ORLANDO, Fla. —
The appeals’ process allowed the Knights to participate in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl in 2012
Then, departing from their usual track record toward such appeals, the NCAA sided with UCF in April and threw out the football ban. Had UCF’s appeal not been successful, it would have served the ban this season and wouldn’t be eligible to play in the BCS.
It was gamble, but one that O’Leary said is glad they made.
“I thought it was a big decision and I guess a lot of people jumped on the bandwagon after we won it,” he said. “But I thought we had a legitimate shot at winning that because of some of the things that took place (and) why we got restrictions as far as it wasn’t much of a football deal.”
The outcome has now left the Knights with a chance to join the ranks of established in-state programs at Florida, Florida State and Miami as BCS bowl winners.
It’s also brought an instant national attention to UCF that many thought wasn’t possible after conference realignment completely reshuffled the Big East Conference that UCF originally signed up to join.
That spotlight has also included the rapid rise of junior quarterback Blake Bortles’ NFL draft stock in recent months.
While that kind of buzz could be a distraction for a young team in this position for the first time, O’Leary said he met with Bortles and his parents Sunday night and that he doesn’t anticipate that being an issue during their preparations.
Still, UCF offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe, who is in his fifth year as an assistant at the school, said that doesn’t mean there isn’t a recognition that the program must take advantage of the position it’s in.