UCF’s Regular Season That Was Just That: Regular 

by | Nov 30, 2023 | 0 comments

Home E Football E UCF’s Regular Season That Was Just That: Regular 

Inaugural year in the Big XII produced mixed results

I had never been on the field before the culmination of last Saturday’s game. I’ve been going to UCF games in the Bounce House since September 15th, 2007 and never got the opportunity to feel that ground beneath me. From an overhead drone shot the field looks pristine with precise lines and crisp coloring. Up close it looked like a bumpy grass lot with imperfect paint, outlining the standard measures of greatness on any given Saturday. A stage that I have watched so many brilliant performances on, as well as some absolute duds, experiencing the thrill of joy and at times bitter anguish. I looked up at the stands and peeked at Roth Tower, with our boastful accolades celebrating our conference championships, New Year’s Six bowl wins and a claim much to this day that is still the ire of the college football world at large. I was elated we punched a ticket to the postseason our inaugural year in the Big 12; the only newcomer of the Fresh Four to do so. It only took a few minutes for a pervasive thought in the back of my mind to come to the forefront: “I wonder which players on our current roster, this was their last time walking on this field?”

This regular season was just that: regular. Even with upgrading lighting, and smoke effects that would make O’Leary have a conniption and a Big 12 logo on the field, at no point did this season have that juice we’ve all felt before. I’m talking College Gameday pulse, or the 2018 AAC Championship with Heupel amping up the crowd. Maybe I missed it by not going to the Oklahoma State game. It was a season mixed with high expectations, untimely injuries, and figuring out if we were capable of competing at this next level. We were and we came up short. Lost three games by a point differential of four points (Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas Tech) and in the Top 2 for Unluckiest Teams in College Football this year

We had some exciting moments for sure, but this season also felt very disjointed. We had players blaming second-half meltdowns on fans leaving, questionable two-point conversion calls to finish a Marcus Jordan flu game in Norman, and an absolute shellacking in Lawrence from a traditional basketball power. Way too much gold in our stands for a bounce-back game against West Virginia in the first Big 12 conference game between two teams in the Eastern Time Zone. An outlier magnum opus for our annual Space Game. What we thought to be automatic in Lubbock, turned out to be manual. The yips lingered another week too long as well. That’s what it’s felt like this year. No goldfish memory, good OR bad. After the Oklahoma loss, there were talks of “running the table.” We headed into the final week of Thanksgiving play, wondering if we were still better suited to be seated at the kid’s table of the college football world. We cleared our first season in a Power Five conference into bowl eligibility by the skin of our teeth, the last weekend of November. We also drilled a team playing in the conference championship game this Saturday. That’s what is most frustrating. 

I don’t know where I’m at with Gus. Every post-game presser after a loss is a ChatGPT prompted “Gee golly, we lost close but there are some real guys [insert this week’s opponent] football platitude, encouragement platitude.” Our recruiting has seen a serious uptick but if the gameday management isn’t there, is it all for nothing? We’ve certainly achieved a lot more with a lot less in the past. Career average, Gus is going to be good for 4 losses every year. Just facts. Pick your poison on losing a game you’re not supposed to and winning one you had no business being in. I’d say we got the full Malzahn experience this year, wouldn’t you? 

Let’s be fair, the dynamics of him coming here are a lot different from others who have fallen from the upper echelons of SEC pedigree. There obviously wasn’t going to be a Nick Saban School of Reform for Gus. Did he expect to come here and win quickly, parlaying that into another crack at college football’s premier conference once more? Maybe. Did our Big 12 invite throw a monkey wrench into that process? I don’t know. Is a third of the defunct Pac-12 now on our future schedule going to add a wrinkle that makes the first four years of his tenure here abnormal to benchmark?  Perhaps. We have been recruiting with a P5 tag for quite some time now. The excuse that he’s still turning over the roster is hogwash. In the age of the transfer portal and NIL, things move very quickly. The roster is different every year. Thanksgiving was a breeze this year, especially when all the bickering and family infighting happened on the timeline days prior regarding allocating championship resources to student-athletes.

After walking the field Saturday afternoon my first thought was “My goodness, imagine having a half a ton of mass driving you into this ground every damn play.” These kids give up their bodies for the entertainment of boosters, students and in some special instances putting on for their hometown team. These competitors should 100% be getting compensated for their time on the field. It is a multibillion-dollar industry fueled by the backs of kids who are much more than just an athlete on Saturdays. With that compensation comes expectations though too. Let’s not be naïve. To be successful and procure and retain our talent we need NIL. Just plain and simple. I’m all for it. But who should be responsible for that? This rivalry week left me itchy for some snarky banter with our familiar foes out West. I wanted “smoke” but instead found myself agreeing with this post from one of my favorite frenemies at my very core.

There have been many exceptional devotees who have given to this university unselfishly and laid bricks in the foundation for our success. The Hitts, The Rosens, The Dixons, The McNamaras, The Nicholsons, The Eulianos, The Hagles, the Taylor Gerrings of the world and countless others.  Little ‘Ole UCF has done a tremendous amount with the resources at hand for our very short history. I’m not here to count another person’s pocket or tell them how to be a fan. I abhor fan gatekeeping.  We all have our unique way of showing our passion, giving time, love and investment for UCF: cheering in the stands, diligent media coverage, content creation, amplifying positive messages to recruits, donations to the Kingdom NIL, shareholders, season ticket holders, alumni, fans and support of the hometown team by local businesses. I am grateful for all of this. You should be too. Every person has a hand in this and a voice at the table.  There are always going to be growing pains and having a dialogue is key to developing and educating people on this new frontier.  

We’re going to lose talent to the portal. We’ll pick some up too. We’re probably developing guys now who will undoubtedly leave for a bigger payday and thrive. Just the nature of the beast in today’s college landscape. Give what you can but also get educated and give to what YOU feel is important. The notion of college football coaches making 7 figures pleading to their fans making 70 grand a year that without their monetary commitment, wins are not possible is insane. The verdict is still out on whether any of this in its current iteration is sustainable long term. (Spoiler Alert: It’s not) No use complaining about it though. Let’s figure out how we can play Moneyball and utilize our biggest assets: location, alumni base size, and new league prestige. 

Let’s finish this season strong. There’s a crop of young men eager to make their mark in Orlando next fall.

Let’s also welcome them with a groundswell of momentum. 

I had warmed up to the idea of playing the cows in the Gasparilla Bowl later this month. I almost much rather prefer that than playing a starved G5 upstart in James Madison as some current bowl projections have us. We all know how Gus fares in those types of games when playing the role of the Power Five team headed into a bowl game against a “lesser” opponent after a somewhat disappointing season. 

Just peachy, right? 😉

‘Til next time, take care of yourself and let’s be good to one another this holiday season and win a damn bowl game; wherever it is. 


About Dali
Proud UCF Alum ⚔️ | Big12Conference Fan | Avid Content Creator & Marketer | Curator of Good Times | Believer in “the sweet is not as sweet without the sour.” Twitter: @Dali_Drama


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *