If you are a University of Central Florida football fan that has any history with the program, you have seen the euphoria of a big moment play out before. I was there in 2014 when day turned to night in Glendale, Arizona. and the Knights came out with a 52-42 victory over the Baylor Bears in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
There was a similar feeling felt by all walking out of Mercedes-Benz Stadium earlier this month after UCF shocked the college football world yet again and took down a big, bad opponent from the SEC in Auburn at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. All fans and alumni have since been swept up into a euphoria of national championship proclamations and parties.
University Of Central Florida Football Win Boosts Fan Base?
As we turn the page to a new era of UCF football, however, the question becomes what is next? While a stacked Knights squad returns to prospectively thrill the masses in 2018, the more intriguing look forward is what becomes of a seemingly booming new fanbase clad in black and gold?
Depending on who you talk to, UCF sent anywhere from 20,000-35,000 fans to Atlanta. They sold out of their 12,500 ticket allotment in record time for the Peach Bowl.
Despite the impressive influx of Johnny-come-lately fans, this is a program that had just over 29,000 butts in the seats for a home conference game against UConn in the second week of November. This is the athletics department that has long had that dreaded "sleeping giant" moniker slapped on them.
So, is this finally the moment in the sun for a school with the largest undergraduate enrollment in the country that is pumping out thousands of alums each year? Does a UCF fanbase that has always been ripe with potential finally come of age?
I thought that we had reached that zenith post-Fiesta Bowl. In my mind, the excitement of a New Year's Day bowl game win would undoubtedly open the floodgates for recruits, donations and most importantly a sold-out home stadium on a regular basis.
While there have been some fun times and some not so fun times since the Knights celebrated in the desert, that total maturation process has yet to occur. Especially in the world we live in today where competition is ripe for the entertainment dollar, it is more complicated than ever figuring out how to capitalize on a moment and build a sports power.
There are indications, however so subtle that they may be, that this most recent seminal victory may be the jumping off point that the win over Baylor never materialized into. UCF staffers have touted on social media a two-week run over 100 new season tickets sold each day.
100+ NEW @UCF_Football season tickets sold on Day 13!
— Brooke Smoley (@BrookeSmoley) January 19, 2018
If you couple that with season ticket renewals, UCF could approach 20,000 season ticket holders for the first time since 2008. That is significant growth after various athletic administrations have tried to come up with schemes to capitalize on the school's ever-growing local alumni base and failed.
A special concoction is needed to achieve success amidst a cluttered landscape of fun in Orlando. Perhaps the Knights now have that magic potion with a successful, exciting football product on the field and an administration led by athletic director Danny White off of it.
When you have school, a team, a product with such nascent history, sustaining momentum is key. Consistency in winning and in the fan experience will create continuity on the business side of the situation.
As someone who has watched UCF cascade through a series of high-points and low-points since arriving on campus in 2007, I certainly hope we stand on the precipice of a jumping off point.
Carson Ingle has been a sportswriter and sports talk radio host based in Orlando for the past ten years. He can currently be seen several times a week on Spectrum Sports 360's Face-Off segment at 10:30 p.m. on Central Florida News 13, channel 1013. Follow him on Twitter.