Is UCF’s Danny White right to criticize USF’s Michael Kelly?

The Knights athletic director adds spice to the rivalry by questioning how the Bulls athletic director builds future football schedules.
USF athletic director Michael Kelly and UCF athletic director Danny White are at odds over how Kelly is building the Bulls' future football schedules. [Times (2018), Orlando Sentinel]
USF athletic director Michael Kelly and UCF athletic director Danny White are at odds over how Kelly is building the Bulls' future football schedules. [Times (2018), Orlando Sentinel]
Published May 22, 2019|Updated May 22, 2019

UCF athletic director Danny White recently suggested that USF’s willingness to strike two-for-one deals (two road games in exchange for one home contest) with the likes of Florida, Miami and Louisville doesn’t set a favorable precedent for a league (American Athletic Conference) trying to assert itself as the sixth power conference. Does White have a point? We convene a roundtable to get answers.

Related: MORE ON THE FEUD: Does USF's series with Florida, Miami set a bad precedent for the AAC?

UCF’s uproar unjustified

Joey Knight, USF/colleges reporter: Credit Bulls athletic director Michael Kelly with doing the implausible: creating mass insecurity within the ranks of a rival program that otherwise should be pounding its chest. Make no mistake, Kelly’s willingness to strike two-for-one deals with Florida and Miami (one home game in exchange for two road trips) is driving Knights fans crazy. White’s certainly entitled to his opinion. Moreover, we’ve written extensively on the contrasting scheduling philosophies of the Bulls and Knights, who prefer to generate revenue (and build their season-ticket base) with seven home games annually, which precludes them from making two-for-one deals. But ask yourself: Would White and his fan base be in such an uproar if, say, Tulsa had scheduled two-for-one deals with Texas and Oklahoma? Would we be hearing this kind of outcry if Tulane had made a two-for-one arrangement with LSU? This is all about the fact that USF has made the concessions necessary to get the Gators and 'Canes on its upcoming schedules, and UCF has not. As a result, Knights fans are having a collective conniption.

Only if you truly believe in the Power Six myth

If you believe the AAC is indeed part of the Power Six, then yes. Here’s the problem: It’s a Power Five, not a Power Six, no matter how much AAC officials and teams want to say otherwise. There’s a gap financially. Its new TV deal will pay each school less than $7 million per year, or about $20 million annually less than the average team payout from the ACC. There’s a gap in perception. As mediocre as the Pac-12 is, can you imagine an undefeated Pac-12 champ not making the College Football Playoff? There’s a gap in tradition and attendance and, generally speaking, on-field product. And, yes, there’s a gap in scheduling, too, which is why teams like the Gators aren’t accepting home-and-home series with any Group of Five teams. USF’s decision didn’t change that process; it accepted the gap as a fact.

Related: MORE ON THE FEUD: Before this feud, FSU played anywhere, any time in quest for national respect

Bad blood good for rivalry

Mike Sherman, deputy editor – sports: You’ve got to appreciate anyone who says what’s on their mind. To paraphrase my favorite sage/baseball manager Earl Weaver, there ought to be bad blood between all athletic departments. Anything that adds spice to the USF-UCF rivalry is good for fan interest/readership. That said, Oklahoma State just agreed to an eight-year football series with Tulsa – four home games each -- so it’s possible. Michael Kelly is free to cut the deals he can for USF. Danny White is free to cut the deals he can for UCF, and comment on his rival’s scheduling practices.

Hey UCF, just do you

Ernest Hooper, assistant sports editor: I get the feeling there’s an underlying force behind White’s complaints — defense of a mythical national title. Circumstance, as always, played a role in 2017 when it went undefeated but didn’t have a dazzling array of Power 5 opponents. And while UCF proudly claimed a national championship, critics complained it lacked the strength of schedule to back the claim. Knights fans counter that their beloved team would have a stronger schedule if more Power 5 schools would agree to home-and-home contracts. The argument rings hollow, however, when UCF’s nearest conference rival takes a different approach to get Power 5 schools on its schedule. In the end, White would be best served to heed the words of the great Ric Flair: “To be the man, you gotta beat the man.” If USF believes that means initially meeting the man on his terms, so be it.