Earlier this year, the UCF Student Government Association announced its plan for a new, reservation-based tailgating system that will allow alumni and students to reserve their (free) gameday spots on Memory Mall.
The Knights on the Mall website launched its reservation system at 10 a.m. yesterday (Aug. 17) for the Sept. 3 home game against FIU. Within the first hour, more than 50 alumni and more than 115 students logged on to reserve their spaces, which were all sold out by 4 p.m.
For the rest of the season, online reservations will begin at 10 a.m. the Monday before each home game. That means your next chance to reserve a spot will be Monday, Sept. 7, at 10 a.m., for the UCF vs. Furman game on Sept. 19.
And, even if you do tailgate the traditional way, don’t forget about the alumni association’s Indoor Tailgates, where you can cool off inside the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center, use real restrooms, buy barbecue from Bubbalou’s, and grab free Coca-Cola products (while supplies last) and free beer (with purchase of commemorative cup)! Come join us!
UCF student-athletes are continuing to excel in the classroom, as well as in competition. Three Knights programs were honored Tuesday, July 28, as the American Athletic Conference announced its Team Academic Excellence Awards for 2014-15.
The American Athletic Conference Team Academic Excellence Awards recognize the team in each conference sport with the highest GPA for that academic year. UCF’s football, men’s basketball and softball programs each earned that distinction this year.
“I’m very proud of our student-athletes for their hard work and success in the classroom,” interim Director of Athletics George O’Leary said. “We have a culture of academic success at UCF.”
For Coach O’Leary’s football program, it marks the fourth straight season the Knights have been honored as the best academic team in their conference. The Knights have brought home the Team Academic Excellence Award twice in the two-year existence of the American Athletic Conference. In addition to the last two AAC honors, the football program also brought home the Conference USA Sport Academic Award in 2011-12 and 2012-13.
The Knights are the two-time defending American Athletic Conference champions on the gridiron to go along with the Academic Team Excellence Awards.
Head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie led her softball squad to a school-record 50 wins last season. The Knights were the American Athletic Conference Champions in both the regular season and postseason tournament and advanced to the NCAA Regional Final. The Black and Gold accomplished those feats while also fielding the strongest academic squad in the conference.
Meanwhile, men’s basketball head coach Donnie Jones leads a squad that posted a school-record Academic Progress Rate score in the most recent NCAA release, to go along with his team’s AAC Team Academic Excellence Award.
Academic accolades have become the norm at UCF.
As a department, the Knights rank No. 1 in the nation in NCAA Graduation Success Rate among all public institutions. At 95 percent in the most recent GSR report, UCF trails only private institutions Notre Dame, Stanford, Duke and Northwestern. The Knights’ GSR is 11 points above the national average. UCF’s football, volleyball, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s soccer and rowing programs are all tops among The American in Graduation Success Rate.
In the most recent NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) report, the Knights improved for the 10th consecutive year. Two Knights programs — volleyball and women’s tennis — have had multiple perfect scores in APR, while the department average of 981 is a school record. Twelve of the Knights’ 16 sports are at or above the national average for APR.
Graduate. Get a job. Get promoted. Climb the ladder. Succeed. That’s what most students think life after college is all about. Three alumnae recently spoke to Wilfried Iskat’s Introduction to Lodging class at Rosen College about the unexpected curves and swerves that come after graduation and how to make the most of the journey.
Jamie Realander, ’11, Kate Thomas, ’05, and Jennifer Garcia, ’09, all traveled unconventional paths to their current jobs, but found that their experiences helped them realize their true potential and discover their professional passions.
Realander is a conference center sales manager for the Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando, and, although she just graduated in 2011, is already a veteran employee of the company. Realander started working for Rosen Hotels & Resorts in February 2006 and rotated through multiple positions learning hotel operations. Then, in June 2011, she took an opportunity to work for the new JW Marriott in Indianapolis. Personal matters led her to return to Orlando and the company she refers to as “family.”
