Ten things you didn't know about Central Florida

Friday, September 28, 2012 | 12:00 p.m. CDT
The University of Central Florida will host the Missouri Tigers football team Saturday.

If there's one thing Missouri fans know about Central Florida, it's that it's not in the Southeastern Conference. And after a 31-10 mauling last week at the hands of South Carolina, the Tigers are ready for a change of pace.

But what is there to know about a school that has only been in operation since 1968? Well, more than you think. The Knights haven't been around for long, but that doesn't mean they're short on tradition. As Missouri prepares to play Central Florida for the first time, here's 10 things you didn't know about Central Florida.

  • 10. The University of Central Florida’s first president, Charles Millican, got lost when he tried to find the site where the university would be built. The land that would soon be UCF’s campus was uninhabited farm land before contractors and engineers began building on it. When Millican first drove out to evaluate the site, he couldn’t find it even after stopping at a service station to ask for directions. He had to return weeks later with specific directions from the chancellor of the Board of Regents and finally found the future campus.
  • 9. Remember that one movie from 1999 about three film students chasing (and being chased by) a witch in the woods? Yeah, that was made by Central Florida alums. "The Blair Witch Project" was written and directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, two filmmakers who met while both attending Central Florida. The gritty horror movie took less than $750,000 to make, and grossed almost $250 million worldwide, making it one of the most successful independent films of all time.
  • 8. The University of Central Florida is the campus with the second-largest number of students in the United States, second only to Arizona State University – another of Missouri’s 2012 opponents. Central Florida’s total enrollment as of fall 2011 is 58,698. The school has clearly come a long way since its inaugural year in 1968, when enrollment was only 1,948 students.
  • 7. The University of Central Florida was first authorized by the Florida State Legislature in 1963 and named Florida Technological University. The goal of the university was actually to educate students who were pursuing careers related to space exploration, so that they could eventually support the Kennedy Space Center, located 35 miles to the east. As the university began expanding its majors and areas of study, it was renamed the University of Central Florida in 1978.
  • 6. Before star UCF quarterback Daunte Culpepper was drafted in 1999, the school and athletic department did all it could to make sure scouts and coaches knew about its stud QB. Culpepper had thrown for 11,412 yards and ran for 1,020 more in his career, and UCF got the word out by creating a website devoted to Culpepper’s accomplishments. The school launched during his senior season in 1998. He was drafted with the 11th overall pick of the 1999 NFL draft, perhaps because of the creative marketing scheme.
  • 5. Central Florida experimented with many different mascots before settling on their current one, a golden knight named “Knightro.” In 1980, the second year of the Central Florida football program’s existence, the knight mascot “Sir Wins-a-Lot” was officially knighted by school President Trevor Colbourn. Later in the decade, a big green monster named “Puff the Dragon” also began appearing at games, often as a second mascot that the knight would vanquish during games.
  • 4. Every home game, “Knightro” the golden knight rides into Bright House Networks Stadium on a magnificent steed – a Lipizzaner stallion, to be exact. The horses are world-famous and are part of a line that can be traced back to Carthage more than 2,000 years ago. The Lipizzaners make their home in Orlando and have been riding out with “Knightro” since 2009.
  • 3. Comedian Daniel Tosh, who now hosts the show Tosh.0 on Comedy Central, graduated from Central Florida in 1996. He was born in Boppard, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, but grew up in Titusville, Fla. After attending Astronaut High School in Titusville, he enrolled at UCF in 1993. He graduated in three and a half years with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. To make ends meet, Tosh worked as a telemarketer during his time at UCF.
  • 2. “Spirit Splash,” one of Central Florida’s homecoming traditions, began with the school’s student body president being pushed into a pond. In 1995, the athletic department was throwing a prep rally on the Friday before the Homecoming football game. Student body President Miguel Torregrossa was speaking to the crowd when one of his cabinet members sneaked up behind him and pushed him into the campus’ prestigious Reflection Pond. Many other students followed, frolicking in the pond that is usually off-limits to students. Now, every year on the Friday before the school’s Homecoming game, Central Florida students have a pool party in the Reflection Pond.
  • 1. President Richard Nixon entered the Reflection Pond before any of the students, though. President Nixon gave the commencement speech at Central Florida’s graduation in 1973, and it was determined that the safest place for the president to give the speech was from inside the pond. This way, the Secret Service could man the roofs of the buildings surrounding the pond. The Reflection Pond was drained for the event, and President Nixon gave his speech from inside the empty pond.

Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.

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