The stakes surrounding Saturday's season opener between Bethune-Cookman University and Jacksonville University will be higher than either side dreamed when this contract was signed a year ago.
That's because former University of Florida quarterback Kerwin Bell has taken over as JU's head coach, bringing credibility and vision to a program that had neither its first nine years of existence (35-54 record).
Bell led Ocala Trinity Catholic to a state football championship in 2005 and runner-up finish in 2006.
Although the program competes in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-AA), it offers no scholarships and there are no plans to change that. Still, Bell thinks he can get the Dolphins competitive.
'I love challenges,' Bell said. 'I have a passion for doing things people say can't be done.'
B-CU coach Alvin Wyatt likes the sound of Bell's aspirations. The current contract is only for two years, but if Bell is successful at quickly upgrading JU's program, this game could be the start of an annual series that would be profitable for both programs.
'I hope this does develop into a rivalry,' Wyatt said. 'That's going to mean a lot more people in the stands, a lot more interest in the game and I like being involved in games like that.'
Knights Have Talent At Wide Receiver
Central Florida has sent two receivers to the NFL the last two years - Brandon Marshall to Denver and Mike Walker to Jacksonville - so it was a little surprising what UCF coach George O'Leary said about this year's group:
'We're probably more talented at wide receiver than we have been since I got here. We've got more juice, more speed, more range with this group than we've ever had.'
They also have very little experience.
Three of the four wideouts listed on UCF's two-deep depth chart - Kamar Aikens, A.J. Guyton and Sid Haynes - are freshmen. The fourth is junior Rocky Ross.
EARLY OPPORTUNITIES: O'Leary, 12-24 his first three seasons, admits it's time for his program to turn the corner.
'The school has done everything I spoke to them about when I was hired,' O'Leary said. 'It's time for us to start doing our job.'
The Knights start the season with two great chances to make an impact. They are at North Carolina State on Saturday and home to Texas on Sept. 15.
FAMU Renews Rivalry With Southern U.
Florida A&M is reviving what used to be an annual rivalry with Southern University this weekend when it opens the season Saturday against the Jaguars in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge in Birmingham, Ala.
The schools played 59 times from 1941 until the series stopped in 2001. FAMU leads 34-24-1.
In the opener, the Rattlers will have 20 returning starters.
'We got a lot of on-the-job training last season with young players,' said FAMU coach Rubin Carter, who is entering his third season. 'There were some growing pains with that, but we've got high expectations this year. We're going to be a lot better prepared to start a season than we have been.'