Realander hopes the future holds the opportunity to open her own boutique hotel and credits Rosen College for guiding her in the right direction to someday realize that goal. She encourages students to make the most of their time before graduation.
“Life after Rosen has drastically changed and I am not quite sure how I juggled school and a full-time career before,” Realander said. “Take advantage of every opportunity and be sure to get your name out there. There is something to be learned in every experience. You may not realize it at the time, but hindsight is 20/20.”
Thomas, a marketing manager for the Hyatt Regency Orlando, found herself doing work she never expected on her way to her current position, including human resources, revenue management, digital media and email marketing. Thomas stressed the importance of volunteering for projects and trying new things, despite lacking prior education and training, in order to continuously learn and provide value to your employer.
“My life after Rosen has been unpredictable as far as a career path goes,” Thomas said. “What was predictable is that I graduated with the skills and work ethic to make a go of anything I pursued. Every experience counts, no matter what the job, volunteer experience or interaction — it will teach you something.”
Garcia says Rosen College taught her to dream big and reminded students to believe they can achieve their goals even if they can’t see a straight path to success. Garcia currently works for the Florida Panthers hockey team as a client management specialist, but infiltrating the sports industry proved difficult despite her persistence. With aspirations to become the senior vice president of events for the NFL and produce the Super Bowl, she encourages students to prepare for professional rejection, no matter how focused or accomplished they are while pursuing their degrees.
“Life after Rosen was eye opening,” Garcia said. “No matter how strategic your internships or how many hands you shake in college, there comes a time where you lose the ‘help me and hire me because I’m a student’ umbrella. My advice would be to prepare yourself for rejection because it makes it easier to power through. You learn the true value of resiliency and you become hungrier and hungrier to land the next interview.”
“I know what it takes to be a student-athlete and an engineer,” said Brian Crutcher, ’95, speaking last week with a group of UCF student-athletes majoring in engineering. “I know athletes are competitive. Really competitive. You don’t go out there to be second, third or fourth. You want to win. And we need that exact same trait in the business world.”
Crutcher, who played defensive back for the Knights while pursuing his electrical engineering degree and now serves as executive vice president of business operations for Texas Instruments, was on campus to help lay the groundwork for the College of Engineering and Computer Science Student Athletes Program. The program will help student-athlete engineering majors like Crutcher persevere through a curriculum that is rigorous even without the added demands of being an athlete. Crutcher has committed $200,000 over the next five years through his Crutcher Family Fund to support the program.
His ultimate intent, Crutcher says, is to ensure that students like him realize their engineering career goals and then carry forward into the workplace the leadership and teamwork skills — and, of course, competitiveness — that are second nature in sports. Despite UCF’s heavy emphasis on academic achievement for student-athletes — the university’s graduation rate for student-athletes is No. 1 in the nation among NCAA Division I public institutions — engineering majors frequently switch to less demanding disciplines during their first two years. The new program will focus specifically on shoring up math support to freshman and sophomore CECS student-athletes and providing one-on-one graduate advisor tutoring and mentoring.
Crutcher spent more than an hour with the student-athletes, recalling the challenges he had faced, listening to theirs, and answering a flood of questions about applying and interviewing for jobs and life in the professional world. His core message was a simple one though: “Don’t quit. I guarantee you it will be worth it.”
Wealth management firm Moreno, Peelen, Pinto & Clark hosted its second MPC UCF Touchdown Breakfast on Wednesday, April 29, to help raise money toward an academic support center for UCF athletes.
Four of the five partners in the firm are UCF alumni, including Christina Pinto, ’86; Lisa-Moreno Haramboure, ’89; Tony Moreno Jr., ’91, who also serves on the UCF Foundation Board of Directors; and Rob Clark, ’94. The firm’s other partner, Scott Peelen, graduated from Michigan State, but he was easily adopted as a member of their UCF family, especially since his daughter, Sarah, is a current UCF student, and he attends all of the football games.
The breakfast took place at the Alfond Inn in Winter Park, with many prominent community figures in attendance — including members of the UCF Board of Trustees, UCF Foundation Board of Directors and UCF Alumni Association Board of Directors, as well as Orange County commissioners, current and former mayors, and one of the forefathers of UCF, Charlie Gray.
