Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Trend Points to No Direction; Schools Such as UCF, USF Market Themselves against Directional Stigma

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Trend Points to No Direction; Schools Such as UCF, USF Market Themselves against Directional Stigma

Article excerpt

Byline: ZACHARY SPAIN

Sometime in the decade between its jump to Division I-A in 1996 and its first bowl appearance last December - when the state university a few miles east of downtown Orlando was best known as Central Florida - a brand name was born.

The University of Central Florida, while growing to more than 45,000 students to become one of 10 largest colleges in the nation, has become smaller in name.

It's now UCF. They ask that you leave the Central out of it.

In trying to compete in the big-money realms of academia and Division I-A college football, UCF has attempted to forge a singular name for itself, one that is nationally recognized without being regionalized within its own state.

It's a challenge faced by many of Division I-A's 119 teams, particularly those in football-saturated states such as Florida. In football's hierarchy, the so-called directional schools have long been schedule fodder for major programs.

They play for pay, receiving money to travel for almost certain losses to the big schools to subsidize their athletic budgets. They have no real opportunity to be competitive outside their respective conferences.

It's a perception that's difficult for a school to change, especially in recruiting.

"The connotation was if you were a directional school, you were a I-AA school," said Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit, whose Broncos beat Virginia this season and play at Florida State on Nov. 18. "For a kid, until you beat a UVa or you're real successful, you're going to be overlooked if a guy isn't honed in. You have to explain and sell yourself on who you are."

But UCF is doing all it can to move beyond its directional pedigree. It hired a former national coach of the year in George O'Leary, pays him more than $1 million a year and has a 45,000-seat on-campus stadium set to open in time for the 2007 season, when the Golden Knights will play host to Texas in their first game on campus in the 28-year history of UCF football.

Downplaying the directional modifier was part of that process: "UCF is making an effort to shed the Central Florida tag, as well as all of its derivatives (C. Florida, Cent. Florida, Central Fla., etc)," reads a sentence under the heading "UCF, Not Central Florida" in the school's football media guide.

As UCF athletic director for nearly four years, Steve Orsini directed the school through much of the evolution from classic directional school into a program vying for respect.

"It's important to build a brand, for everything the university does," said Orsini, who became athletic director at Southern Methodist University in June.

The UCF acronym, which was already commonly used regionally, seemed a natural choice and is a prominent part of the school's athletic logo.

The acronym model increasingly has been used by directional and hyphenated schools. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.