In this week’s episode of the UCF podcast, Knights Do That, we speak with Marc Daniels, longtime broadcaster of the UCF Knights.
One of the area’s most recognized and respected media personalities, Daniels reminisces on his experiences and favorite memories of the last three decades, gives an insider look into some coaches and players, shares his expertise as a broadcaster and previews this season of UCF Football under new head coach Gus Malzahn.
Produced by UCF, the podcast highlights students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni who do incredible things on campus, in the community and around the globe.
Marc Daniels: I think that’s one of the biggest advantages that we have is that we’re still writing our history while others are kind of upholding a history.
And that’s why I think this is the best time at UCF. There’s still so many amazing things that are out there.
Alex Cumming: Wow. Knight Nation. I am so excited for y’all to listen to this episode of Knights Do That. To me, it’s like music to my ears, hearing the Voice of UCF — yeah, that’s right. Today we have Marc Daniels, the Voice of UCF Athletics. He’s sharing his experiences with UCF Athletics for 27 years now — from the early memories and how he got started in broadcasting to sharing some of his favorite moments at UCF, like his iconic call for a reservation for six in the cabanas in 2017.
And after all the reminiscing on UCF football and basketball, we get into looking ahead to this season of UCF football with Coach Malzahn and some of his predictions for the season. Knights, I hope you’re ready for this one.
Broadcasting at UCF, you’ve been identified as like “The Voice of UCF.” The thing that people — I know for me, before meeting you personally here — I identify you. I know your voice. When I see it on television. When I hear it in commercials I’m like “There he is. That’s him.”
Marc Daniels: Yeah, that’s cool to be recognized as that.
I joke and say, “It’s the only skill I have, so I better be good at it.” No, I’m honored when people connect me and they hear my voice go, “Oh, UCF and everything.” It’s a privilege to do what I do. So I’m honored when people come up and say, “Oh, I’ve listened to you. Or, I went to school at UCF and now my son or daughter goes to UCF.” I love that. It means a lot to me. So I’m grateful when people do that. And I love doing what I do.
Alex Cumming: You’re checking out at the Publix. Do you have people say, “Do I know you from somewhere?”
Marc Daniels: Yeah. You’re the voice of every conversation or lately what I get is, “Are you the guy on TV?”
And I go, “Yeah, I’m UCF.” They go, “No, the guy selling cars and stuff.” Again, I’m honored by that. I think it’s fantastic. And yeah, I love to meet people that say they appreciate your work.
Alex Cumming: I watch a lot of late night television, like talk shows, so you’re always the lead in into it. And I’m like, “There he is. That’s the guy.” Like SNL is about to be on and you show up before it.
Marc Daniels: It’s incredible. You work 30 years at a market and someone goes, “Yeah, they know you for a 15-second TV commercial.” But that’s okay. That’s good.
Alex Cumming: Hey, it’s better to be recognized for that for something else. So broadcasting, what got you into it?
What was the draw for you into the broadcasting world?
Marc Daniels: Well, like a lot of people my age growing up, I was supposed to play professional baseball or basketball or football. I was supposed to be one of those stars and I was really good at baseball and thought that would be the path for me, but I started working in radio when I was 14 and was fortunate to have that opportunity and enjoyed it a lot.
And then when I got injured playing baseball and realized that perhaps was not going to be an avenue, then I pursued that path. And when I went to college, continuef to advance in it and being involved in sports was great for me. And just thought that was a good path and was fortunate to get some great opportunities and some wonderful people that helped open some doors for me. And I made the most of it working in radio and TV.
Alex Cumming: It seems as though a lot of people, they maybe they have one idea, then they fall into another. One thing that we’ve spoken a lot about on the podcast is the path can be uncertain, there are so many avenues that you can end at something that you find that speaks to me, sticks with me.
When did you realize that you were like, “Oh, I have this voice.”
Marc Daniels: I was working in a radio in high school and I had a few people in the business a long time that said, “That’s a pretty good voice that if you really want to make this a career, you got a chance to do that.”
So then when I went to college and started working in radio and television it felt like this could be something for me and the voice thing was going to work and it just grew from there. I had an incredible passion for sports and then when I got a chance to call games, which was always what I wanted to do. Once I felt like, okay, broadcasting is going to be a path and whether it was being a reporter or hosting a talk show, but then calling games and then just the rush of doing that became really something.
I said, “I want to see if I can make a career out of this.” And was fortunate to have some opportunities to develop.
Alex Cumming: It’s so interesting to see that, these things so young, these little things you dabble in and how they can just blossom.
Marc Daniels: Yeah. I grew up in a house where sports was so much a part of our life.
My dad played minor league baseball for a couple of years. And I was born in New York. Our family, big New York sports scene fans. So the Yankees and the Giants, the Rangers, the Knicks and everything, and grew up listening to baseball on a little A.M. Transistor radio. And I idolized my dad and my older brother, who unfortunately passed away years ago. In my house you had to know the starting lineup — not just of the Yankees, you had to know of the names and numbers of almost every player in Major League Baseball. My brother would quiz me and go, “Okay, here’s the box score. Give me the 1974 lineup for the Chicago Cubs.” And I was 7 and I think I knew it.
So that’s where that passion came from. And then when you listen to games, cause now I’m going back to when ESPN didn’t exist. So there was like one baseball game a week on TV that I got to watch. So you grew up listening to people call games and those magical voices at a time that A.M. radio was the thing. And you could be in New York and possibly pick up WGN in Chicago and hear a Cubs game or KMOX in St. Louis and hear the Cardinals.
