Tag Archives: University of Central Florida

UCF Football: An Unforgettable 2013

ImageHeading into its final regular-season game this weekend, the 2013 UCF Football team is 10-1 and is going to its first-ever BCS bowl game. Re-read that, and give it a moment to sink in.

UCF has finally hit the big time, and that is why I feel compelled to write my first Weis Words Writing blog in a very long time. It’s a good time to be a Knight fan, especially when you’ve been a fan for over 20 years.

For years, UCF was the proverbial “sleeping giant.” Football experts everywhere would say, “It’s just a matter of time. They’re in the middle of a recruiting hotbed in Florida, they have great facilities and a great campus.”

Dating way back to the days when Daunte Culpepper quarterbacked the then-Golden Knights (we’re now known simply as the Knights) from 1995-1998, UCF would be winning a game against a nationally ranked team – only to find new and creative ways to lose a close game every time – and I mean EVERY time. I won’t go back that far, but let’s just review the last four years.

UCF FOOTBALL 2009

While the Knights finished 8-5, they could not get the job done against teams like Miami and Texas, and were throttled by Rutgers in the St. Petersburg Bowl.

UCF FOOTBALL 2010

The Knights finished the season as Conference USA champions and beat Georgia in the Liberty Bowl, yet UCF fans were left to wonder what might have been due to close losses to NC State and Kansas State.

UCF FOOTBALL 2011

This was a season UCF fans would rather forget, finishing 5-7 and losing to “juggernauts” UAB and Florida International.

UCF FOOTBALL 2012

Wrapping up their final season in Conference USA, the Knights finished 10-4. While they won every game in which they were heavy favorites (including their bowl game against Ball State), they could not win a big one. They were beaten by Ohio State and somehow managed to lose to Missouri despite thoroughly outplaying them. Oh, and they lost two very close games to Tulsa, including the conference championship.

ImageUCF FOOTBALL TODAY

So when 2013 rolled around and UCF joined a new conference (the American Athletic Conference) arguably more difficult than C-USA, most experts and fans figured the Knights would finish above .500, somewhere in the middle of the pack. They’d lost most of their defense, RB Latavius Murray graduated and went to the Oakland Raiders, and the schedule was the most daunting they’d ever faced. There was an away game at Penn State; a home game against South Carolina; an away game against Louisville; and home games against Houston and rival USF.

But something has happened this year. The 2013 UCF Football team is finding new and creative ways to win! The two TDs in the final minutes to beat Memphis; the comeback from a 28-7 deficit to beat Louisville; the best TD catch I’ve ever seen (by JJ Worton) to beat Temple; the last-minute goal-line stand against Houston; and the fourth-quarter Blake Bortles to Breshad Perriman bomb versus USF. Only a three-point loss to South Carolina has kept UCF from an undefeated season. Led by junior quarterback Bortles, a mother lode of talented wide receivers, a young and talented defense, and some timely special teams plays, they’ve been the “cardiac kids” on many an occasion this year.

Next year, the automatic BCS berth goes away for their conference, so they may need to actually run the table to go back to a bowl game of this year’s stature. But the sleeping giant has unquestionably awakened in 2013, and all the credit in the world goes out to coach George O’Leary, his staff, and the players.

There’s plenty of room on the UCF bandwagon. Jump aboard!

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Monday Weisblog: Maybe I have changed, after all …

Lake HowellIf you recall my blog of a couple weeks ago in which I got such wonderful feedback (concerning the adoption of my daughter, Chawney), I talked about how things probably wouldn’t change that much after the adoption paperwork was done and everything was official.

From a day-to-day life viewpoint, I guess things really haven’t changed at all. In the six years the kids (Chawney and her brother, JR) have been in my care and under my roof, I have loved them as my own. In fact, I think it’s fair to say I became pretty attached to them even before their mom and I got hitched.

But a funny thing has happened since May 18, the day everything became set in stone. Things have changed. They’ve changed very much. It’s just something you can’t see or touch; it’s more of a feeling, something unsaid but it’s unquestionably there.

Whatever “it” is, it ratchets all those feelings up a few notches.

Just knowing that your stepdaughter wanted you to be her father so much she was willing to take some life-altering steps to make it happen … I mean, how flattering is that?!

I still get a chill every time I talk to someone else about Chawney, and get to use those two wonderful words together: “my daughter.” I doubt that’ll go away anytime soon.

