Florida will­ing to sched­ule UCF

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - College Football -

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Ath­letic Di­rec­tor Scott Strick­lin would wel­come a two-for-one se­ries against in-state op­po­nent UCF, which has the na­tion’s long­est win­ning streak at 25.

“I’d be OK with sched­ul­ing them in the right sit­u­a­tion,” Strick­lin said Fri­day dur­ing a Peach Bowl event at Florida Field.

Florida and Cen­tral Florida last played in 2006, a 42-0 vic­tory in the Swamp by the even­tual na­tional cham­pion Ga­tors. The teams had been sched­uled to play again the fol­low­ing year, but UCF got out of the game and ended up pay­ing a $100,000 buy­out, ac­cord­ing to pub­lic records.

Strick­lin said he and UCF AD Danny White have not spo­ken about sched­ul­ing a game. “We haven’t had a spot where we thought this made sense at this point,” Strick­lin said.

Many out­siders be­lieved the 10thranked Ga­tors (9-3) and sev­enth-ranked Knights (13-0) would meet in a bowl game this sea­son, pos­si­bly in the Peach or Fiesta. But Florida ended up fac­ing Michi­gan in the Peach, and UCF will play LSU in the Fiesta.

Many fig­ured UCF foot­ball coach Josh He­u­pel had one of the tough­est as­sign­ments in the coun­try this sea­son. The first-year coach was tasked with build­ing on the Knights’ his­toric 13-0 run in 2017 led by pre­vi­ous coach Scott Frost.

Frost took the en­tire UCF staff with him to Ne­braska and key play­mak­ers, in­clud­ing emo­tional leader Shaquem Grif­fin, moved on to the NFL.

He­u­pel de­fied ex­pec­ta­tions and was re­warded for help­ing the Knights post a 12-0 record and win an Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence ti­tle dur­ing his first sea­son, ink­ing a con­tract ex­ten­sion. He­u­pel’s new deal with the Knights runs through Jan. 15, 2024.

“I am truly hon­ored to have the op­por­tu­nity to lead this group of young men and rep­re­sent this great univer­sity,” He­u­pel said.

If the schools were to play in the fu­ture, Strick­lin said it likely would need to be a two-for-one se­ries. Florida agreed to play USF in a sim­i­lar setup, with two games at Florida Field (2022, 2025) and one at Tampa’s Ray­mond James Sta­dium (2023)

White has made it clear he would prefer to sched­ule home-and-home se­ries with Power 5 op­po­nents be­cause the school gen­er­ates more revenue from a home game.

“We do home-and-homes with like FSUs and Power 5 leagues,” Strick­lin said. “We haven’t done any home-and­homes with non-Power 5 teams. I don’t think we would start that. But I’d love to sched­ule [UCF] in a game.”

Strick­lin laughed off ac­cu­sa­tions that he worked be­hind the scenes — he’s a mem­ber of the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off Se­lec­tion Com­mit­tee — to pre­vent Florida from play­ing UCF in a New Year’s Six bowl be­cause the Ga­tors had more to lose than gain in a po­ten­tial in-state matchup.

“If you win the game, it counts one win,” Strick­lin said. “If you lose the game, it counts one loss. When I was at Mis­sis­sippi State, they said don’t play South­ern Miss. We played South­ern Miss. They had the same ar­gu­ment.

Strick­lin had to leave the room when the com­mit­tee sched­uled the Peach and Fiesta bowl matchups.

“Peo­ple don’t know. They give me a lot of credit,” Strick­lin said. “I have more power than I re­al­ize, ac­cord­ing to them. Peo­ple are go­ing to say things when they don’t know what they’re talk­ing about and that’s what hap­pen­ing there.”

Julio Aguilar/Getty Im­ages

Dar­riel Mack Jr. and UCF are hun­gry for more com­pe­ti­tion af­ter 25 con­sec­u­tive wins. A show­down with Florida might be in the works.

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