And I think that’s where it began to develop. And as I got older and our family moved to Florida, I still loved the concept of perhaps getting involved in broadcasting. So I, like a lot of kids, you do mock games. You pretend, you’re at the plate and you hit that game-winning home run. So I guess that’s the roots of it.
Alex Cumming: I bet that transferred over really well, memorizing all those cause then you have to memorize baseball, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, volleyball, football — of all the players here at UCF and the major names within the conference NCAA sports as a whole to be familiar with the name that somebody throws out to you.
Marc Daniels: Yeah. Every sport is unique in the way you broadcast it. And there’s a certain I think presentation you strive for. Like football broadcasts for about six, six and a half hours. Basketball is different because it’s a faster pace. Baseball’s a storytelling sport because there’s so little action in the course of what could be a three, three and a half hour game. So you’re sharing stories, whether it’s about the players or about your life and things that you connect with eliciting audience.
So every sport’s unique and the way I prepare for broadcasts may be completely different than somebody else. And there’s no right or wrong way. It’s just diving into the event — it really is a production and everyone’s unique.
Alex Cumming: Yeah, definitely. So when you came to Orlando in 1989, which was a big year for Orlando sports. Orlando Magic right then, and then headed into that decade, UCF football became larger and larger. The Magic, you know with Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, their playoff run in the mid ‘90s.
Marc Daniels: Didn’t the World Cup come here in ‘94?
Alex Cumming: That’s right. The World Cup. Wow. And the Olympics are right up in Atlanta right?
Marc Daniels: ‘96 in Atlanta. But we had Olympic soccer in Orlando.
Alex Cumming: That’s right. Wild. But during that, you’re here and you’re working to create one of Orlando’s first all sports stations. What can you tell me about those days? Remember going back to there, getting it off the ground.
Marc Daniels: I moved to Orlando in May of ‘89. Really taking a gamble. There was a job offer to me at a company called Florida Radio Network, which was just that. It was radio department that was distributing news and sports and features to affiliates around the state. And there was an opening to work in sports. But I came up here, I did some sports updates. I did news and a whole bunch of other things. And I took the job for $13,600 and it was just, okay, we’re going to go do something, let’s go do it. Came up here with very little and didn’t make a lot of money, but I had a blast and then was fortunate to have an opportunity to do the sports talk show that was on the local A.M. station.
And it was the summer before the Magic were going to start. And the guy that had been doing that show took a job in Washington and they gave me a one-month trial. And then when they said I was going forward they gave me $20 a show, and I thought an extra hundred bucks a week, I am living the big life.
And yeah, that was the year the Magic started, in that fall and Orlando, it was different today. Now that today’s worse. I’m just saying back then, when the Magic rolled out it was like, “Wow, there’s a pro sports team in this town.” There was a very unique connection with the fan base and the expansion team.
And then to be able to get Shaq, and then Penny, it was special cause it happened so quickly. But every home game was a big event. Going downtown if you went to the Magic game and then you went out afterward, or even before to get dinner, it was a big event — win or lose. Cause it was just, wow.
Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, they’re coming to Orlando. That was a really big deal. And that was a fun, fun time in Orlando. And there was UCF, that was that football program and that athletic program and that university, that was nice, but it was the commuter school.
When I came here to everybody said, “Oh, that’s a nice little commuter school.” I think when I came here, I think enrollment was like 16,000. And then when I started doing games in ‘95, I think it was like maybe 22, 23. And people are like, “Oh that’s really big.” And now look where we are — over 70,000.
Alex Cumming: It’s beautiful to see the growth of it.
So when you’re here in Orlando, we have the Magic growing, UCF growing, do you look down to Miami or to Tampa and you say, “They have scenes there that are established.” And you say, “I want to stick to Orlando to watch it grow and flourish and develop.” Which it has now — Orlando City, UCF being this national brand here.
Marc Daniels: Yeah. Orlando was unique, as I said, because basketball was so new. And as somebody that moved to Florida, when I was 7 in 1974, you got to remember back then the Dolphins were new. That was it for pro sports. People didn’t follow pro sports, college sports was bigger.
The closest baseball team was the Braves in Atlanta. There was no NBA. And then things began to develop. Heck, when I grew up in South Florida the most popular baseball team was the University of Miami’s baseball team. When they won their first college world series, that was a major, not sports, that was a major news story. When they won their first national championship in football that was a big story. So I watched all these cities grow and as far as Orlando, the Magic kind of put it on the map. We became this international city that was known for more than just theme parks.
And all of a sudden you saw this sports explosion. I remember the bid process to get the World Cup here in ‘94. It was a really big deal. When Orlando landed that people were like, “Wait a minute. What?” And it was a vision by a lot of people, the mayor back then, and the kind of sports commission that was in place then.
So it was a really big deal to watch it grow over those years to where now you see the success of Orlando City and obviously what UCF has become. And it still has a chance to grow. I know the pro sports landscape, the way Tampa is aligned makes it maybe difficult to envision another pro team, but who knows. We’ll see what the future holds, but it’s been fun in the 30 plus years I’ve been here to watch it change.
Alex Cumming: Back in those early days, late ‘80s headed into the early ‘90s, what do you think was the success that you got this thing up off the ground and now seeing it flourish?
Marc Daniels: As far as the radio station?
Alex Cumming: Yeah. When you were there, what did you think was the success for that?
