Nov. 12, 2011
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By John Denton
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The seemingly ever-changing world of college football's conference landscape could lead to some exciting and challenging games for UCF next season.
The Knights are scheduled to open next season at Akron and are close to finalizing a contract to play Ohio State in the second week of the season, according to UCF head coach George O'Leary. UCF already has a contract to play Kansas State, but that game could disappear if the Wildcats could buy their way out of the game if there are changes to the Big 12. UCF played in Manhattan, Kan., last season and Kansas State's game in Orlando would be a return engagement in the series.
O'Leary said that UCF has had preliminary talks with Oklahoma about scheduling a game for next season. That game, which would ultimately lead to the Sooners someday playing in Orlando, hinges on whether or not the Big 12 adds a team (possibly West Virginia) after losing Missouri to the Southeastern Conference.
``Oklahoma is not on the schedule. The Ohio State game still has to be signed off on, but I OKed that one because that's the one that I was involved with. Kansas State is still on our schedule and that's basically the hold up on everything because if West Virginia gets to the Big 12 and Missouri leaves then (Kansas State) is going to need a game,'' O'Leary explained. ``If (Missouri) stays, then (UCF's game against Kansas State) may not happen and we'll need a game (possibly against Oklahoma). But we're talking to a number of people right now and Oklahoma is one of them. But there's nothing done with that and there won't be until I OK it.''
ADMIRAL HARMS ON THE TRIP: UCF interim Athletics Director, Admiral Al Harms, traveled with the football team to Hattiesburg, Miss., for Saturday night's game, his first game since taking over following the resignation of former AD Keith Tribble. Admiral Harms joked that he had spent his entire adult life on ``a roadtrip'' because of his years of service in the Navy, but he said this game was his first football roadtrip with the Knights.
Harms, 62, formerly held the position of interim AD in 2006 when Steve Orsini left UCF for SMU. As UCF's Vice President of Strategic Planning Initiatives and the Special Assistant to the President, Admiral Harms has a close working relationship with UCF President Dr. John Hitt. And he's confident he can execute Dr. Hitt's wishes for the athletics department while also creating a culture of compliance.
Additionally, Harms will be leading UCF's official response to the NCAA's Notice of Allegations that was supplied to the school earlier this week. Harms said his mission is to investigate the charges, while also making sure that UCF is never in this position again.
``The president made some significant corrections already. Those were some hard, difficult decisions that he didn't enjoy making. But yet he's committed to the program,'' said Admiral Harms, who had a distinguished career in the Navy prior to his arrival at UCF. ``There's no doubt in Dr. Hitt's mind and mine and all of the rest of our teams that this (NCAA troubles) is not worth the price of winning. We're here to play by the rules, we're going to do that and that's where we are.
``We have some homework to do,'' Harms continued. ``Part of that will be making sure that we have programs, policy and people in place to make sure we never have this problem again.''
RESPONDING TO ADVERSITY: Following a freshman season where mostly everything went right for him, UCF sophomore quarterback Jeff Godfrey has endured plenty of highs and lows this season.
Godfrey said that help from his teammates has helped him endure the many emotional swings from this season. Godfrey took the losses to FIU - played in his hometown of Miami - and to Tulsa - a game where UCF was stopped inside the 5-yard line late in the game - especially hard.
``That Tulsa loss stayed with me for a while,'' Godfrey said. ``It was tough and it took me a while to get over it. ... I talk to the players and coaches all of the time and they pick me up. We might feel down sometimes, but we try to pick up each other's spirits. That's what we've been doing and it's been great.''
ETC: Admiral Harms said he was able to watch the final four minutes of Friday night's Carrier Classic, a NCAA basketball game played between North Carolina and Michigan State atop an aircraft carrier based in San Diego. Said Harms: ``For those sailors who got to meet the President and the players and coaches I know that they couldn't have been happier. That had to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.'' Admiral Harms said he was in agreement with one analyst who proposed playing the NCAA Tournament on different aircraft carriers around the country. Harms also said the flight deck would be plenty large enough to host a college football game, but he said he doesn't anticipate seeing that happen anytime soon. ... In an attempt to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, UCF experimented the past week with true freshman Leilon Willingham at defensive end. Willingham, the prized recruit from UCF's 2011 recruiting haul, started the first three games of the season at outside linebacker. ... One of Admiral Harms' first acts of duty as UCF's interim AD was meeting with all the head coaches and athletics staff. He said his message was a direct and encouraging one. Said Harms: ``Basically what I wanted to assure them was that we can't lose confidence in a situation like this. This is a setback and it is not the end of the world. We have some problems and we just need to sort them out and find out what the solutions are. We'll get there because we have good people and we'll get to a good final outcome.''
John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org.