Why Joining the ACC Makes Sense for UCF, and Still Will Not Happen

The UCF football program joining the Atlantic Coast Conference makes sense, but would the member institutions go along with the Knights joining the league when considering the recruiting ramifications of the Knights in the ACC?
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The big boys of college football reside in the Power Five conferences. At least that’s traditionally the case. Now that UCF football is knocking at the door, would one of the most prominent leagues in America consider letting the Knights into its conference?

The UCF football program joining the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) is much more complicated than one might consider. Yes, it’s located in the same state as ACC members Miami and Florida State, is located in the same geographical area as the majority of the ACC members, and it’s a really good school with an engineering program on par with Georgia Tech.

The Knights even draw much of the student body from the same areas -- Florida and Georgia -- that many ACC members utilize to fill their student bodies. Regardless, it’s not likely for the Knights to join the ACC. There is one prime reason for the Knights being left out of the ACC.

Recruiting. To start, take a look at the following eight ACC schools. There are many Florida recruits that signed with those eight schools for the class of 2021.

Clemson (3)

Florida State (7)

Georgia Tech (2)

Louisville (4)

Miami (18)

North Carolina (1)

North Carolina State (2)

Pittsburgh (4)

From those eight programs, each of them signed at least one Florida prospect from this past recruiting class. The state of Florida produced 37 NFL draft picks this past April, the highest of any state in America. It’s a gold mine of talent, and ACC teams know it.

Now, a little more perspective about a few of those programs.

Clemson has always raided Florida for elite prospects, and while the greater Atlanta area and of course its home state of South Carolina represent the Tigers’ home recruiting base, landing those two or three elite Florida players helps place Clemson into the truly elite rosters in college football.

Florida State obviously recruits Florida being a state school. The Seminoles are actually now recruiting the Sunshine State harder now than it did during Head Coach Mike Norvel’s first season in Tallahassee, Fla. With that in mind, they will certainly bump into the local programs like UCF quite often.

Georgia Tech has recruited Florida hard for decades. The Yellow Jackets starting quarterback, Jeff Sims, started as a true freshman last fall after being committed to the Seminoles for quite some time.

He hails from Jacksonville (Fla.) Sandalwood. Ironically, Florida State did not want Sims when he was committed to the Seminoles once Coach Norvel took over for the program. Sims ended up at Georgia Tech and promptly led the Yellow Jackets to a win over Florida State during his first college game. Maybe that’s a good reason for why Florida State is now recruiting Florida harder.

Louisville consistently mines the state of Florida, including a recent Heisman Trophy winner and current Baltimore Ravens starting quarterback in Lamar Jackson. He starred at Boynton Beach (Fla.) Community High School before signing with the Cardinals. Last year’s starting running back for Louisville, Javian Hawkins, was a big-time player for Cocoa (Fla.) High School before heading up to Louisville and becoming one of college football’s best running backs.

Then, of course, there’s Miami. The Hurricanes are literally located in the middle of the most dominant area of high school football talent in the country, and still lose a lot of talent to in-state and out-of-state programs. Say hello to Dade County, home of Miami and all its incredible athletes, but not necessarily a lot of loyalty to the Miami footbal program. 

The Hurricanes already lost a plethora of the local recruits to SEC programs, as well as being cherry picked by the likes of Ohio State, Clemson, Michigan, Penn State and Louisville amongst others for local talent. The Hurricanes certainly do not want to lose any more top-notch prospects because UCF gained the label of an ACC member.

Okay, everyone gets the point. ACC schools will not want UCF in the conference because of its location. In short, why would ACC members want to provide UCF the opportunity to recruit Florida as a Power Five school?

Honestly, there’s very little reason. The only hope for UCF, most likely, is that Clemson continues to be the only ACC team to compete for college football playoff berths. Perhaps that would help persuade some of the ACC athletic directors to at least consider adding UCF because it could help bolster the conference?

While a long shot, it’s something to ponder. The Knights do seem to be up against a tough circumstance, and it’s reasonable to understand a program like Louisville or Georgia Tech not wanting to recruit head-to-head with UCF in it’s own backyard and also have that Power Five tag attached to its name. Then there's Miami, and oh my, that's a big no from the Hurricanes.

Final Thoughts

Recruiting is the life blood of a college football program. There’s just only so much talent in certain states, so programs venture outside their state borders to sign prep football talent. Even a program like Georgia Tech that could sign 15 Peach State prospects each year still comes to Florida and recruits the state from Pensacola to Miami.

Will UCF ever have a legitimate shot to join the ACC? As of right now, it does not appear likely. Well, at least if the ACC coaching staffs vote on it.

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You will find me on Twitter @fbscout_florida and @UCF_FanNation