Marc Daniels: Radio was changing and the sports radio format exploded. It used to be that major cities had sports radio stations, and then it began to grow as a few networks popped up along the way. And the timing was right. I was one of several people that helped formulate the first all-sports station. We put it on the air in fact, on New Year’s Day. And we had some success early, some bumps along the road, but I think that there was a passion because Orlando is still is relatively unique. It’s a melting pot still have a lot of people, people like yourself, that were born here were unique in the sense, cause a lot of people came from New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and so forth that had moved here and it made it unique because if you were going to talk pro football, there are fans of the Steelers and Packers and Eagles and Giants and all sorts of things. And still today it’s the same way.
So I still think that was always unique about Orlando sports wise for college. The Gators were the dominant team, but again, when people moving from other places. You had Ohio State fans and Michigan fans and people like that. But now you fast forward with the growth of UCF. Now there’s a lot more black and gold around town.
Now there’s more Orlando City magnets on cars and things like that, which is great. It shows you how we’ve evolved and how the market has grown. And you talk about TV market being a top 20 market, and probably the next decade, it will easily move inside the top 15. This is a major city.
Alex Cumming: Oh, yeah. Big time. A lot of it is very generational. You know like what I was saying with my parents and their experiences with the Magic. I have experiences with the Magic. When I was younger if you pass the FCAT you got a free ticket to the Dwight Howard era games. And I regret not going to more of those looking back then now, you know how it is.
I was just at the Amway the other night for the draft and it was fantastic.
You have yet to miss a UCF game. Correct?
Marc Daniels: Are you jinxing me now? No, this will be year 27 and I’ve done now over well, over 300 football games.
Alex Cumming: Respect for that. As I said, I have been, I remember the Citrus Bowl days headed on to, back at Bright House Stadium, headed onto what it is.
And I’ve missed a game or two. As a student I’ve been fortunate to go to a number. But in those, have you had any close calls where you’re like, “Maybe I won’t make it to this game?”
Marc Daniels: No. In football, I’ve been fortunate from a schedule standpoint that nothing takes a priority over UCF game day.
Travel wise, I don’t think we ever got to a point that it was like, “No we’re going to get there.” I do think over the years, I think there’s a couple of games that I did get to on a day of the game but it was never a race to get to the stadium for kickoff. So I’ve been fortunate when it comes to football, and I broadcast again, I’ve done two games in Hawaii. We’ve played a regular season game in Hawaii and the bowl game in Hawaii. I went to Ireland for the game against Penn State. I’m fortunate between the football, basketball, baseball, and other events I’ve done, I broadcasted over 250 campuses across the country. So I’ve been in, some of the most iconic football stadiums at Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan and Alabama to some of the most scenic places.
Everybody should have BYU as a bucket list trip because it’s absolutely gorgeous to watch a game there. Stanford, New Mexico people may not think so, but the mountains are great. Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, is a beautiful stadium. So it’s not all the glitz and glamour of these major places. There’s some great campuses. There’s some that I don’t have a desire to get back to but for the most part, it’s great. I love the opportunity to go to a new place and broadcast.
Alex Cumming: And soon those people come to Orlando and they say you got a bucket list. Don’t just go to, Lake Buena Vista, go to Disney, and Sea World make sure you get out and see the city downtown.
Head out —
Marc Daniels: And it never fails when people come for the first time to experience a game day at UCF. I used to play for years. I still do. And I play this game when I travel. People see the UCF logo that I’m wearing and some will still go, “Oh, UFC.” And you’re like, “No, it’s UCF.” And they go, “Oh yeah, I think I know them.” And I always play the game is, ” Do you know how big our school is? The enrollment .” And they’re like, yeah, “I think it’s pretty big.” and I usually set them up and go, “Florida is like 53,000. So how many you think UCF is?” ” Oh, then it’s probably like 30.” And then when you go, “No it’s 60 or 65 or 70.” Then they don’t believe you. Then they Google it and they go, “Oh, wow. I didn’t know that.”
And the same thing happens when people come and visit our campus on a game day and they didn’t realize that, “Oh, wow. I didn’t think this was going on.” From all the pregame tailgating and Memory Mall and the fans outside the stadium. And then inside into experience, when the team comes out and, moments before kickoff and things like that.
It’s great because they become walking billboards. When they’ll go tell people, “you won’t believe what it was like at that place,” because until you experience it it’s hard to understand. And that’s great. It’s part of the growth of our brand. That’s still is the message being sent out there.
Alex Cumming: It’s an Orlando event. A UCF game day is an Orlando event. Summer 2019, I was fortunate enough to get to visit Toronto and cities in Alaska, had a UCF hoodie on. People said “UCF.” People in Alaska. I met a bus driver in Alaska. He said, “Hey UCF, I have a friend who goes there. I know.”
Marc Daniels: Yeah. It’s funny and it’s a credit, like Dr. Cartwright has even acknowledged it as well, the importance of an athletic program to this huge university and everything that we have going for it. So many wonderful things and the growth of our campus is incredible. But sports can help with that growth. I was fortunate, obviously to call every one of Tacko (Fall)’s basketball games and to have him walk through an airport and to see people respond, not just because of his height, but then by the time he was a senior, to people know his story and have him meet people at an airport and speak in different languages because they knew that he was multilingual. And to take a photo, not because he’s this 7-foot-5 guy, but because that’s Tacko Fall. Like when we were in New York for the NIT finals and you walk down Broadway, which is every type of person in the world. But it wasn’t like, “Look at this odd guy.” It was like, that’s Tacko Fall! So that’s a sign of not just him, but also for UCF. And obviously the football success the last few years has also been a huge part of that growth of the brand. And you can go anywhere and people go, “Oh yeah, it’s UCF.” That’s great.
