Time for the Knights, a sleeping giant, to wake up
Published: Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Updated: Thursday, April 28, 2011 12:04
The past year for UCF's Athletics department has been, let's say, not too shabby.
It was a fun ride for fans and alumni, with some national rankings (six, actually), some conference championships (the latest coming Tuesday with Men's Golf edging out Memphis by two strokes), heck, even a bowl win over Georgia.
But, let's be honest, for a lot of UCF supporters, especially the long-time fans, there was a certain "it's about time" feel to all of the good things the Knights did this past year.
Not just for those fans, though, but maybe even for the some of the athletes, as well. How many of their recruiting pitches included the potential of what UCF could be?
How many of the those athletes came to campus hoping their hard work could be part of what actually puts the school over the hump to relevance? And now, it seems at least, that quite a few of those visions are beginning to come to fruition.
But the "one of these days"-type talk is nothing new to the Knights fan base. UCF has been a "sleeping giant" for a while. I mean, eventually the giant has to wake up, right?
With the academic year nearing an end and some successful seasons already in the books, the giant is, if nothing else, stirring.
Baseball's season is still ongoing, with a killer week looming where the Knights will be facing both USF in Tampa and then traveling to Tallahassee for a three-game set with the Seminoles, but already coach Terry Rooney and his club have notched some signature victories. Taking two out of three from Rice and sweeping the Gators has impressed fans and helped alleviate the stress of a rough start in conference play.
Regardless of how baseball finishes, though, every program is going to have to get used to the idea of bigger expectations.
Sure, the expectations were there this season for a lot of sports. Football, specifically, needed the success of this past season. It re-energized a fan base that was sorely in need. The Knights need to show they could string together back-to-back winning seasons.
Now, everything needs to be built upon. Heightened expectations need to be embraced.
Football probably has it the worse. Honestly, it's the most visible of all the programs, and the expectations for George O'Leary's team will be the highest.
For a team that finished the season nationally ranked and as Conference USA and Liberty Bowl champs, nothing less will be considered a success. Fact is, with another schedule where the Knights realistically have a shot in every game, this fan base is eager for UCF to travel even higher in the rankings.
Donnie Jones and his basketball program are entering their second year together, and while the expectations are a lot less specific for Jones and company, no one's screaming "Final Four or bust," the Knights are welcoming in a top-20 recruiting class and three transfers from BCS-schools. There's going to be a lot of talent at Jones' disposal come this fall.
Consistency across the board is what UCF really needs. It's easy to play up the accomplishments of the past year, and it's also easy to understate them. If anything, an agreeable median would be to say that the university is showing that it will do what it takes and it will compete. Heading into the summer and the coming fall, the key for so many individuals and teams will be to show that UCF can compete consistently, and is not going away.
Because, sure, the sleeping giant might have stirred and even began to wake from its slumber in 2010-2011; but in 2011-2012 will the giant truly get up and stretch its legs or will it just hit the snooze button?