The Big East announced in a teleconference they would be adding five new schools to the fold. Three of those schools, Houston, Central Florida, and Southern Methodist, will play all of their sports in the conference starting in 2013. Of course it is far too early to tell what sort of impact these teams will have in their new conference, but that won’t stop us from pontificating. Last but not least is Central Florida.
The newest of the three teams, Central Florida didn’t field its first basketball team until 1969 and they played as a Division II team until the 1984-85 season. As a Division II school, Central Florida achieved success they haven’t even sniffed since. Legendary coach Eugene “Torchy” Clark built a 274-89 record in his 14 seasons in Orlando. But since making the jump to the ranks of Division I, success has been fleeting. From 1984-93, the team never had a winning record.
Once Kirk Speraw arrived at UCF, the Golden Knights finally got back to winning, albeit inconsistently. There were four Atlantic Sun Tournament Championships, one Atlantic Sun Regular Season Championship and four NCAA Tournament berths during Speraw’s tenure, although the team never made it out of the first round. Since joining Conference USA in 2005, the Golden Knights have had successful teams, but have never been back to the NCAA Tournament. In 2010, the university decided to cut ties with Speraw, its winningest coach of all-time, and they hired Donnie Jones, a young and energetic former coach at Marshall and former assistant to Billy Donovan. Last season the team won 21 games, but they finished just 6-10 and were relegated to the CBI.
The Golden Knights already have one pelt to hang in their trophy closet this year as they beat then-No.4 Connecticut 68-63 in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Unfortunately, they have failed to truly build on that accomplishment. A 23-point early season loss to Florida State can be forgiven because it was the second game of the season, but mustering just 49 points in a loss to Harvard the day after they beat UConn is a tougher pill to swallow. The good news for Jones and the Golden Knights is that the team is as talented as it has been in a long time.