Alex Cumming: Well Tacko recently on Jimmy Kimmel, it was so fun to see. And when I was at — to bring it back just to the Magic for a second, Tacko’s first game for Boston, back in the Amway for a preseason game, I was there. Whole stadium, “We want Tacko. We want—” It was truly something.
Marc Daniels: Yeah.
Alex Cumming: So as you said, UCF has had a lot of success, they’ve had continued success over the past years. Recently it’s been a lot of eyes on us. Going back to your many years here at the university, what games stick out to you? What moments from years ago, recently, what can you just not get out of your head?
Marc Daniels: Wow. I guess I’m most known for the Mike Hughes kickoff return against South Florida in 2017 and reservation for six of the cabanas.
Alex Cumming: Where did that come from? That’s just top of the head?
Marc Daniels: Here’s Hughes the 5, 10 15, 20 25, 30, 40 45 50. He’s got a reservation for six in the cabanas. He’s gone! Touch down, boom!
Yeah. People ask, did have that written down? And that’s not me.
There are some announcers that may do that, and that’s fine. But I tell people what happened and with that play is Mike’s back to return a kick and their kicker was really good at just kicking the ball in the end zone. And it was like, wait a minute, that ball is going to be returned.
So that kind of caught me at first. Then Mike made a couple moves. And then, to me I’m watching and I’m like, “Okay, he’s going to break free.” And then as he makes the last cut to get past the kicker, out of the corner of my eye, I’m watching Knight fans celebrate. And I’m just seeing him run towards the cabanas.
And that’s how that came about. It’s like, he’s got a reservation for six in the cabanas because I saw that group jumping up and down and that’s how it happened. There was nothing else. And Mike did all the work. I just sat there, and called it. And yet I guess to some degree we’re forever connected over that, but there’ve been many great moments over the years.
My first football game at UCF was Daunte Culpepper’s first game in 1995. And I’ve said this for all the years I’ve worked — that’s the greatest athlete I’ve ever seen at UCF. Never seen an athlete like that. And we are blessed to have All Americans, Olympians and record holders, but Daunte was special. He was unique cause the time he came to UCF, as we were making that growth to become a Division I program, he was absolutely phenomenal. But there’s been so many great moments over the years. The winner in Alabama, because of what it meant, to so many close calls of going on the road and playing all these teams and being in the game. And then to finally get one of those.
Obviously the 2013 team going to the first Fiesta Bowl was memorable. That team, big games there. The win at Penn State. Beating Louisville, the way they had the season going and getting to that first Fiesta Bowl. And Baylor was such an overwhelming favorite. And UCF just beat them in every part of the game.
Obviously the 2017 run. Look, the greatest eight quarters, the most exciting eight quarters of UCF football was the South Florida game followed by the Memphis game, which is like more than four quarters. So there’ve been so many wonderful memories, and even games that UCF didn’t win to be able to go and broadcast from. You know were just a unique — a game that we did win, the first game at Navy. Just to go there and broadcast a game and have an appreciation for that campus and what it stands for.
So I’ve been blessed to be part of some of those, in football, great moments. And the beauty about UCF is there are still so many other firsts to happen. So many places that have 100+ years of history, you’re trying to accomplish something that’s been done. But we have so many wonderful firsts that are still out there. That’s why I’m blessed, I’m privileged to do what I do because I can’t wait for the next first to happen.
Alex Cumming: You see so many people still talk about the Alabama kick, and you’re on social media and all these times these social media pages that are sharing highlights. You’ll always find a UCF highlight in there. Blake Bortles amazing toss into the end zone. The Mike Hughes return. Oh my goodness. 2017, there’s one on YouTube. It’s like UCF, USF all-time thriller 2017. It was like 100,000 views. It’s incredible. Just the highlights of these games. I get chills thinking about it.
Marc Daniels: Yeah. We’ve got a great fan base, so they love that.
Alex Cumming: I’ll say, and then think about, like you said, what’s coming up, what’s ahead that a lot of these universities, they’ve had their moments of, “Wow, look at these guys.” And UCF hasn’t had that moment where this is the pinnacle.
Marc Daniels: Right.
Alex Cumming: UCF is still climbing.
Marc Daniels: Yeah. I did an interview recently with somebody who asked me, “What makes UCF such a unique place?” They’re asking about football. They, said, “What makes it such a unique place?”
And I said, “Imagine if you are able to go to work every day and they encourage you to be as creative as you can be. Just try stuff. Don’t worry about failing. If it doesn’t work, we’ll try something else and just think out of the box as you can.” If you think about that’s what we become — different uniforms. We’re pretty active on social media. We’ll get under the skin of our rivals and opponents. We don’t have a history that you have to act a certain way. We can go and be the life of the party where someone else goes, “I want to hang out with those guys cause they’re having the most fun.” I think that’s one of the biggest advantages that we have is that we’re still writing our history while others are upholding a history.
And that’s why I think this is the best time at UCF. There’s still so many amazing things that are out there.
Alex Cumming: Very much agree. Someone shared with me once that UCF fans are so devout, as opposed to a lot of other teams in Florida, because most of the fans actually went there. The fans actually went there, the families that went there.