Knightro and some of the UCF Cheerleaders kicked off the morning with a cheer, followed by opening remarks from Peelen. WESH 2 Sports Anchor Pat Clarke hosted the remainder of the event, reminiscing about when UCF’s football program first started, and how he used to be able to park his Mustang under the Citrus Bowl stands. He commended then-Coach Gene McDowell on taking the program from Division II to Division I-AA, as well as current Head Coach George O’Leary on his “culture of winning” and “culture of learning.” He concluded with a video showcasing this season’s UCF Football’s key players before introducing Todd Stansbury, UCF’s athletic director, who stepped in to speak for O’Leary, who had to cancel his appearance due to a minor medical issue.
“When George meets with recruits,” Stansbury said, “he only guarantees them one thing — that they’ll graduate. He demands excellence, and that’s what he gets.”
In fact, UCF is No. 3 in the nation for graduating 90 percent of its football players, and is No. 1 in the nation for graduating 95 percent of all its student-athletes combined.
“A lot of people think we’re in the entertainment business,” Stansbury continued. “We’re really in the education business. Our mission is to provide opportunity to young people and develop future leaders. Our job is to use sport to prepare them to compete.”
While there were plenty of laughs, including an anecdote from Clarke about Peelen’s former reporting skills, the morning was really about supporting UCF’s athletes and their academic endeavors. Moreno, Peelen, Pinto & Clark pledged to match gifts up to the first $10,000 raised.
“One of the things we’ve noticed is the quality of the students graduating from UCF,” Moreno Jr. says. “In fact, we just hired another UCF alumnus through the internship program. We’re very proud of the high ranking UCF maintains for graduating athletes.”
Want to help make the academic support center a reality? Contact Chris Huff, associate athletics director of development and executive director of the Golden Knights Club, at [email protected] or 407.823.2205.
See highlights from the MPC UCF Touchdown Breakfast:
President Hitt spends an evening with alumni in Southwest Florida
On Jan. 26, UCF Knights in Southwest Florida joined President John Hitt for a unique Share the Knight event. The university’s president answered questions about the much-anticipated UCF Downtown Campus, including which academic programs and services may be offered on the new campus, as well as the possibility of an upscale hotel on the UCF Main Campus, progress on a possible judicial center, and many more.
More than 60 alumni and friends were in attendance for this unique evening, which also included a chance for Knights to network and catch up.
The next Share the Knight event is tentatively scheduled for Chicago (date TBD).
Tradition is in full force on game days at Bright House Networks Stadium. The UCF Marching Knights enter the stadium, followed by the cheerleaders, who lead fans through the War Chant. But, before the team arrives and the crowd starts jumping to “Zombie Nation,” there’s one more tradition to cheer, as Pegasus and the UCF Knight charge onto the field, rearing as Knightro draws the sword from the ground. While you may have seen this choreographed entrance many times, you may not know how this particular tradition got started, or where our “Pegasus” comes from.
The university has had a variety of Pegasus mascots over the years, including horses donated by Burt Reynolds in the ’80s, and Rick Walsh, ’70, retired Darden executive and UCF Trustee, in the ’90s.
In 2001, the UCF Alma Mater Society, comprised of the university’s Distinguished Alumnus Award winners, established the official mascot program, after presenting a proposal to the alumni association, which partnered with Medieval Times and received a donated horse named Centauro. That same year, the Equestrian Club at UCF and the Pegasus Mascot Team were established.
The “World Famous” Lipizzaner Stallions also donated horses to the program, until last year, when the UCF Alumni Association formed a relationship with Arabian Nights and Al-Marah Arabian Horses in Clermont, Fla.
The university’s current “Pegasus” is a 24-year-old Gray Arabian gelding, also known as Clemmy in the stables, who joined the mascot team in August 2013. His job in the former Arabian Nights dinner show was to rear off the bad guy.