So when last Thursday came around and it was time for her high school graduation, I was the typical dad there. The graduation was held at the UCF Arena, a pretty big place, and because Lake Howell High School is fairly large (especially when compared to my own high school graduating class of 20), the arena was full. By the time we got there, we were not even remotely close to the stage, so I tried to take advantage of every photo opportunity I could. At one point, much like a hundred other parents before me, I jumped into the aisle to take a quick picture of her as she walked toward the stage in her cluster of students, just prior to receiving her diploma.

As I took the first picture, the usher (a very obtuse sixty-something gentleman) decided to get after me for having the audacity to actually stand up, stride over into the aisle and take a picture. “Sit down!” he yelled at me.

Well, something inside of me just snapped. “I am taking a picture of MY DAUGHTER, so just calm down and relax and I’ll be done in just a minute,” I shot back.

That apparently was not acceptable to the usher, who was obviously taking his position way too seriously. He pointed at me – yes, he literally pointed at me – and again said, “Sit down,” only this time much louder than the first time.

A thousand thoughts were running through my head. This is MY DAUGHTER’S graduation and I can’t even enjoy the process of taking her picture because of some grumpy old man making $8 an hour is standing in the way. Why is he being like this? Is he going to have me ejected from MY DAUGHTER’S graduation? Why did he pick me to accost and not somebody else – there were at least 100 other parents who’d done the same exact thing?

I couldn’t take it anymore. I know you are supposed to have respect for your elders, and I apologize to him for not doing that, but he was attempting to rob me of a memory that I’ll never have a chance to get back.

“I’m only taking a picture of MY DAUGHTER during her graduation,” I emphatically crowed at him. “It’s not like I’ll ever have this chance again, so you need to just calm down, grandpa!”

Yes, I called him “grandpa.”

I finished with my pictures (which, by the way, were barely visible because the flash was not sufficient) and returned to my seat. Those around me were aghast at our exchange, but I did have the support of those who chose to say something to me about what transpired. So you would’ve thought it ended there, right? Not quite.

For the next 15 minutes or so, “grandpa” continued to glare at me with the scowl of a man who wanted to do bodily harm to me. I would stare back at him for a few seconds as if to say, “let’s move on and forget this ever happened.” Then, I would look away, figuring he’d move on and badger someone else for some perceived heinous crime against humanity that they committed.

But each time when I returned my attention to him, there he’d be, his face fixed on me with a cold, steely stare that reeked of bad intentions.

Then, just as suddenly, I finally got the break I needed. Another transgressor! Without warning, he shot up the stairs like lightning to remove two teens who apparently were in violation of UCF Arena protocol, Section 12, Sub-Section 16, Rule 28: Standing in front of the stairway.

He forced the evil pair back to their seats and, just like that, I was no longer this man’s object of disdain.

Did I have a point? Oh yes … my point is that it’s completely unlike me to yell at someone under any circumstances. But sometimes “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do,” as the late, great John Wayne said (at least I think it was him).

I believe that any other parent in my shoes would’ve done the same thing. Because when it comes to sharing a proud moment with your child (in this case, with MY DAUGHTER), no one’s going to get in the way of that, especially not an usher.

Tuesday Weisblog: Reporters get more than they bargained for

hillaryIt probably started out like any other day for White House journalists wanting to interview Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the “G20 Summit” conference call.

They were given the phone number to call in, and much to their surprise they heard the following message: “Well, do you feel like getting nasty? Then you came to the right place – brought to you by the girls of Swank magazine.”

Yep, you guessed it … the White House inadvertently gave out a sex line number rather than the correct one.

This reminds me of what the PR department of my school, the University of Central Florida (UCF) did last season. After a season-opening win, the Knights issued a phone number for Coach George O’Leary’s weekly conference call. Journalists who called this particular number were treated with this message: “Hi sexy. You’ve reached the one-on-one fantasy line.” (Gives all new meaning to the term “Fantasy Football,” doesn’t it!)

What’s the moral of this story? Truth be told, there isn’t one. It’s just downright funny. The only real lesson to be learned is that one missing or incorrect letter/number and it can change the entire meaning of what you’re trying to do!

Monday Weisblog: Putting my thoughts into brackets

ncaa-tourneyYou’ll have to forgive me if I’m just a little bit down in the dumps today.

It’s days like this where I wish I had a corporate office to go to.