Marc Daniels: Yeah. And look, part of the enrollment growth at UCF did come from the other brands in this state that either A, maxed out on enrollment, changed whatever they thought their enrollment policies were and a generation looked at UCF — and I have a nephew that I think was part of that, where my brother went to Florida State, my sister-in-law went to Florida and he was likely going to go to one or the other. And then something happened. He came to UCF and he’s like, “All the buildings are new. All the dorms are new. What are these four-bedroom suites, as opposed to this aging double that I would live in a brick building that was built in the 1890s?” And other young people said, “Hold on, this campus is gorgeous. It’s 40 minutes to the beach there. It’s theme parks.” And then that enrollment explosion took place. He’s got three kids that are going to grow up and likely become Knights. So you’re right. That’s how all that developed. And we’re at the infancy of that. So as those thousands and thousands of alums begin to have families just imagine what happens to our fan base and the generations down the line.
Alex Cumming: The marketing, they do it for us. People say, yeah, UCF exists rent free because it is such a, beautiful school, like you said, it’s so creative. We have such an amazing social media team that works and gets the name out there. The faces out there, the people you recognize them.
Marc Daniels: But again, we can do things that other schools would be a little bit uncomfortable with. Again putting Twitter handles on the back of jerseys at a spring football game made people, “Go wait a minute. What?” And don’t think for a second, some major brands are like, “That’s really cool, but we probably can’t do that because that’s not our zone.
And that’s what’s really cool about us is that we can try things like that. And our space uniforms are so cool. And everybody these days has multiple uniforms. We’re among those that are like, “What are they wearing next?” When we rolled out our uniforms on game day that’s a really big deal to our fans and a lot of other places like, “Oh, that’s cool.”
Alex Cumming: You see there’s a picture where it says like all the different uniforms and everybody would say, “This is my favorite. I like this combination, this helmet, these pants, these shoes. I have my personal favorite and I’m certain, you could talk to people, they might have their personal favorites. They might not be for the same reason, you have a memory attached to it. Like you said, it’s a big deal when you see them coming out of the tunnel. I love it.
So speaking of the players, what about off the field? Players that you’ve gotten to know personally, how have your experiences been, speaking with the people behind the jerseys?
Marc Daniels: Yeah. I tell people all the time the best promoters of UCF are our students, our athletes, and the wonderful people in the campus. Their stories are amazing because there’s so many different stories of those that have traveled far and those that are here local, that grow up and want to be Knights. And I get it when I meet players that come back with their families and, say, “Wow Marc, I remember your calls or talking and listening to you or a conversation on a flight or something like that.” And some of those players were All-Americans have gone to play professionally and others were role players that hardly ever played. And it’s great to meet them because we have so many wonderful stories in all of our sports. And there’s some players that I’ve really enjoyed getting to know over the years that have gone on to be successful.
One of the biggest hugs that I got recently — Latavius Murray, who starred here at UCF and is still having a great career in the National Football League. Every time, I get a chance to see and catch up with him to get a huge embrace and players that were part of those first teams. The first bowl team in 2005 and all those guys that went to the NFL. Brandon Marshall has gone to be one of the best receivers in the NFL. And any time I still see Brandon, it’s as if he’s a freshman again — and by the way that freshmen play defense. To remind people, we were so injured and thin at defensive back then that he and Mike Walker later, Mike Sims-Walker, played defense for us back then. But yeah, those are great to to meet people.
Like I said, I love meeting players who go, “I want to introduce you to my children.” It makes me feel old, but I’m honored when that happens. And those are great stories that you connect with those people and they’ll be friends for life.
Alex Cumming: Do you have a moment or a memory that sticks out to you?
Marc Daniels: Yeah. The first thing that sticks out to me, the Griffin twins and Shaquem Griffin and to see the impact that he had on families of teams that we played on the road. I was able to witness families bring children that have some real difficulties in life — not able to walk or other issues that are gonna make their life a little bit more challenging. And to have him take the time, even though they may be wearing the colors of the team that he’s going to play in a few hours, and to sit down and look them in the eye and make them smile and make them feel like, you know what, you’re no different than me and if somebody else says you are different, understand that you can strive to be something.
And I got to watch both of those brothers realize the impact that they could have on people. And to see Shaquem sometimes bend down to talk to a child in a wheelchair or with braces and make them smile, that’s a lot more than the final score of a football game. And to see a mother in tears because they hadn’t seen their child’s smile, that’s powerful. That’s far more than, who won and what was the stat sheet today? And I’ll never forget seeing that multiple times watching him do that. I remember at the Peach Bowl there was a media session that I was at that he was a part of and we came out of that and there was a family right there with a young daughter that she was in awe being able to meet him. So you don’t forget stuff like that.
Alex Cumming: It’s bigger than the game.
Marc Daniels: Yeah, Yeah, absolutely.
Alex Cumming: Yeah. That’s a beautiful story. You’re right that the students, student-athletes, they represent UCF so well, they take it with them and they are the brand. They are the face.
Marc Daniels: And it doesn’t matter the sport. We’re in an era where I think people really, I hope they do understand, our student-athletes love to represent this university. I mean, they’re incredibly passionate about winning championships and engaging with fans and giving back. And that’s a testament to our coaches. You have incredible coaches and we’ve been fortunate to have great athletic leadership, like we do now with Terry Mohajir and his staff and our players I think really feel that. And you see that.
In the field, no matter what the sport is I think our players like everything that we just talked about, like being a little bit different, we’re on the edge and maybe the opponent doesn’t really like us and things like that. I think they embrace that situation and environment.
