John Denton's Knights Insider: Rooney Ready for UCF to Make Jump

June 23, 2010

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By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - With a contract extension locked up and the baseball complex about to undergo a major facelift, UCF baseball coach Terry Rooney sees a parallel between the Knights and blossoming programs such as TCU, Virginia and Louisville.

The combination of stability with the head coach and the growth of the facility have helped those baseball programs grow exponentially and make the jump to the elite of college baseball.

And now Rooney is hoping a similar fate will come for a UCF team coming off a 33-win season and about to add a second stellar recruiting class.

``There's an interesting dynamic to those teams who have made that jump. TCU, Virginia and Louisville were very average programs in the last five years. But all three hired new coaches and committed to their baseball program and built new or enhanced their stadiums,'' Rooney said. ``So it goes hand in hand. Once a school makes a significant commitment to their program they have all flourished. That's what we have a chance to do here at UCF. That's why I signed my extension and there's a commitment here now to the program. We can do those things, like getting to the College World Series. We're continuing to get better and everything is positive in the community, nationally and in recruiting. Now, the number one priority of our program is the expansion of our stadium. Look at Louisville, TCU and Virginia - when they expanded their facility they get some of the best players in the country and their programs took off.''

UCF took off this past season, winning its most games (33) since joining Conference USA. The Knights also had 10 C-USA wins, the most ever in league play. And several players earned top individual honors with Chris Duffy becoming a finalist for the Golden Spikes National Player of the Year award. Shane Brown and Duffy earned All-American honors, while Joe Rogers (C-USA Freshman of the Year), Ryan Breen and Chris Taladay earned Freshmen All-American honors.

All of that promise at UCF led to Rooney signing a contract extension that will keep him at UCF through 2014. He said while the transition over the past two years has been a daunting one, he couldn't be happier with the position the program is in going forward. The goal now - more than ever - is to get UCF to the College World Series this time next year.

``The extension shows a commitment that the university has to myself and this baseball program to allow us to continue doing what we've started here,'' Rooney said. ``Where we are and how far we've come in two years, I feel like the blueprint for success is there. We've just got to keep it moving forward now, and the extension is a big step in the right direction.''

Rooney feels that improving the seating capacity, clubhouse and overall facilities at the baseball complex will help the Knights take another big step.

Three phases of expansion will bring an additional 3,380 seats to the current 800 seats at the complex. The first phase will include the addition of 1,200 bleacher seats (600 beyond each dugout). The second phase will include an elevated press box, seven luxury suites and club level seating. The final phase will add 2,000 seats on the present concourse, along with new restrooms and concession space.

Rooney feels that the more impressive facility will aid the Knights in attracting more talented recruits to UCF. The Knights snagged a recruiting class that was ranked fourth nationally last season.

Rooney looks at programs such as TCU, Virginia and Louisville as programs that were in a similar position as UCF, but have risen up to become powerhouse programs after expanding their facilities.

TCU, a participant in the 2010 College World Series, opened $7 million Lupton Baseball Stadium in 2003 and has steadily climbed to elite status as a program under coach Jim Schlossnagle.

Louisville moved into Jim Patterson Stadium in 2005 and the program has since become one of the best in the BIG EAST. The Cardinals won 50 games this past season, captured the BIG EAST regular season title and lost in the regional finals.

As for Virginia, Davenport Field underwent a major overhaul in 2002 with capacity expanded to 2,000 seats with six skyboxes, a new lighting system and new dugouts. The Cavs have since gone to seven-consecutive NCAA Regionals, reached a No. 1 ranking and made it to the 2009 College World Series.

Rooney said there's a direct correlation to school's enhancing their facility and then experiencing major success.

``There's a reason that TCU is in Omaha. Besides their great coaching, they built their facility and got great recruits,'' Rooney said. ``And that's what can happen here at UCF. We're starting to get the players and if we can do the same thing with our facility then we can compete at the highest level of college baseball.''

Rooney expects that to come sooner rather than later what with the talent that UCF is attracting and the experience that its freshmen got this past season. The Knights started five freshmen most of the season, experience that should pay off going into next season. Rooney said that the goals for next season are clear in that UCF fully expects to compete for a C-USA title, find a way to qualify for the NCAA tournament and possibly even make it to the College World Series.

``We've done some things here that the program has never done before academically, socially and certainly on the field. When we look at what we just accomplished, and our recruiting class was consensus top 10, so we feel really good about Year 2,'' Rooney said. ``Every recruit that we have and every kid we have signed here and every kid already in the program, the primary goal is that road to Omaha.''

John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFathletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at jdenton@athletics.ucf.edu.