Men and women all across the country are preparing for their office basketball pools, where coworkers, friends and coworkers’ friends fill out their “brackets” and predict the winners and losers of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. Everyone from CEOs and accountants with pocket protectors to secretaries and office cleaners participate. Heck, some people  who have not watched a single minute of regular-season action can’t resist it.

Let’s face it … most of us are only casual college basketball fans, but suddenly when “March Madness” comes around  the Marquette/Utah State game is a “must watch.”

Marquette/Utah State? Seriously? You bet … because that one counts just as much as North Carolina’s game, Duke’s game and every other more famous team’s game. (Perhaps I should have used a better phrase than “you bet?”)

This year, much like the previous two, I don’t have an office full of coworkers to banter with about whose favoritebracket team is going to win or lose in the first round – or win whole thing. I don’t get to come to work each morning eagerly anticipating the standings that change daily as the games are being played. And as the tournament comes to a close, I don’t get to reap the spoils if I win, or congratulate the champion if it’s not me.

But hey, if you need an update, gimme a call. I’ll be at home watching the games live!

Afterthought: Perhaps someday I’ll get to see my UCF Knights enter the fray. What began as a very promising 15-6 start this season ended with the team suffering injuries, as well as a key player being booted from the squad. Their youth and inexperience (nine freshmen) then caught up with them. As a result, they dropped eight out of their final 10 contests to finish 17-14. Still, the young guys will come back bigger, stronger and more mentally tough having been through such a season.


Wednesday Weisblog: Good luck, Chuck!

barkley-1I put myself through college at UCF working at Church Street Station, a now defunct dining/drinking/entertainment complex located in Downtown Orlando, FL. This was during the early 1990s, just before the Orlando Magic NBA team became my then part-time employer.

Church Street Station, and Downtown Orlando in general, was the place to be during that time frame. Those were the days when the NBA celebrities would come down to Church Street and check out the scene after that night’s game was over. One visiting player who came in every chance he got was Charles Barkley. The crowd loved Charles; Charles loved the crowd.

Barkey was this larger-than-life guy – literally – who seemed to enjoy being the personna he created. He accepted the moniker “The Round Mound of Rebound” with pride. He’d take control of the DJ booth at Phoggs (Church Street Station’s dance club) and the people loved it. He’d stop to shake hands with everyone and genuinely seemed comfortable with everyone.

Then one night in 1997 after his Houston Rockets paid a visit to the Orlando Arena, Barkley once again headed for hisbarkley-2 favorite Downtown Orlando hangout. Once there, he allegedly got into a dispute with a man named Jorge Lugo. Apparently, Barkley took exception to Lugo throwing a glass of ice at him, and subsequently used Lugo as a human catapult, flinging him with much velocity through a giant plate glass window in the front of Phoggs.

Now comes the report that Barkley recently received a DUI and has been sentenced to five days in jail. “I think it’s going to be good for me, to be honest,” Barkley says. “I need to make sure drinking is not a problem for me. I just want some professionals to talk to me about it.”

I don’t know Charles Barkley. But he strikes me as a “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” kind of person who isn’t going to make believe he likes you when he doesn’t – and if you cross him you’d better be ready to defend yourself. And when you’re a national figure and have a reputation like that and go to nightclubs, there are plenty of liquored up idiots that will be perfectly willing to challenge you.

For Charles Barkley’s sake, I hope he truly has learned from his life experiences. He’s a superior NBA commentator; very knowledgeable and quite funny. He’s one of the all-time great players, doing amazing things for someone as short as he was for the position he played (at about 6’5″, he’d routinely be about four inches shorter than the person he went up against most nights). He is outspoken in many areas, often not just pertaining to sports. He’s even spoken of running for Governor of Alabama, his home state.

But if he doesn’t keep his temper and alcohol consumption in check, he may lose out on the public’s adoration and a career that a ton of ex-athletes would be thrilled to have.

I truly wish him luck, because unlike some of the other athletes I’ve written about, I don’t think he’s a knucklehead.

Friday Weisblog: All’s fair in love, war and recruiting

Today was national signing day for college football, the day that most of the coveted high school football players make their public declarations to their university of choice. At first glance, two players from North Miami Beach High School signing with my school, UCF, doesn’t seem like a big deal to anyone outside the state.

ucf-logoBut in this case, it has ruffled the feathers of both North Miami Beach High coach Jeff Bertani and Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit. Bertani claims that the players were all but signed, sealed and delivered to the Michigan school, when the Knights of UCF came in and scooped them up at the last minute.