Alex Cumming: Since we’re here recording this, the practices for the fall season have begun.
Marc Daniels: Yup.
Alex Cumming: What’s on your mind? What are your predictions for this coming fall? New leadership, same amazing players, and some amazing new faces coming in, too.
Marc Daniels: Yeah. It’ll be very exciting. Coach Malzahn has come in and I think he’s been phenomenal at bringing his experience over the years as a head coach and setting up a culture and environment that he wants, accountability for the players and expectation of the players, competition, and things like that. But I think he’s also embraced everything we were talking about of what makes UCF unique. He came from a place with a lot of tradition, did things a certain way, and people kind of wondered is he going to understand what is that UCF image and that kind of attitude. And he’s actually really embraced it.
Listen, who doesn’t want to come and play here in the sun, the fun that we’re going to have, this great campus, the theme parks, the partnerships we have there, the beach over here? And he wrapped his arms around that, jumped on social media, started telling everybody what’s so great about this. Use it in recruiting and I kind of wonder where that would be. And he blew me away with how much he said, “Listen, I get it. And I know what our advantages are without even playing a game.” So I think he’s been great with that. He hired a really good staff.
Look, the expectations are high for UCF, and I think that’s good. The team has a chance to be really good. It brings back a number of key players from last year. We lost a lot of key players from last year’s team. But Coach Malzahn has brought in a group of transfers that I think could have an immediate impact. Some freshmen that I think we brought in this class are going to step in and help.
So I think we’re going to be a team that has a chance to win every game. Doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to win every game, but I’m not quite sure there’s a game you’re like, “Hey, they’re just that much better than us.” I think that you want to get to a level that you feel that way about your program and believe me, I remember the days you were like, “We’re here to pick up a check and stick around.” But this team has the chance to win every game.
And I will say this, that over the years, because of our accomplishments and our reputation, when we go on the road, everybody wants to beat UCF. Everybody wants to beat UCF. And you know what, that’s what you want. You want that where you’re the big ticket in town. When you come to town, People are like, “Oh I don’t like them. I want to root against them.” And you play a brand of football that’s also exciting. So I think it’s got a chance to be a really great 2021 season, but understand you’re going to get everybody’s best game week in and week out.
Alex Cumming: That’s what the fans want. I’m certain for yourself to announce those are the most fun. The ones where maybe the nail biters, the one when you’re on your edge, you don’t know what to expect.
Marc Daniels: Yeah, exactly. And who’s going to make the big play? Who’s going to become the highlight for that day? And I think we got a chance to have a lot of those big plays this year. Obviously, Dillon Gabriel’s a special quarterback and he’ll have a big year. The entire offensive line is back. And even though we did lose some players, the backfield and wide receiver. We have a ton of talent there. I think the defense is going to be a lot better with some of the additions the coaches brought in.
So the stage is set and it’s a huge first big game. Boise State’s a really good team, a heavy favorite to win their conference. Great. I mean they’re 20 years into this run of being a heavy favorite every time out, of double digit wins and things like that. So it’s a great matchup.
Alex Cumming: That home opener in September. I’m counting the days. The energy there is going to be like nothing else. Coming out of last season where limited capacity of fans to have the whole place back and bouncing.
Marc Daniels: Yeah. We think that there’ll be a record demand for student tickets and everything, and you can feel that now. Obviously the stadium is selling out and it’ll be a special place because we know when that place is packed the crowd can make a difference. It’s one of the reasons why it is hard for us to get home games. Everybody’s asking about schedules and it’s hard to get teams to come here and play because the reputation is it’s a tough place to go win.
Alex Cumming: They know. They’re aware of the energy that the students, that the fans bring.
Marc Daniels: Absolutely.
Alex Cumming: There’s no place like it.
In your perspective, we were talking about football here, so far what have your impressions been? Terry Mohajir and Coach Malzahn.
Marc Daniels: Terry is one of the most energetic people you’ll ever come across.
It’s hard to spend 10 minutes and not leave excited with an adrenaline rush of, “Okay, what can I do?” So I can see why his personality is contagious. I’ve been so impressed the way he’s come in, and also has embraced the culture of UCF, see what the vision is, add to it his own ideas on how to help the UCF brand grow, and so he’s been great. He, I think was the right person, the right time for UCF. And I think loves what the UCF opportunity is. So he’s brought in some great people that have worked with him before, as well as embracing some of the people that have been here.
One of the management things I love about Terry is that he encourages creativity. Give me some ideas, let’s go get some stuff done, let’s go have some fun, let’s be successful and let’s go do it. You know, let’s not procrastinate, let’s go do something. I love that about him.
And same when Dr. Cartwright came in with a vision and a challenging first year, obviously with COVID, and fortunate to get a little bit of time with him and to hear him talk about the vision for UCF, I mean as big as we are now, and where he wants to take it. So to have that type of leadership is great and not saying, “Hey, we’ll live off the success of the past. We want to keep growing.” So it’s awesome.
And like I said, I think Gus has been great to come in and also welcome that personality. And then there are great coaches and athletics — and I hope people have had a chance if you haven’t to meet all of our coaches. We have an amazing group of people that is really special to have at UCF. And I know Terry recognized that quickly coming here. We do compete for championships all the time and it’s because the loyalty of a lot of these coaches that say, “Hey, this is a great place to be at.” So it’s a really good vibe right now.
