As UCF celebrates its 50th anniversary of Homecoming, we’re welcoming back the return of the traditional Spirit Splash and reminiscing about some of the most memorable moments spanning the last five decades.

Read more about 2021 Homecoming Week Events.

History of Homecoming

UCF’s first Homecoming was held in 1971, three years after the first classes were held at Florida Technological University (FTU). Since football didn’t start at UCF until 1979, Homecoming originally coincided with basketball season, which was the university’s first varsity sport.

The Knights won their inaugural Homecoming game, 101-75, on Feb. 13, 1971, over Florida Institute of Technology, which took place at Oviedo High School’s gymnasium.

The year 1980 saw two Homecomings for the first time: one during basketball season and the first for football, which has just put together a team the year before. Four decades later, we hosted Homecoming week in the fall and again in the spring — which for the first time included Spring Splash — as we accommodated for the uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic introduced to our daily lives.

black and white spread from Central Florida Future of first Homecoming
Images from the first Homecoming held at UCF , which ran in the former student-run newspaper, Central Florida Future, on Feb. 19, 1971. (Courtesy of the Central Florida Future)

 

Woman sprays water soaker at crowd of students
An annual tradition since it was first held in 1995, the 25th anniversary of Spirit Splash was postponed due to the pandemic, and a modified Spring Splash was held in February. (Photo by Brooke Morris, UCF Athletics)

 

On the Scene

Homecoming has witnessed themes ranging from Star Trek and Space (1975) to the Wild, Wild West (1982) to Tales from the Knightside (1991) to this year’s retro-inspired look.

Homecoming week has featured everything from exciting game day matchups to parades and fire-breathing circus performers to entertainers including LMFAO, Jay Leno, Lenny Kravitz, Jerry Seinfeld, the Beach Boys, Jim Gaffigan, Icona Pop, Snoop Dogg, T-Pain, Luke Bryan and many more.

black and white photo of UCF cheerleaders on stage with Beach Boys
The Beach Boys amped up the crowd with the help from the UCF cheer team. (Photo courtesy of UCF Libraries Special Collections & University Archives)
Ludacris points on stage
Ludacris headlined Concert Knight in 2016. This year, Movie Knight features Fast & Furious 9, which the rapper and actor stars in.  (Photo by Steven Diaz)
Icona Pop duo raises hands on stage
Icona Pop headlined 2014 Concert Knight. (Photo by Steven Diaz)
A Salute to Royalty

Patty Gray Neff ’74 wrote a retrospective story about her experience as the university’s first Homecoming queen in the Fall 2013 issue of Pegasus.

Side by side photo of Patty Neff in college and Patty Neff present day
Patty Gray Neff ’74 was crowned by the university’s first president, Charles Millican, when she was named the first Homecoming queen.

Perhaps the most memorable royalty was our 1977 Homecoming queen Rita Reutter, a 58-year-old widowed grandmother of 14. Her candidacy was covered by People Magazine, the Associated Press, NBC News and even Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show.” She died in 2012 at the age of 93.

Woman sitting on back of convertible throws treats to crowd during parade
Rita Reutter, 1977 homecoming queen (Photo courtesy of UCF Libraries Special Collections & University Archives)

The following year, the university saw its first Homecoming king crowned: Bob Baker ’78 — who transferred to UCF from Daytona Beach Community College where he also reigned as Homecoming royalty. “I ran for king mainly to show handicapped people that they can do the same thing a normal person can do. They (the handicapped) shouldn’t be excluded. I think now I proved, not only to myself, but to other people on campus and in the community, that the minority can be on top,” Baker said in a Feb. 10, 1978, Central Florida Future article following his victory.

front page of 1978 Central Florida Future featuring news articles on Homecoming king and queen
Jodi Reddick and Bob Baker ’78 represented the university as Homecoming queen and king. (Courtesy of the Central Florida Future)

This year’s Homecoming court includes:

Aundrea Perez, integrated business major

Malik Bellamy, human communication major

Nehemie Francois, marketing major

Trinity McCall-Peaks, marketing major

Jaylen Brown, finance major

Jazmine Manriquez, industrial engineering major

Geela Ramos, computer science major and Burnett Honors Scholar

Anthony Moscol, biomedical sciences major and Burnett Honors Scholar

Diamond Battles, criminal justice major

Adri-Anna Harris, environmental studies major

Group shot of 2021 Homecoming court
The 2021 homecoming court (Photo courtesy of UCF Homecoming Facebook page)
School Spirit

Homecoming week wouldn’t be complete without the energy and passion of Knight Nation.

Black and white photo of Dad and two children with faces painted
Whether the football team was playing at the Citrus Bowl or the Bounce House, Knights fans have always brought their A game. (Photo courtesy of UCF Libraries Special Collections & University Archives)
Black and white photo of two men dressed as medieval knights holding banner on parade route
Although it is no longer part of Homecoming week, a parade was a signature event and longstanding tradition for many years. (Photo courtesy of UCF Libraries Special Collections & University Archives)
Group of dancers wearing red vests on stage
National Panhellenic Council’s Greek Step Show at the 2020 Fireworks Festival, part of UCF Homecoming lineup. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)
The Marching Knights welcome back alumni to perform alongside the current band members on the field. (Photo by Lauren Schoepfer ’17)
UCF fan takes in fireworks at night
(Photo courtesy of UCF Libraries Special Collections & University Archives)
Fireworks above Garage D on UCF's main campus
The 2020 fireworks show was held on Memory Mall. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)
Spirit Splash

Spirit Splash, awarded Best Campus Tradition in 2011 by the National Association for Campus Activities, has been a staple of Homecoming Week since 1995. The annual pep rally celebrated its 25th anniversary at Spring Splash and will return to its true form this fall.

overhead view of Reflecting Pond as students run in for Spirit Splash
Bird’s eye view of 2015 Spirit Splash. (Photo by Bernard Wilchusky)
Central Florida Future newspaper article featuring three images from the first Spirit Splash
The humble beginnings of Spirit Splash in 1995.  (Courtesy of the Central Florida Future)

 

Football player tosses yellow rubber duck into crowd
Members of the UCF football team tossed the coveted rubber ducks at the 2019 Spirit Splash. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)
black and white photo of spirit splash
(Photo courtesy of UCF Libraries Special Collections & University Archives)
Knightro near Reflecting Pond, gesturing crowd to come to him
Knightro never misses a chance to wear his swim trunks at Spirit Splash. (Photo by Steven Diaz)

If you’re looking for more information about this year’s Homecoming week lineup, check out this complete guide.

Stay golden, UCF.