It was the Winter of 2015, after what was arguably UCF Knights Nation’s most humbling and disappointing football season, that I decided I had to do something.
UCF had just gone winless and Knights fan morale was at an all-time low. The timing couldn’t have been worse as conference realignment talks stormed out of nowhere regarding the BIG 12. UCF was just coming off back-to-back AAC Championships in its first two seasons in the new league, including a program-defining victory over Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl and a Top 10 ranking to end the season, which didn’t help.
The writing had been on the wall for a serious drop off-season; UCF’s top five wide receivers either graduated or were drafted early, but no one could have expected what happened. The often wobbly wheels of the George O’Leary Train finally went completely off the tracks.
Wanting to retire the previous year, O’Leary was lured to stay with an ill-advised promotion and a contract extension. As the losses and injuries mounted in 2015 though, he lost the desire to continue. In doing so, he lost the team as well. When a man tells you he’s done, either take him at his word or suffer the consequences, and UCF did.
All of UCF Football’s momentum and pride that had been gained, especially in the previous 2 seasons, had been suddenly lost at the very worst time. With the exception of a few diehards like myself, the future outlook for most UCF fans was bleak.
As UCF hobbled through a winless season, rumors swirled that college football’s last realignment was about to occur. I decided to search out more social media to try to inspire more hope and rally the troops.
I truly believe that social media support can have just as much impact on a program today as butts in the seats, if at the very least, helping get more of them out to the games! Facebook was the old mainstay for years, but was now becoming too political for my tastes.
Once I realized Twitter was much better for isolating my sports and UCF interests, @UCFKnightsNatn was born!
I also looked for a place to gather with other UCF diehards to rally and discuss our inevitable return to power under Danny White’s newly hired Coach Scott Frost. Two years ago, those of us who were still screaming #GoKnights and #ChargeOn at the top of our lungs, knew there was not much to be found. I went to SB Nation, thinking back to my old Magic blog days (yes, the used to win) and remembering SBN pretty much had a blog for everything; no UCF to be found anywhere.
I did, however, find a crusty old USF blog, a delightfully arrogant and inhospitable bunch despite never winning anything; I quickly wore out my welcome there! They were the same entitled (for no reason) crew I had tortured for a decade on the old TBT(Tampa Bay Times) sites. But they brought the point out that UCF fans have never really had their own place to gather.
This may explain why #UCFTwitterMafia came to be and why they are so active across all social media platforms. Through Twitter, I found old mainstays like Brandon Helwig at @UCFSports, who seems to have been around since the internet began, and Ryan Bass & the guys at @Knights247, mainly for their recruiting coverage, but also for all things UCF Sports related.
And then came the upstart podcasts. I came across fellow diehards Trace Trylko and Andrew Phegly at @UCF_Knightline, immediately feeling that connection that diehards do. Their awesome call-in podcasts after games especially, and the podcast of @UCF_Banneret, with Jeff Sharon & Eric Lopez, have grown and prospered.
The wave of #UCFTwitterMafia has risen from the depths of despair two years ago, and since then virtually broken the internet on the back of UCF Football’s 2017 National Championship run! Now there are blogs and podcasts sprouting up everywhere you look!
A few were resilient through the 2015 season and flourished of late, while others have started brand new. Even Mike Bianchi of @OrlandoSentinel & @969TheGame has come around, but we believe that’s because he is paired with our own UCF Legend and play-by-play icon, @UCFMarcDaniels, on the radio.
The UCF Knights Nation has never been stronger. Award-winning content is coming daily from Eric DeSalvo and crew over at @UCF_Football. We all look forward to the start of a hopeful season with dreams of back-to-back UNDEFEATED National Championship seasons.
Along with some joyful humiliation of Cows in their pasture along the way, we also look forward to hearing long-serving PA man Erik Kohler (@EKSports_Radio) say the words every Knights Nation fan longs to hear, “That’s good for ANOTHER UCF 1ST DOWN!”. The “UCF Zombie Nation” has returned.
The Nation is strong, and thanks to all mentioned above and more, The Nation is wise. We no longer just shake the foundations of our home “The Bounce”. We are now shaking the foundations of social media to stand and recognize our great teams, student-athletes, and university! I can’t wait till Aug. 30th at UConn and then our first sold-out home game of the season (keep buying, few seats for butts left)! #GoKnights and #ChargeOn!!