“If we’ve got people who are not on the up-and-up … it always works out. The guy I kind of feel bad for is Coach Bertani,” said Cubit.

This is the first time in four years that one of Bertani’s players hasn’t ended up at Western Michigan. This makes me wonder why Bertani is so bent upon sending his players north to a relatively small school well over a thousand miles away. Is there some kind of “arrangement?”

This is an excerpt from last year’s MLive newspaper. Two of Western Michigan’s players who went to North Miami Beach high described why they chose Western Michigan as their college team: wmu-logo1

“Really, he (referring to Bertani) picked the school for me,” (PLAYER A) said. “I took two visits but I really didn’t know where I was going to school until he called me that morning and told me, ‘(PLAYER A), get here. You’re going to sign. This is where you’re going. No if ands or buts.’ And I knew he knew the best situation for me. Coach Bertani’s word is strong. When he says something he means it. And we all abide by it.”

“Before my visit I already knew I was going to come here,” said (PLAYER B), a freshman running back and the youngest of the group. ” … We (Bertani, too) already had in our mind that Western Michigan was a for-sure thing.”

Can you say, “brainwash?” Something stinks, and I think it’s Western Michigan’s recruiting class this year. Mr. Cubit’s recruiting class is rated #86 out of 119 Division I teams, and he’s looking for a scapegoat. As for “Coach” Bertani, one can only venture a guess at his agenda.

These kids should be allowed to change their minds. They are, after all, just that – kids. Besides, coaches are allowed to leave one school for another regularly despite the promises they made to their own recruits – and nothing is ever said about that.

You think this is the first time someone has changed his mind? UCF has lost a couple impact players at the last minute over the last few years (some to a rival school just over an hour down the road, the University of South Florida). Additionally, you can bet the Knights are the subject of all kinds of negative recruiting in the wake of everything that’s happened over the last 12 months (the death of a player during workouts, battles between coach George O’Leary and our local newspaper and its 4-8 record last season after winning Conference USA two years ago).

The only thing that saddens me is that we’re battling with Western Michigan for recruits, and not the big boys like Florida, Florida State and Miami. It is my sincere hope that someday, before I’m taking a dirt nap, I will live to see UCF be very relevant in the world of college football. In the meantime, I’ll keep cheering them on as all good fans should.

One final quick thought: If you live in Central Florida and have not caught a UCF basketball game, you’re missing a fun team to watch. They have a potential NBA’er in senior Jermaine Taylor, not to mention eight energetic and talented freshmen. Plus, Coach Kirk Speraw is widely known among his peers as an excellent tactician. We nearly beat Memphis a couple weeks ago – we were actually ahead at halftime before their depth and experience won the day.

Have a great weekend, everyone … and I promise that next week’s blogs will be more relevant for everyone, not just Central Florida-area football fans. I just got angry today when I heard what these “coaches” were saying about my school. Fortunately, I have the forum to voice my displeasure.

Friday Weisblog: What happens when YOUR team wins? It’s a riot!

The NCAA Football championship game last night got me thinking: Why do fans celebrate their victory – or take their frustrations out due to a loss – by taking to the streets and causing damage to people and/or property? It’s barbaric. It’s senseless. It’s nothing more than a bunch of thugs who are just looking for an excuse to commit crimes.

The following is just a short list of examples. I haven’t listed them all, and I am not picking on any particular city by including the ones I have here. These are here just for the sake of showing you what I’m referring to.

2000 – A Los Angeles street party celebrating the Lakers’ championship series victory over the Indiana Pacers turns violent, requiring hundreds of police officers with riot gear to restore order.

2002 – University of Maryland fans break storefront windows and loot area stores following the Terrapins’ win in the NCAA championship game.

2003 – Boston police are hit with rocks, bottles and objects from paintball guns after the Red Sox lost to the New York Yankees in Major League Baseball’s playoffs.

2004 – Fan Victoria Snelgrove dies after a pepper-spray ball pierced her left eye outside Fenway Park in Boston, in a gathering in which Red Sox fans were celebrating the team’s American League pennant. More violence ensued, and as many as 15 people were injured and eight were arrested.

2008 – Crazed Philadelphia Phillies fans are videotaped looting a luggage store following the Phillies’ World Series victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

All this makes me wonder … what if the Orlando Magic win the NBA Championship or the UCF Knights win the NCAA football or basketball championship? What would happen to my town? All I know is that, while I’m celebrating, I’m not going to go out on the street thinking, Let’s go break something!