“The light work load he does for UCF and our lesson program keeps him in shape and his mind active,” says Zach Becker, breeding manager for Al-Marah Arabians.
Arabian horses, named after the peninsula, are the oldest breed in the world, known for their small, refined, dished faces, Becker explains.
“Originally, they came from the desert, [which is how they got] their compact bodies and great stamina,” he continues. “They have a great temperament and willingness to please, as they slept in the tents with their riders when sandstorms arose in the desert.”
In addition to Clemmy, UCF also uses a 14-year-old Gray Arabian gelding named Kizmet for parades and other event photo ops.
“Thanks to Arabian Nights, our horses are used to large numbers of people, as well as lights and music,” Becker says. “Also, any new up-and-coming horses ride with us to the game and just hang out at the trailer for the day to get used to the sights and sounds of UCF. The more things we can acclimate them to, the better.”
The horses aren’t the only ones who are trained, however.
Carla Cordoba, ’94, associate director of constituent programs at the UCF Alumni Association, has been the advisor for the Pegasus Mascot Team since its inception. During that time, she’s overseen five horses and about 15 Knights.
Knights have to go through an audition process, which includes an in-person interview, as well as a riding evaluation, with current mascot team members, Cordoba and Becker, to see what their riding capabilities are, and to make sure they get along with the horses. Becker then works with those chosen on how to cue and ride each movement, teaching them how to speak the language Al-Marah’s horses will understand.
Knightro is the athletics mascot and takes on a character persona, while Pegasus and the UCF Knight are a university mascot, although they both appear at athletic events.
In addition to the other criteria required to be a Knight, each rider must also be able to fit into the small costume.
All Knight rider candidates must squire for at least one year before applying. A squire’s main duties including grooming Pegasus, getting him and the Knight into their costumes, interacting with fans, and escorting Pegasus and the UCF Knight onto the field.
SUPPORT THE PEGASUS MASCOT PROGRAM
Want to be a part of UCF’s history and traditions by helping to keep the Pegasus Mascot Program alive? Contact Carla Cordoba at [email protected] or 407.823.3453 for more information.
As we prepare to bid farewell to 2014, we can’t help but reflect on all of the great UCF stories that have been shared over the last 12 months. Celebrating a new year with a BCS bowl win, welcoming more than 16,000 new alumni over three semesters of graduation ceremonies, getting to know an inspirational teacher, helping a little boy get a “robo-arm” and witnessing a Knights marriage proposal are enough to run the emotional gamete on their own. But, we’ve got more!
Here are our top 10 favorite stories of 2014:
10. Tostitos Fiesta Bowl On Jan. 1, 2014, our Knights won their first-ever BCS bowl after defeating Baylor 52-42 in Glendale, Ariz. (Seems like a fitting story for our list of favorites, as our Knights play in their third-consecutive bowl, facing N.C. State in the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl on Dec. 26, after celebrating back-to-back AAC championships. Go Knights! Charge On!)
9. Graduation The UCF Alumni Association welcomed more than 5,000 new alumni during fall 2014 commencement ceremonies held Dec. 12-13. With these graduations, UCF has awarded more than 271,000 degrees since classes began in 1968. In total, the alumni association welcomed more than 16,000 new alumni in 2014, including spring and summer graduations.
8. The Origins of Pegasus Magazine In 2014, Pegasus Magazine celebrated its 20th year in production. The inaugural issue in July 1994 was printed and mailed to 59,861 alumni. Today, the award-winning publication is sent to more than 205,000 (addressable) alumni. Pegasus was created by Tom Messina, ’84, along with fellow Knights Mike Hinn, ’92, and Jim Hobart, ’91.
7. Little Legacy Marlie Kai Dodson dreamed of being a UCF Cheerleader and attending the College of Nursing. However, pediatric brain cancer claimed her life on Dec. 31, 2011, leaving behind a little legacy that would make a big impact. Thankful for the nurses who cared so much for her daughter, Marlie’s mom, Sarah Dodson, ’01, along with her family of other UCF Knights, established the Marlie Kai Dodson Endowed UCF Oncology Nursing Scholarship, which was awarded this year for the first time.
