With three new head coaches leading football and basketball at UCF, anticipation is high as we inch closer to the 2016-17 season.
In an effort to connect fans with the university's new faces, Athletics Director Danny White launched the first-ever Charge On Tour. White, alongside football head coach Scott Frost, men's basketball head coach Johnny Dawkins and women's basketball head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, made the first stop in Downtown Orlando on Tuesday night.
In the coming weeks, White and the coaches will make visits in Tampa, Jacksonville, Palm Beach, Broward County, plus a stop at Brevard's Coconuts on the Beach on Wednesday. Space Coast fans who RSVP can take part in a meet and greet from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., autograph sessions from 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and the formal program starting at 7 p.m.
“The more that we can show people around town and around Florida our vision for where this thing needs to go and where we want to take it, the more people we will have on board,” Frost said. “There has been unbelievable support and excitement since I have gotten to Orlando, but the more things like this that we can do to continue to reach out to fans, the better off we will be.”
As a result of disastrous first-round conference tournament losses in both men's and women's basketball last season, men's coach Donnie Jones and women's coach Joi Williams were fired, and Dawkins and Abrahamson-Henderson were brought on to turn the teams around. In football, long-time football head coach George O'Leary retired a little more than midway through the eventual winless 2015-16 campaign, leaving a spot that Frost soon filled.
Coaches met with the media before the event, which was RSVP only, and stressed high expectations for the coming years in their respective sports and Athletics overall.
"I watched film to see what type of athletes we had on the team," said Abrahamson-Henderson, former head coach at Albany University. "We are going to try to implement our system with the team we have and really try to empower these young women to learn how to win, have a lot of fun winning and we are going to play fast."
In fact, all three coaches emphasized a fast-paced mentality.
"To play fast you have to have a commitment level," said Dawkins, who previously coached at Stanford. "It starts now and everything we do is designed for our kids to be put in a position where they are thinking about pace. No matter what they do, even when they are alone, they are thinking about pace and I think that develops the habit that we want."
The night saw some additional excitement as White later announced the addition of upgraded LED video boards to Bright House Networks Stadium and the CFE Arena for the 2016-17 season.
“I think these new displays are going to be a game-changer for the in-game, in-venue environment in both Bright House Networks Stadium and CFE Arena,” White told the crowd at the Cheyenne Saloon, according to a UCF Athletics release. “The time is now for us to be bold. An investment like this, in our two keystone facilities, is about as bold as it gets.”
A total of 17 new LED video display boards will be added to the two facilities before the season openers. The main LED display at Bright House Networks Stadium will measure 114 feet wide by 36 feet high.
The announcement comes soon after another big change: new football uniforms designed by Nike, which will feature players' names for the first time since 2004.
The Charge On Tour in each location will be held from 6-8 p.m., with a conversation meet and greet hour from 6-7 p.m. Autograph sessions will be held from 6-6:30 p.m. with the formal programs for each event beginning at 7 p.m.
Upcoming Charge On Tour stops
May 18 - Brevard County at Coconuts on the Beach
May 19 - Tampa at Jackson's Bistro
May 23 - Jacksonville at EverBank Field
May 24 - Palm Beach at Brother Jimmy's
May 25 - Broward County at America's Backyard
Matthew Saunders is the Sports Editor for the Central Florida Future. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.