So who or what is the University of Central Florida and why should University of Louisville fans be concerned about its football team?
The opening line of the welcoming message on the school’s web site boasts that UCF is one of the most dynamic universities in the country, offering 212 degree programs and has become an academic and research leader in numerous fields. More than 60,000 students attend classes on the main campus in Orlando and nine regional campuses.
Though UCF reportedly is the second largest university in the country, most sports fans had never heard of Central Florida until recently. The institution has actually been around for 45 years, originally known as Florida Technological University.
In 1978 Trevor Colbourn, an Australian with a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University, was named the school’s second president and changed the school’s name to UCF. He also led the drive for greater emphasis on athletics, especially football, believing it would bring the school more prestige.
His instincts served the school well, UCF rising from Division III to Division 1A in less than two decades. It didn’t hurt, of course, that the program has access to an abundance of high school football talent in Florida. Over the years, UCF has sent more than 30 players to the National Football League, participated in five bowls (including a 10-6 win over Georgia in the Liberty Bowl in 2011), and won Conference USA championships in 2007 and 2010.
The football team plays in Brighthouse Stadium, an on-campus facility which was completed in 2007. Seating capacity is 45,323, with plans in place for expansion to 65,000 seats. Since joining the American Athletic Conference this season, the Knights have posted a 4-1 won-loss record, including a 34-31 win at Penn State and a three-point loss to South Carolina at home.
The Knights are coached by George O’Leary, who had accepted the Notre Dame post before resume discrepancies were discovered and he latched on to the UCF job in 2004. Quarterback Blake Bortles is completing 64.5% of his passes and nine touchdowns thus far. Wide receiver Rannell Hall has 21 receptions, averaging 17 yards per catch, and has three touchdowns. Running back Storm Johnson is averaging 5.2 yards per carry and has nine touchdowns.
UCF has had a lot of success for a young program, is very ambitious, and the game against the University of Louisville is one of the biggest in its history.
Expect a war.
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The Central Florida web site lists 25 watch parties for the game to be televised on ESPN, the sites ranging from San Francisco and Dallas to New York City and Washington, D.C. Floridians take their football seriously across the country.