Alex Cumming: From the interviews that you’ve done with both of them, and from my speaking with President Cartwright, I’ve seen this overarching theme of group think. That I’m not 100%. I want to hear from everybody. I wanna hear from all of y’all what you have to say. Who can contribute? So it’s not just this one-track mind, cause you all know something that I don’t, let’s work together and go forward with it.
Marc Daniels: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. Again, I’ve had a chance to talk with Dr. Cartwright a couple of times. But the feedback I get from others is exactly that, that he is all ears. And absorbs that and then says, “Okay, what do we all think is best for us?” and then I’ll take the leadership and then we’ll go from there. I think Terry has been the same way.
Terry certainly has a vision of what he wants UCF to be, but realizes he needs other people to come aboard for the ride. And that’s again, it’s part of the great thing about UCF is that we’re paving the roads of our future. And both of those individuals in their leadership role realize if we lock arms and keep growing, we’re going to be unstoppable. Which is great because, you know, you always wonder, people coming from other places had their habits of doing things and do they get what we are, but yet they bring an expertise that says, “Here’s how we can get there even faster and be even bigger.”
Alex Cumming: One thing I appreciate about both of them, and I’ll go back to this transition for the new coaching staff and the new athletics director, it happened very fast. There was some speakings of it, but it happened very fast. And from the moment that I saw that video of Terry Mohajir doing the pushups on the plank on top of the crowd, if you’re familiar, I said —
Marc Daniels: At Arkansas State.
Alex Cumming: At Arkansas State, yes. I said, “That’s UCF.”
Marc Daniels: That or the TikTok videos with his kid. Yeah, because you’re like, “Okay, that guy, yeah with us and everything is going to fit and everything.” And like I said, his energy is fantastic. He just has a great passion that it’s hard to be around him and not feel the same type of passion, which is great.
Alex Cumming: What I love so much about UCF through the brand, and the idea, and the coaching, and the student-athletes they have personality and a sense of humor about themselves.
Marc Daniels: Yeah.
Alex Cumming: They understand. They take their job seriously, but not themselves too seriously that they can understand that it’s OK to crack a joke every now and then, it’s OK to bring your personality to the table. And that’s what I love seeing every time with all these people. It makes the students feel more involved with it that they say, “They’re like us. They understand and they’re not stern in their ways, that they can let loose a bit.”
Marc Daniels: Yeah. And it stretches far beyond athletics. There are some historical sites on this campus, but it’s interesting. You could walk on some campuses in the state or across the country, and someone can tell you the story of that building from 1797. You can walk across some bodies of water and someone say, “I remember fighting to get a duck in that pond right there because that was so important. And that’s, what’s unique about UCF.”
Alex Cumming: It’s I love it. So now, Marc, I’m going to turn the tables on you and I’m going to shoot you some lightning round questions.
Marc Daniels: I’m ready.
Alex Cumming: You ready?
Marc Daniels: Let’s do it.
Alex Cumming: Alright. Alright. Here we go. Football or basketball?
Marc Daniels: Neither, I can’t pick one or the other. You can’t do that. Football is unique because, again, the presentation from a broadcast standpoint, it’s six, six and a half hours. It’s an entire week really preparing for broadcast. Basketball it’s a two and a half hour broadcast. It’s fast pace and from one game you’re onto the next game. They’re each unique in their own way.
Alex Cumming: Good answer. Citronaut or Knugget?
Marc Daniels: Oh.
Alex Cumming: I know. I know. It’s almost blasphemy, but what’s your answer here, Marc?
Marc Daniels: Wow. I do like Citronaut a little bit more. Knugget’s adorable, but Citronaut is — so many people ask, “Why don’t we switch that?” I’m like, “No, that’s what makes Citronaut unique is that, it’s there, it comes once in a while and everything and it just kind of goes away.” But again, that’s also part of, what’s really cool about us. You can have all those things. I do love Knugget, but Citronaut is pretty cool.
Alex Cumming: How can you not love both? We’re simultaneously Knight Nation and ‘Naut Nation.
Marc Daniels: Yeah.
Alex Cumming: Ready?
Marc Daniels: Yup.
Alex Cumming: Vacation or staycation? We do live in Orlando.
Marc Daniels: Yeah. It’s probably staycation. Just because of my schedule, my wife and I don’t do many trips. So it’s more staycations, maybe a day trip somewhere and everything because I do travel a lot. If given some free time to relax and not do much it’s probably a staycation. There’s a lot of great places around here and I’m a theme park guy too.
Alex Cumming: During the athletic seasons, do you say, “Alright, nobody planned a wedding, nobody have a baby. Busy, Saturdays, game days.”
Marc Daniels: I got married in June and my daughters were born in March in May. So you know —
Alex Cumming: Not a Saturday in October right? Not a Saturday in October. Alright, night or morning?
Marc Daniels: Wow, morning and I’ll tell you why, because I love getting up and saying, “What is today going to be about?” And go tackling the day.
Alex Cumming: Alright, I’m going to reality TV or dramas?
I’ll answer reality TV because I think junk for the brain once in a while is healthy. And it is a little guilty pleasure with my wife sometimes watching some of the reality TV that she may watch. But I say this as someone that was in the audience at the first ever Survivor final.
Alex Cumming: Really?
Marc Daniels: So that’s where it started. Yeah, my wife and I went to Hollywood for the first one, when Survivor was Survivor and we were in the studio audience for the first ever final. So I guess that’s where the reality TV bug started. I never want to be on one of those shows, would never do any of those shows, but then I get a chuckle out of it. And scripted reality TV is hilarious and I just find it totally funny. It’s fantastically bad.