6. 180 Degrees
Although Jill Schenk, ’90, was an “American Gladiators” contestant, her spirit wasn’t as strong as her body. After struggling with addiction and attempting suicide, she was finally able to learn how to love herself, and now inspires her students as a teacher at San Diego High School.
5. Homecoming Highlights Homecoming 2014 proved to be another exciting week of alumni and student events, including the Black & Gold Gala, Spirit Splash, Black & Gold Takeover, Golf Tournament, Indoor Tailgate, CECS BBQ/Reunion, and a repeat victory against Temple!
3. Orlando’s University UCF’s new downtown Orlando campus is in the works, and will be a “game changer” for the university, according to its top supporter, UCF President John Hitt.
2. Kid-Approved Six-year-old Alex Pring received a new prosthetic arm, thanks to e-NABLE, an international organization that connects families with inventors and 3-D printer enthusiasts creating solutions for children with special needs. That’s where his mom, Alyson, met Albert Manero, ’12, an e-NABLE volunteer who would change their lives forever.
1. Proposal Knight
Having a brick engraved with “Marry Me?” was how Rob Brunjes, ’11, decided to propose to his longtime girlfriend, Michele McGlamory, ’10. Now, the Knights Terrace outside the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center will always hold a special place in their hearts.
We hope you enjoyed our favorites as much as we did. Here’s to bigger and better stories in 2015!
With Knight Pride,
Your UCF Alumni Association Staff
As UCF Football prepares for its final game of the season, facing the N.C. State Wolfpack in the 2014 Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl on Dec. 26, it also prepares to say goodbye to 21 seniors, who helped the team win back-to-back AAC championships and earn three consecutive bowl invitations.
While fans may know each player’s number and position, and be familiar with his performance on the field, what they may not know is how each got there.
One of those seniors is the Knights’ No. 19 wide receiver, Josh Reese, ’14, from Miami Central High School, whose energizing 30-yard reception, followed by Quarterback Justin Holman’s keeper, helped to briefly put UCF ahead of Penn State in the last two minutes of Ireland’s Croke Park Classic on Aug. 30.
“He’s really the one guy who sticks out as being the leader of the receiving group,” says UCF Wide Receivers Coach Sean Beckton, ’93. “He’s the one guy you can count on to go out and do everything right.”
In addition to his physical abilities, part of Reese’s success is also thanks to his First Generation Scholarship. He’s one of about 75 UCF student-athletes who receive financial assistance to help them succeed as the first person in their families to attend college.
“Having a First Generation Scholarship helped me get to college in general,” Reese says. “It also made it possible for me to go to a bigger and better college like UCF, and not only play football, but achieve a degree.”
Reese completed his bachelor’s degree in sport and exercise science this past summer.
“Everything that he’s gotten thus far, as far as the recognition here, he’s deserving of it, because he’s worked extremely hard,” Beckton says.
And, Reese isn’t the only UCF student-athlete who works hard on the field and off. The graduation rate of UCF’s student-athletes is 95 percent — the highest rate in the country among public institutions and fifth overall.
The graduate rate for UCF Football, specifically, is 90 percent, which is 10th overall among football programs and second among public institutions. The program has also won the Academic Excellence Award for having the highest GPA in the conference for the past three years.
“It’s always good to give back to people who may not have opportunities to go to college and beyond,” Reese says. “Never count out anyone.”
Just as they did for the Fiesta Bowl last year, UCF fans once again reached a little deeper into their pockets and shared their holiday spirit with the troops, buying extra tickets for the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl, which will be donated to military personnel in the Bay area.
In fact, Knights were so generous, they helped reach the maximum of 100 tickets, which will be given to service men and women stationed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.
Fans also helped UCF sell out its two allotments of game tickets in less than a week.
The Knights take on the N.C. State Wolfpack at 8 p.m. on Dec. 26 at Tropicana Field, which is only 18 miles from the MacDill base.