Report: O'Leary says USF-UCF rivalry rekindled
Central Florida football coach George O'Leary, speaking at a booster gathering in Tampa on Thursday night, said the UCF-USF football rivalry will be back as early as 2014, a UCF athletics official told the Orlando Sentinel's Iliana Limon.
UCF has long been lobbying to start playing the Bulls again -- they played four straight years from 2005-08, with USF winning all four meetings. The Bulls cited a high number of in-state games in not renewing the series -- USF played Florida State and Miami in 2009, and Florida, Florida Atlantic and Miami this past season. The USF-UCF series drew strong crowds on both sides, and the close geography between the schools created a natural rivalry between fans; in staying with two nonconference games each year against non-BCS league opponents, the Bulls have replaced the Knights with comparably anonymous teams like UTEP and Ball State, who both come to Tampa this fall.
While neither side is confirming anything yet, the Sentinel story mentioned that O'Leary said the game could be played on Thanksgiving weekend, which would go against the Big East's most recent preferences. The conference had USF move its 2011 Thanksgiving-weekend game against Miami to earlier in the season, so as to keep the final two weekends of the regular season available for Big East games; the conference hasn't said it will ask the same in future seasons, but it's only logical the league would want the same then as well.
USF hasn't added any football opponents recently because the Bulls need to wait to see how many games they'll be playing for conference games. Instead of seven games as they've played each year since joining the Big East in 2005, the Bulls will start playing eight conference games in 2012, when TCU joins the league. Villanova is another potential addition, as would be UCF, and it's unclear what if anything there is to read from the Knights proudly announcing a nonconference series with a school they've made clear they'd like to have as a conference rival in the Big East.