The UCF Knights football program represents the University of Central Florida. It is a relative newcomer when compared to the first college football teams to spring up in the United States, which is perhaps unsurprising when the University of Central Florida came into existence in 1963. However, the UCF Knights have nonetheless managed to make themselves a name to respect. Here are 10 things that you may or may not have known about the UCF Knights football program:
1. Meant to Promote the School
The University of Central Florida started up the UCF Knights football program because its second president believed that a successful football program would raise its profile. It is interesting to note that happened at around the same time that said individual changed the name of the school to University of Central Florida, which was meant to show its expanded scope of operations.
2. Dr. Jack O’Leary Was Entrusted with Founding the Football Program
Founding the USC Knights football program was entrusted to Dr. Jack O’Leary, who had once served as assistant coach to Paul Bryant over at the University of Alabama. Unfortunately, while O’Leary might have been entrusted with an important task, he wasn’t provided with the kind of budget needed to succeed, which is why he had to spearhead the fundraising for $40,000.
3. First Head Coach Served on a Voluntary Basis
Initially, O’Leary had to convince people to coach the team on a voluntary basis. For example, he had to convince USC graduates to serve as voluntary assistants because he just didn’t have the money needed to pay them. Likewise, he eventually prevailed upon an ex-NFL quarterback named Don Jonas to serve as the voluntary head coach.
4. Jonas’s Coaching Was a Success
On the whole, Jonas’s coaching can be considered a success. After all, he led the UCF Knights to a 6-2 record in their first season, which was rather impressive considering the circumstances under which they had formed. Jonas continued to serve as the head coach until he left following the 1981 season, which saw another success in the form of the first player from the college football team to sign a professional contract.
5. There Were Discussions to Dismantle the Football Program in the 1980s
In the 1980s, the UCF Knights met with less success. In fact, the situation became so bad that there were serious discussions to dismantle the football program. Something that wasn’t helped by its lack of money.
6. The Situation Reversed Because of Gene McDowell
By 1985, an assistant coach from Florida State University named Gene McDowell had been hired to lead the UCF Knights. Under him, the football team reversed its fortunes, as shown by how it had managed to make Division I-A by September of 1996.
7. Gene McDowell Resigned in 1998
With that said, McDowell resigned from his position as head coach in 1998 under less than respectable circumstances. In short, what happened was that there was a federal fraud scandal, which was centered on the improper use as well as benefits of cellphones.
8. Used to Play at the Citrus Bowl
From 1979 to 2006, the UCF Knights played at the Citrus Bowl. However, this resulted in serious issues. For example, the Citrus Bowl had more seating than what the UCF Knights needed, which meant the less than pleasant sight of entire sections without people. Moreover, the University of Central Florida got very little revenue from their arrangement.
9. Now Play at the Spectrum Stadium
As a result, the University of Central Florida went ahead with the building of the on-campus Spectrum Stadium. Said stadium was built fast and cheap, which is why it is called the Bounce House because it has a tendency to literally bounce up and down.
10. Has Multiple Rivalries
The UCF Knights might be a relatively new football team, but it has multiple rivalries to call its own. For example, it is rivals with the University of South Florida Bulls, which makes sense because they operate in the same state. Likewise, the UCF Knights are rivals with both the East Carolina University Pirates and the University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane.