Fiesta Bowl: Alumnus Shares 2014 Experience and Why He’ll Be Back

From left to right: Robert Muramatsu, Todd VanHoozier ’94, Matt Assenmacher ’93 and Jeff Downing in Arizona for the 2014 Fiesta Bowl

For those of you new to the exciting world of UCF Football, this year is actually the second time we’ve been invited to head out to Arizona for the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl (only back then we called it the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl). We sat down with alumnus and UCF Alumni Board member, Matt Assenmacher ’93, to ask him a little about his experience for the 2014 game, what he’s looking forward to this year and what he’d tell people on the fence about attending.

What led you to the Fiesta Bowl in 2014?

It was the last year of the BCS era and we had joined the Big East, which was restructured to the American Athletic Conference. So this was the last year that our conference had an automatic tie-in to a BCS (now New Year’s Six) bowl. When it got to the point that at the end of the season, we realized UCF was going to go, I talked to some of my friends and we just said — we’re not going to miss this opportunity because we didn’t know if it would happen again. Obviously not knowing at the time that three years later the Peach Bowl would happen and then we’d be going back to Arizona again, but at the time we thought this opportunity may not present itself again.

And what was it like?

We had a great time. We didn’t get there that much earlier than the game, so we didn’t get to do a lot of sight-seeing. We just really focused on the game and went to the alumni tailgate, which we had a blast at. The game was amazing. UCF never trailed in the game. Everyone was saying we were going to lose and we were going to get destroyed, and it was just a great feeling afterwards because — at that point, it was the biggest win we’d ever had. It’s funny too because some of the Baylor fans, when we were walking into the stadium with them, they were real nice to us because they figured we didn’t have a chance. And they were really quiet on the way out.

Did you think twice about making the trip? Because of the Arizona of it all?

No not at all. And not this time either. I’m taking my son and we’re spending a little extra time there. We’re going to see the Grand Canyon, Sedona, if we get time we’re going to go down to Tombstone and just see some of the sights around Arizona.

What were some of your favorite experiences in 2014?

Besides the game, definitely the alumni tailgate. We actually spent a good chunk of that day at the alumni tailgate and just had a great time.

What has been most exciting to you the past few years as a UCF Knight?

It’s amazing just to see them go undefeated in one season. That doesn’t happen very often. And to do it back-to-back seasons is amazing, especially with the coaching changes. It’s been really exciting to see the student support growing and the fan support from the community. I had season tickets both times when we were win-less, and through good and bad, it’s important to support the team. It’s great to see the success they’ve had. And I think a lot of it too has to do with the things that Danny White has put in place to try to make all of our athletic programs successful. It all brings a lot of really good exposure to the university.

What are you looking forward to the most?

Well, the game. Number one. Getting a chance to get back out there again and seeing some sights and taking advantage of the location.

What advice would you give people considering to head out to this year’s game?

Figure out a way to make it happen. At that 2014 game, that was kind of a first-time thing, so we never knew if it was going to happen again. Last year we had the Peach Bowl and we can get kind of spoiled with success too, where people may be thinking “well I’ll just wait until it comes back to the Peach Bowl or somewhere close.” But there are no guarantees. You never know what’s going to happen. I hope UCF continues to have great success and we continue to have these great opportunities, but don’t take it for granted. Take advantage of the opportunity and find a way to make it happen. I’ve seen some postings online where students are planning to drive. I understand that it’s not cheap to get out there, but you can find ways to make it work. The work that the coaches and the players have put into the season and how much support they’ve had at home all year, let’s help continue that support for the last game of the season at the Fiesta Bowl.

You heard Matt. Make it happen!

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week – Dec. 10, 2018

1. Anyone else very aware after this weekend just how boring a Saturday can be without some Knights football? Thankfully we’re approximately 22 days away from the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl and another chance to cheer our team onto victory!

There are a lot of moving pieces and details to being a part of the festivities, so we put it all in one place to be most helpful to you all. We’ve seen time and time again how important it is to have fan support in the stadium for our games and the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl will be no different — we need you there cheering with every ounce of black-and-gold spirit you have!

2.What’s a UCF football game without a tailgate? We’re packing up our best beads and tailgate accouterments and heading out to McFadden’s Restaurant in Glendale, AZ for the UCF ChargeOn Tailgate! This is the official UCF tailgate and all alumni, friends and fans are invited to join us. There will be a hearty brunch buffet (‘cause 7 a.m.), drink tickets and appearances by UCF fan favorites.

BUT WAIT! Don’t just get excited and keep scrolling. Advanced registration is required. So do that. Seriously, do it now. Why would you even wait? There are only 22 days left! Let’s do this thing.

3. We know you’re pumped on the Fiesta Bowl, we know you want to be a part of the ChargeOn Tailgate (wait, did you register yet?) but the travel details of it all are hanging you up. Well stop Googling “flights to Arizona New Year’s Day” and let us help you out. We are partnering with Anthony Travel and they have put together a handful of packages to help us help you in shaking out all the necessary things needed for a great experience. And here’s the deal, the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl requires each school participating in the game to guarantee a specific number of hotel rooms. The hotel selection is mandated by the bowl. So, when you purchase your hotel accommodations through Anthony Travel, you’re supporting UCF Athletics. Which is a really good thing! Thanks for doing it.

4. Commencements are happening this weekend, which means we are about to add more than 5,700 new members to our UCF Alumni Family. If you’re one of those 5,700 — first off, welcome and congratulations! In addition to a lifetime of getting to say “oh, UCF? Yeah, I went there. No biggie, I’m a Knight.” for the rest of your life, there are alumni benefits you oughta know about.

5. “The University of Central Florida’s football players are not the only Knights dominating their field in 2018. This year was also a spectacular one for research at UCF.” UCF Today has compiled a top-10 list for research at UCF in 2018 based on web traffic and media success. It’s just one of those things that you read and feel extreme pride in your alma mater.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week – Dec. 2, 2018


1. Pretty uneventful weekend for Knight Nation, huh? Oh wait. Our Knights proved again that we are a team worthy of respect. The 1-0 mantra that has defined this season carried us all the way to 12-0, a 56-41 win over the Memphis Tigers and another AAC championship trophy. As Coach Heupel said Saturday night, “It wasn’t pretty early, but it was pretty late.” A special shout-out to all of our fans who proudly donned their black-and-gold, threw on a lei or two and brought the bounce to the Bounce House on Saturday night. It’s been an incredible season and we can’t wait for what’s next.

2. Speaking of what’s next…who’s coming with us to Arizona? It was announced yesterday during the College Football Playoff selection show that UCF is heading to the Fiesta Bowl to take on the LSU Tigers. And yes, we did just beat some Tigers. So let’s all plan to be at the State Farm Stadium on Jan. 1 to root our team on to do it again! At every game this season, our fans being in the stands cheering loud has been a pivotal factor in all the Ws we’ve pocketed. We need your support again! Get all the details on tickets, travel and the UCF ChargeOn Tailgate and we’ll see you there!

3. Each Indoor Tailgate is an opportunity for us to gather together in solidarity, around a common desire to get hyped with fellow Knights, but this past Saturday’s tailgate we also got to support a fellow Knight. In addition to our usual festivities (BBQ, Spirit Team, Getting-Ridiculously-Pumped-For-Another-Win) there was a banner for McKenzie Milton, created by a spirited group of alumni, for fans to sign with well wishes for #10.

This was our last Indoor Tailgate of the year and you all made it one to remember! Thank you for coming out this season and cheering hard. Check out pictures from the event here.

4. That underlying theme of Knights supporting Knights was certainly on display on Giving Tuesday last week! In one (1) day, 645 of you stepped up and donated $88,000 to more than 100 different UCF causes. That is big. That is really big. In fact, $88,000 is the most UCF has ever raised on Giving Tuesday. The most popular funds were Area of Greatest Need, First Generation Scholarships, Football Excellence Fund and the John and Martha Hitt Athletic Scholarship Fund. That means that $88,000 isn’t just some abstract number to read and move along from — it’s $88,00 toward furthering the education of worthy applicants who may not have had the chance to go to college. It’s $88,000 that helps us continue to recruit and develop excellent student-athletes. It’s $88,000 that will be the reason future leaders dream big and innovate without limits.

Thank you for being a part of Giving Tuesday! Especially the nearly 150 of you who served as social media ambassadors and shared the cause. (Wondering what this means and want to be one next time? We got you covered.)

5. Remember those cute little bears dressed in UCF Nursing scrubs? Of course you do, they were adorable. And last week they all officially found their homes! All of the 300 panda bears from the 2018 “Give Thanks, Give a Bear” campaign were sponsored, raising $15,000 for scholarships, faculty research and medical mission trips, and distributed to hospitalized children at multiple locations throughout Orlando. Thank you for being a part of this campaign, supporting UCF College of Nursing and bringing this smile to a child in our community.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week – Nov. 26, 2018

1. We’re not completely certain, but we have a feeling the word “bittersweet” was created to describe days like last Friday. As you likely know, McKenzie Milton went down in the second quarter of the game against USF this weekend. Knight Nation has since offered an outpouring of support for #10, and we at UCF Alumni send him our best and wish him a speedy recovery. As for our Knights on the field, they were emboldened to give it all they had and win over the Bulls 38-10. That win bumped us up to #7 in both the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll.

We’re proud as ever for the ways our team rallied and showed the nation what we all already knew — to be a Knight is to be a part of a devoted family that supports each other, laughs together and keeps on charging on.

