The Knights and Terrapins are set to play a two-game series on Aug. 30, 2025 in College Park, Md., and a second game on Sep. 9, 2028 in Orlando, Fla. The two games will be played at each program’s home stadiums. Besides gaining a future Big 10 opponent in a prime media location, the Knights also gain three other important factors from this agreement.
Earning Respect from the Power Five Could Lead to the Power Five
If an entire league will not play UCF, why would anyone believe that same league would ask UCF to join its league? There’s been much discussion regarding the Knights joining the ACC or the Big XII. How many of those programs jumped at the chance to play UCF, however?
UCF even openly asked teams to come play them within the last half dozen years. Very few held an interest. As for now, there’s more mojo with the Knights after an undefeated season, more television coverage and more NFL draft picks than it’s ever produced.
Still, landing the Maryland series was no gimme. UCF earned that opportunity by building the program over time and earning respect, and now a Big 10 program is on record with signing a deal to play UCF when most teams are not thrilled with playing what was once considered any easy win back 10 or more years ago. In short, these programs UCF can now defeat them on the gridiron.
While Maryland plays within the Big 10 and not in a conference likely to accept UCF into its league, it still represents a new trend for Power Five programs to at least consider playing UCF. ACC and Big XII programs will certainly notice what’s going on with the Knights. Will the game against Maryland be a sure-fire stepping stone to play ACC or Big XII programs? No, but it cannot hurt either.
Further, the Maryland series, nor the Florida series for that matter, provide a lock for conference membership in any conference. It’s just about exposure. For instance, The Maryland series does prove that some phone lines are open, and that’s helpful to the UCF Football program as it continues to climb the college football hierarchy ladder. Hopefully some of those phone lines are open with other Power Five Athletic Directors and Conference Commissioners, too.
In Gus We Trust
UCF Head Coach Gus Malzahn is a well known commodity. He’s coached at Arkansas, Arkansas State, Auburn Arkansas State and UCF after being a high school coach. From a time standpoint, Coach Malzahn coached college football from 2005 through modern day with no end in sight. During that time as a college coach, he’s certainly met numerous college coaches and administrators.
Those same people are likely a part of the reason that the Florida deal took place, as well as the Maryland deal. Florida Head Coach Dan Mullen undoubtedly knows Coach Malzahn from their time spent together in the SEC West (Coach Mullen was the Mississippi State Head Coach from 2009-2017), and it’s the same division that Auburn competed in then and still does. As for Maryland, it’s another connection.
Maryland Head Coach Mike Locksley was an assistant coach for Alabama (2016-2018) including being the Crimson Tide's Offensive Coordinator in 2018. Of course Alabama is the biggest rival for Auburn, where Coach Malzahn was during the same time period as Coach Locksley.
Perhaps it’s speculation, but UCF gaining a series with each school is likely due in part to Coach Malzahn. He’s well known, has earned respect, and provided extra opportunities for the UCF Football program because of those two prior factors. With Coach Malzahn in Orlando, look for more of these types of contracts with Power Five programs to be signed and UCF’s chances of landing in a Power Five conference to increase.
Timing is Everything
With all of the conference realignment discussion, UCF scheduling Florida and now Maryland helps bring additional attention to the football program. Those two series beg a question for numerous college athletic directors that are looking to schedule games for their respective football teams: what’s going on with UCF?
One of the most aggressive scheduling programs in the country of late, the Knights are certainly in the news because they are making the news. Now the UCF brass must continue to capitalize on its aggressive scheduling approach while the opportunities are available. It’s really that simple.
Which team(s) should be targeted is a topic for another day, but there are certainly several other programs that UCF could bring into the Bounce House and it would benefit the Football program and UCF overall, and of course once again help to provide a path to a Power Five conference.