LSU and UCF head way out west for their first-ever meeting in football, colliding New Year’s Day in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona. Here’s a primer on the Knights and their school with seven facts to know about the University of Central Florida (Bonus fact: they want to be called UCF, not that longer name):
1. The school
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Orlando school’s first classes in 1968. Originally named Florida Tech, the university’s name changed to Central Florida in 1978. UCF’s first football game was a 21-0 victory in 1979 at St. Leo College north of Tampa, a contest played on a rain-soaked cow pasture that was marked up and converted into a football field.
2. The biggest U
Ask someone from Louisiana which Florida university first comes to mind they’re likely to name Florida, Florida State or Miami. UCF, however, is bigger than all of them. In fact, with a combined undergraduate and graduate enrollment of 68,500 this fall on three campuses, UCF once again ranked as the nation’s largest school by student population.
3. The streak
UCF has won 25 straight games, the nation’s longest active unbeaten streak, going 13-0 last season and 12-0 in 2018. The Knights’ last loss? A 31-13 defeat by Arkansas State in the 2016 Cure Bowl. A victory over LSU would give UCF one of the 22-longest winning streaks in college football history.
4. Spirit Splash
On the Friday before UCF’s homecoming game, thousands of students pile into the reflecting pond at the center of campus for a tradition known as “Spirit Splash.” It started in 1995, when the student body president was pushed into to the reflecting pond by students at a pep rally, with other students following in.
5. The final frontier
Though LSU and UCF have never played in football, they do have something in common. Both are “space grant universities,” part of a national consortium intended to help foster outer space-related research. UCF’s main campus is about 40 miles west of the Kennedy Space Center. UCF’s campus is filled with space program and astrological names such as Mercury Circle, Apollo Circle, Libra Drive and Orion Boulevard, which is the street that runs past UCF’s Spectrum Stadium.
Florida Tech’s first mascot was something called Citronaut, an orange crowned by a astronaut’s head. UCF paid homage to Citronaut with his helment-crowned cranium anchoring the collar of its jerseys for the Nov. 1 game against Temple. Though UCF’s sports teams are known as the Knights, the university’s logo is that of Pegasus, a winged horse. The school’s Pegasus seal is embossed on the floor of the student union. Usually marked off by black velvet ropes, incoming students are advised at orientation that those who ever walk on the seal will never graduate from UCF.
7. Famous alumni
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith, Saints cornerback Josh Robinson, NFL receiver Brandon Marshall, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, former NFL cornerback Asante Samuel, actress Cheryl Hines, country singers Gregg Hubbard and Mark Miller (Sawyer Brown), former NFL quarterback Daunte Culpepper, Olympic volleyball gold medalist Phil Dalhausser, 2004 Miss America Ericka Dunlap, comedian Daniel Tosh, former major league general manager John Hart (Rangers, Indians), NASCAR driver Aric Almirola and astronaut Nicole Stott.