2. To show our support for McKenzie and just how grateful we are to be a part of his #10hana, Knights will be sporting leis this upcoming weekend for our American Athletic Conference Championship game against Memphis. If you’re in Orlando and want to show your solidarity for our team, join us for the Indoor Tailgate Dec. 1 at the FAIRWINDS Alumni Center at 12:30. If you can’t be in Orlando, find out details for Watch Parties here (and don’t forget to stock up on leis!).

3. If you’re looking for other ways to support Knight Nation this week, you’re in luck! Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday, the worldwide day of charitable giving. You’ve eaten all the Thanksgiving turkey your stomach could hold, taken advantage of all the Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday deals your heart desired, and tomorrow is the day to exercise your generosity and give.

With 68,00 current students, there has never been a more important time to support your alma mater. We encourage you to check our post Five Things Knights Need to Know About Giving Tuesday at UCF to learn more about how you can be a part of all the undefeated athleticism, unmatched academia and unwavering momentum at UCF.

4. “I love baseball so much and that’s the only sport I wanted to get involved with. Back then, I didn’t think I would ever become a world champion, but the dream was to get there someday.” We get pretty excited when a UCF student’s dream becomes a UCF alum’s achievement! Kiyoshi Momose ’00MS, who is the sports and conditioning coach for the Boston Red Sox, can now add a check-mark next to the bucket list item of winning the World Series in Dodger Stadium. We’re proud to call you a part of the #UCFamily, Kiyoshi! Read more here.

5. With Thanksgiving in our collective rear-view mirror, it’s officially not out-of-bounds to start prepping for December holidays and there’s no better way to do so than to pretend that Florida is colder than it really is and attend Light Up UCF! There’s ice-skating, light shows and even a Ferris Wheel. Get into the holiday spirit and be there.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week – Nov. 19, 2018

  1. As if you could have possibly missed it with all the (well-deserved) hype, it was a very, VERY big weekend for UCF.

The ESPN College GameDay crew made their first-ever appearance on campus Saturday morning and Knights came out in full force to show the nation what UCF is all about. Memory Mall hosted more than 20,000 UCF fans — including Lee Corso who, decked out in complete Knightro garb, picked our Knights to win against Cincinnati.

Speaking of winning against Cincinnati… Image result for check mark emoji.

And in front of the second-largest crowd Spectrum Stadium has ever seen! If you were one of the 47,795 fans in attendance Saturday night, you already know how electric the stadium felt and how amped our fans were to cheer our team to a 38-13 win over the Bearcats, earning us the AAC East Division Championship trophy, a 23-game winning streak and a rise to No. 8 in the polls.

All in all, Saturday was a really great day to be a Knight. But, then again, so is every day.

  1. Somewhere in between the stare-down kid and Maria Taylor having a staring contest on GameDay and that incredible blocked field-goal-attempt by Joey Connors, we hosted our Indoor Tailgate at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center. We had all the necessary ingredients for a great Indoor Tailgate: the UCF spirit team, Knightro, the sweet smell of Bubbalou’s BBQ wafting throughout the room and a whole lot of alumni ready to cheer the Knights on to victory.

Were you there and are looking for your pictures? Or were you not there and are looking for pictures of what you missed out on? We’ve got you covered.

Don’t forget to mark your calendar for our next Indoor Tailgate on Dec. 1 as we gear up to take on the to-be-determined AAC West division winner.

  1. Just in case the feel on campus last week wasn’t joyful enough, Light Up UCF opened to the public on Friday. The Winter Wonderland will run through Jan. 1 and offers ice skating, a world-class choreographed light show sponsored by Duke Energy, free holiday movies, live entertainment, a Ferris Wheel, and an excuse for alumni to throw on their favorite black-and-gold hoodie and come visit campus! Find all the details you’re looking for right here.
  2.  We’re trusting you already know Thanksgiving is this week, but did you know Giving Tuesday is coming up too? After all the turkey on Thanksgiving Thursday and shopping on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday is the worldwide national day of giving. Our alumni showed up big last year and we (along with current students and other friends of the university) were able to raise over $71,000 toward scholarships, athletics and academic programs at UCF. We’re looking forward to another year of generosity and giving from our most loyal of Knights. If you’re looking for more information and ideas for how you can help the next generation of Knight Nation, head to our Giving Tuesday Facebook event.

UCF College of Nursing Bears Campaign

  1. Our Give Thanks, Give a Bear campaign is wrapping up next week and we’d love for you to be a part of it. A gift of $50 sends a bear to a child in one of our six pediatric partner hospitals. These limited-edition bears are even wearing a replica of the scrubs worn by UCF nursing students, which means they’re very cute and are pretty much guaranteed to bring a smile to a child’s face. All funds raised in the campaign go toward funding priority areas within the College of Nursing.