Today is the big day.
USF Football takes on its in-state rival, UCF, at noon in the highly hyped ‘War on I-4’.
USF is rewriting program history everywhere you look and Quinton Flowers has a decent, if not long-shot, case for the Heisman Trophy.
USF QB Quinton Flowers, seen here in 2015, is having a record setting season (AP)
UCF is 6-5 despite going winless last season and being embarrassed by USF in their meeting last year.
This is a pretty good game.
Too bad I, among many others, I’m sure, won’t be able to watch, let alone be in attendance at Raymond James Stadium in a season when USF’s attendance already is not what it should be in respect to their on-field performance.
It’s Thanksgiving weekend and I, among countless others, are out of town.
Even for those that hung around, there is a strong likelihood that they have family members from out of town they have to entertain. Or maybe they just want to go shopping on Black Friday weekend.
Regardless of the reason, football is not a top priority for many this weekend.
Which leads me to wonder why a rivalry that is lukewarm at best due to rather lopsided games and a five year break is being schedule on Thanksgiving weekend for the fourth year in a row.
Last year, the game wound up on Thanksgiving itself and the resulting attendance was not great. Just under 26,000 people were in attendance at Bright House Networks Stadium on UCF’s campus.
Quinton Flowers (with football) celebrates one of his five touchdowns versus UCF in 2015 (Tampa Bay Times)
UCF being winless to that point (and after that point, as well) didn’t help the cause, but neither did the game being played on Thanksgiving when a fair amount of would-be student attendees, or other local fans, were at home with their families.
This rivalry is not on the level of UF-FSU yet. It isn’t even close to the level of FSU-UM. In terms of rivalries in this state, it’s slightly higher than the Lightning-Panthers rivalry in the NHL, but that’s largely because the fans of both teams would rather be friends than foes.
Both schools clearly want this rivalry to work, and so do I, but they’re making it very difficult to get it off the ground when they keep scheduling it on Thanksgiving weekend.
The solution is simple.
Play this game the week before Thanksgiving.
Not only will a majority of students and fans still be in town and willing to attend/watch the games, playing it the week before means you don’t have to compete for media attention against the aforementioned UF-FSU game.
The War on I-4 trophy will be awarded to the winner of USF-UCF football games (USF Athletics)
It’s nice that both schools sell merchandise and even commissioned a trophy for this game, but if nobody (relatively, of course) is there to see it, is it really a rivalry?
Both schools would be doing everyone involved a huge favor by taking my advice for 2017.