ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Come Saturday afternoon, the University of Central Florida Knights will leave everything on the field in the American Athletic Conference championship against the Memphis Tigers as they hope to complete back-to-back undefeated regular seasons.
Thousands of fans will pile into Spectrum Stadium, which was not always the case for this growing athletic program.
Terry Turner, of Lake Mary, has been a season ticket holder for more than a decade and remembers when the football team wasn't as successful. In the years since, Turner says Central Florida has begun to embrace the black and gold.
"UCF is Orlando's home team," he said. "It's not just the people who went to UCF and the families. The whole city has gotten behind them."
Zach Mayers is a sophomore at UCF and has yet to see the football team lose a game. The Brevard County native has watched firsthand as the school's perception has changed, in part, because of the football team's success.
"UCF was the school people put down as their second or third choice," he said. "Now, the upcoming generation has UCF for their first choice and (knows) how competitive it is. Everyone is cheering for UCF."
Saturday's game comes right after Sports Illustrated published a four-page spread about the program.
Randy Diaz pulled in his RV to Spectrum Stadium more than 24 hours before kickoff. Two years ago, the University of Florida alum traded in his orange and blue for black and gold when his daughter enrolled at UCF.
"I'm telling you, they're the hottest school in the state right now," he said. "You really didn't even think of UCF. It was Florida State, Florida, Miami, occasionally USF. You didn't think of UCF, and they're the hottest team in the state, without a doubt."
Kickoff against Memphis is set for 3:30 p.m. Saturday.