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UCF's Image Overhaul Continues in Scott Frost Era

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Bad as the Knights were last year, UCF has had early success rehabilitating its image and building fan excitement in the Scott Frost era, including with a UCF record-breaking spring game and new uniforms.

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I love the Knights. Coming off a winless season, I, like so many others, am thrilled with the excitement that Scott Frost has brought to the program as head coach. He's already done much to generate buzz and improve the image of a team that was catastrophically bad last year.  And I say this as a person who has often been critical of UCF's efforts to build its image.

Many of UCF's historical sports marketing efforts were groan-inducing. Frankly, I'll even peg this back to the rejection of the Citronaut and adopting "Knights,"[1] as a mascot -€” a move that sacrificed a delightfully absurd choice for a name unconnected to the university or state in any respect.[2]

The choices made in the more recent past have been awkward. George O'Leary was hired in 2003. All of the branding was focused on GOL-as-jerk-and-tough-guy. We've previously talked here about "Change is Nothing to FEAR. The Coach, now that's another story." And I'll never tire of excuses to remind everyone that this weirdness exists:

Of course, GOL would go winless that year, just as he ended his UCF career.

Missteps would continue, though perhaps getting less awkward in time. There was "UKnight and Get ‘the Patch,’" which deserves to slip into the memory hole but somehow has not. There have been efforts at catch phrases and hash tags. I can remember when "Armor Up!" was a thing (check Twitter now and you’ll high schools using the phrase but mercifully only a handful of UCF fans). I will also admit to loathing "#ChargeOn," though on that count I’m clearly in the minority. But even the most enthusiastic Knights fan has to concede that UCF’s track record of establishing a brand have been checkered at best.

Conversely, even the most pessimistic fan has to acknowledge the tremendous strides made by UCF under Athletic Director Danny White. Frost has done his part so far – adopting the fast-paced Oregon-style offense and talking about it at every opportunity. This is good stuff from an image-building, not to mention a recruiting, stand point. David Wunderlich at Team Speed Kills has argued why that makes the Frost hire the savviest of this past off season:

So imagine you're a fast high school player in the state of Florida who wants to play in an exciting, cutting edge spread offense. Your choices lately have been either to go nearby out of state to Clemson or Auburn or to go even farther out of state to one of the Mississippi schools or Tennessee or beyond.

Now with the Frost hire, UCF is a place you can play in that kind of scheme while staying in-state. Depending on how good you are, you might still decide to go to one of those pro-style Power 5 programs anyway. But UCF isn't a bad program; it just beat Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl a couple of years ago. It no longer has a verbally abusive septuagenarian who was the top reason why the UCF Athletics Association was found liable for a player's death, and instead it has a bright young guy who intends to install not just the Chip Kelly offense but the Chip Kelly do-everything-fast ethos.

The notion of #UCFast has been enthusiastically embraced and to good effect. UCF dubbed its recent Spring Game #UCFastival) and built a series of events around it. This Knights team -€” perhaps the worst in the nation last year -€” wound up with attendance of 23,147, good for twenty-second highest spring game attendance in the country and record attendance for a UCF spring game. Yes, a Knights team that was winless last year generated the best spring game attendance of any Group of Five school.

The comparison to rival USF is inevitable and drives home what a huge success for UCF this spring game was. The Bulls, which ended the season on a tremendous surge and should provide their fans with much optimism heading into next season, had a paltry 4,418 (and that was 1,163 more than the Bulls' 2015 spring game).

It gets better. UCF will have new uniforms -€” and yes, with names on the back of jerseys restored. Rivals previewed a prototype helmet, another effort to take a play from Oregon's book:

And UCF expanded its deal with Nike through 2022, a move which may also mean that the Knights could have as many as four custom helmets during the season. The design ethos is intended to invoke associations with knightly armor and the space program.

Oh.

Did you want to see what the new Knights uniforms will actually look like? That's great, because UCF just unveiled the designs today:

It remains to be seen how much success the Knights will have on the field in the Scott Frost era. But in even a short time period, much has been done to improve UCF's image and excitement among fans.


[1] Which evolved into "Golden Knights" in 1993 and then back to "Knights" as part of the 2007 rebrand coinciding with the opening of UCF's on-campus stadium.

[2] Obvious instate comparisons here to the Gators, the Seminoles, and the Hurricanes.