with UCF and was trying to align himself with Florida, Florida State and Miami as part of the Sunshine State’s “Big Four.”

I didn’t agree with Leavitt’s philosophy then and I certainly wouldn’t agree if UCF tried to dodge a bowl game with USF. The idea that a program has “nothing to gain” by playing a natural rival is just a bunch of egotistical, administrative gobbledygook.

Question: Would you rather see UCF vs. Arkansas State or UCF vs. USF?

Would you rather see UCF vs. Syracuse or UCF vs. USF?

Would you rather see UCF vs. Georgia Tech or UCF vs. USF?

Granted, I would love to see a UCF-Miami bowl game, but other than that, give  me UCF vs. USF over all of the above-mentioned potential matchups.

Don’t tell me UCF has nothing to gain by playing USF.

That’s the same sort of nonsense the Gators were spewing 65 years ago before the state legislature forced them to start playing FSU.

College football is supposed to be fun and entertaining for the fans and the players. UCF and USF have plenty to gain by playing each other in a bowl game.

They gain the interest and passion of their fan base by giving them a bowl matchup filled with rivalry and revelry. They gain the motivation and inspiration of their players by giving them an emotionally charged bowl game against an opponent that gets them fired up. And, yes, they gain extra revenue from ticket sales to help them defray the cost of playing in a bowl game.

If you ask me, UCF has nothing to gain by playing anybody other than USF in a bowl game.

Email me at mbianchi@orlandosentinel.com. Hit me up on X (formerly Twitter) @BianchiWrites and listen to my Open Mike radio show every weekday from 6 to 9:30 a.m. on FM 96.9, AM 740 and 969TheGame.com/listen