Off the Cuff: When the Sports World Stops with the UCF Knights


Every so often, there is something that causes sports to stop. No, I’m not talking about a bad injury. That’s part of the game. I’m talking about something from outside the game. It could be a national tragedy, natural disaster, rampaging illness, or more. There are times when the game just doesn’t really matter. After all, it is a game.

I started college in 2001 and my first UCF Knights (then Golden Knights) football game was to be UCF hosting Lousiana-Lafayette (now calling themselves Louisiana). The game was originally to be played on Saturday, September 15th. Due to the attacks on September 11th, the game was postponed and rescheduled for November 24th.

In this case, games all across America were rescheduled. The sports world just stopped. The then-World Wrestling Federation was the first organization to get back to it. Go check out Lillian Garcia’s rendition of the national anthem on YouTube.

As a result, my first UCF game was a road game at Tulane. This was a trip the Marching Knights took and let me just say we had a very good time. It was actually my second game in New Orleans for a marching band event. My high school was part of the halftime show at the Sugar Bowl a couple of years earlier, but this time was the first I could venture on my own.

The game itself was a then-rare televised game that pitted Ryan Schneider and Alex Haynes against future NFL players Patrick Ramsey and Mewelde Moore. Despite UCF giving up the ball three times, both running backs ran wild, with Haynes finding the endzone four times en route to a 36-29 win inside a cavernous Superdome.

Alex Haynes scored four times against Tulane in 2001

Associated Press

The place seats over 70,000 people, yet only 17,000 and change were at the game.

It’s been 22 years and for no particular reason, I have yet to go back. I’ll need to fix that. That rescheduled game against Louisiana-Lafayette was a 31-0 shutout win for UCF to close the season and the last game the Knights played as an FBS independent.

Another major game-stopper is the weather, and I’ve seen it mess with UCF sports many times.

While some of my older friends talk about the tropical storm game in 1999, my first experience with a weather-impacted game was UCF vs. Tulane in 2005.

Before the season started and nearly two months before the game, New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. This forced the Green Wave to become a team without a home. Their six home games were played in six different stadiums with five in Louisiana and one in Alabama. This definitely had an effect on the Tulane team and they struggled to a 2-9 record. To pour a little salt on the wound, the game at UCF had to be pushed up a day from Saturday, October 22nd to the 21st due to Hurricane Wilma approaching Florida.

A small crowd of about 15,000 made their way to the Citrus Bowl to watch Kevin Smith out-duel Matt Forte on their way to a 34-24 win. It was notable that Smith and Jason Peters each rushed for over 100 yards in this game.

Jason Peters scores against Tulane in 2005

Ocala Star-Banner

2017 ended up being the most impacted season by a hurricane.

Hurricane Irma, which was feared to be “the big one”, went up the middle of the state on September 10th. The Knights played their first game as scheduled on August 31st. Because of the approaching storm, the next game on September 8th against Memphis was canceled.

Due to the widespread damage and its central location, the school agreed to use the stadium as a staging point for various services and the coaching staff sent their players home. As a result, they were not prepared to play, nor able to host Georgia Tech on the 16th and that game was canceled.

All Florida schools had games affected, including conference mate South Florida. Since the Memphis game was a conference game, the conference members got together to shuffle schedules around to make sure everyone got back to eight conference games. UCF was able to pull it off with the AAC paying to cancel the September 30th game against Maine and reschedule the Memphis game then. The Knights then used their open data of October 28th to play FCS Austin Peay.

Because of these changes, UCF had 22 days in between their season opener to their next game against Maryland and the Knights played for 12 straight weeks. You could tell as the season wore on that the defense’s quality diminished from the lack of rest. They did get a small reprieve when UCF was beating up on Cincinnati so badly that a weather delay right before the end of the third quarter ended up being a mercy killing as the game got called.

The following year, a September 15th game in Chapel Hill against North Carolina was canceled due to Hurricane Florence heading straight into North Carolina, which it did on the 14th.

Most recently, in 2022, hurricane Ian, which did turn out to be “the big one”, tore through the middle of the state on September 28th. The October 1st game versus SMU was postponed until Wednesday, October 5th. It didn’t do well with the fans as only 27,000 were there, but it worked out well for the two teams since they both had bye dates that Saturday ahead of weeknight games the next week. UCF had a Thursday game and SMU had one on Friday.

Let’s not forget how COVID-19 derailed the 2020 spring schedule and the 2020-21 school year. Every sport was affected in some way. The 2020 spring sports never got to finish their season. UCF’s 2020 football season got turned on its side, going from a 12-game schedule down to 9. Games against North Carolina, Florida International, and Florida A&M all got canceled. The UNC game was a late nixing and I wonder if the Knights and Tar Heels will ever get a game successfully played. The first two matchups in their four-game series never made it to the field. We’ll see in 2025.

The various other sports like basketball had many in-season cancelations due to covid breakouts within the Knights team or their opponents. While definitely not common outside of 2020 and 2021, it made those two years quite difficult.

Now we get to this week with another hurricane, Idalia, potentially impacting Thursday’s game against the Kent State Golden Flashes.

Let’s cross our fingers, toes, and eyes and hope we don’t get another derailed game.

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