Alex Cumming: Big time. I totally agree. Are you a savory or sweet man?
Marc Daniels: Used to be, but sweets for the most part are gone. This is somebody that lost 70 pounds a few years ago, so now I’m a nutritious nut. Once in a while, I would treat myself. But sweets used to be one of the downfalls. Sweets are great, but I just don’t do it as much.
Alex Cumming: I hear that. Now you’re traveling a lot. Window or aisle seat?
Marc Daniels: Claustrophobic, so I have to sit in the aisle.
Alex Cumming: Oh.
Marc Daniels: Yeah. The aisle’s really big. You do not want to be on a flight with a window with me cause you likely wouldn’t get me on that flight. I’d wait until the next flight. Yeah. And it wasn’t always the case. It actually happened on a flight back from a UCF basketball game. And I just had a moment where a panic attack and it was, “Whoa.” And since then I have to sit in the aisle. Yeah. Plus I want to be near the beverage cart. It’s just so much fun—
Alex Cumming: Reaching over people that’s —
Marc Daniels: Well there’s nothing like watching a group of individuals just respond to, “Wait a minute. Is that a bag of pretzels and a half a can of soda? Because I’m lined up for that.”
Alex Cumming: “For me?”
Marc Daniels: “I have a choice? Unbelievable.”
Alex Cumming: “Diet or regular?” Alright, here’s the last one. Best sporting event you’ve ever witnessed in person?
Marc Daniels: Wow.
Alex Cumming: I’m here with the heavy hitters.
Marc Daniels: Is it UCF or non-UCF?
Alex Cumming: Let’s do both.
Marc Daniels: The Scott Norwood’s missed kick against the Giants when they won the Super Bowl, and as a Giants fan, it was incredible.
There’s an amazing story behind that. Between cousins and friends, there was about a dozen of us and when the week began, nobody had tickets and then we ended up all getting into the game, but that’s a story for another day. So that’s the best non-UCF sports moment that I was ever at because we celebrated a missed field goal and the Giants won.
It’s really hard to pick for UCF. So I’ll give you two. Look football, the Mike Hughes return because to me it’s the it’s the greatest football game that I’ve ever been a part of — until the next week against Memphis when that was the next greatest game. But I think the Hughes return was really special because of that game, everything going on. It’s not that the Peach Bowl victory wasn’t or the Fiesta Bowl victory wasn’t.
But I’ll give you a moment that was not a UCF win and it was the Duke basketball game because of just how that story developed when the bracket came out. One, we’re excited to be in, playing VCU. And then you couldn’t help but go, “Wait a minute, that’s Duke in the next game. And if we win it’s Johnny Dawkins and Coach K and Zion and Tacko. And then that happened. It was one of these weird but incredible feelings after we won because we played the late game that opening night. Duke had already advanced it. There was this case of, we’re not just isn’t this cool we’re going to play Duke. There was like, “This is a game.” And it was supposed to be like, “No, this is Duke.” And I will never forget the buzz of that building. When that game was an hour before tip off, that place was packed. And the vibe when that ball went up, that game was absolutely incredible.
And I could go play by play with you and they should have called the foul on Zion, but they were never going to call the fifth foul. The hook by RJ Barrett that should have been called a foul, and the free throw, and the shove, and how Aubrey Dawkins’ shot did not go in. I still don’t know. Those are more recent ones. But those are two of the great moments.
Alex Cumming: Every year, March ESPN classics. Duke, UCF basketball. Every year since then.
Marc Daniels: Yeah. Again, a magical game and all the parties involved with that and Coach K and Johnny Dawkins.
Alex Cumming: Just the storylines.
Marc Daniels: Absolutely unbelievable. The timing was a Sunday night, the CBS, the huge crowd watching across the country, it’s one of the most viewed UCF events ever. So yeah.
Alex Cumming: I was in a rehearsal. I was sneak watching it. I’m watching it out here, sweating in my costume. It was wild.
Well, I’ll move here into this final section. What advice would you give to somebody who wants to do what you do?
Marc Daniels: Have dreams, have goals, but have an open mind that you’re living in the most amazing time that you could try anything. And you’ll never know where you’re going to end up because if you say, “I want to be a broadcaster today,” is so many things than when I said, “I think I want to get involved in broadcasting.” Between social media, the many platforms that you can broadcast. You hold your iPhone, you’re walking production company. There’s so many ways to send a message. So have an open mind don’t necessarily be obsessed with being in front of the camera, behind the camera is an amazing world of creativity. There’s so many different opportunities.
So I would tell somebody have dreams and goals, but have an open mind to go left, go right, go down the middle, take the road that looks like it’s a little bit more challenging. Embrace opportunities. Don’t be afraid to fail, and you never know where you’re going to land.
I went to college with somebody that only wanted to be involved in front of the camera. He wanted to be on sports and everything. And he went on to basically be one of the key people at Cartoon Network and would have been like, “What?” It’s like most of the cartoons you saw in the ‘90s he brought over to this. Just, you never know the point is he had no idea he wanted to do that, now obsessed with that. And it’s a great time to create. You could create a movie on your phone. The applications that are available, there’s nothing anybody can’t create today.
Alex Cumming: As somebody who loves broadcasting, I appreciate hearing that. It’s always good.
Marc Daniels: And learn how to write. Writing ‘s priceless. Writing will pay you back. If you love to write stories, if you just loved to write anything, write because it will always give you back. It’s one of the greatest tools you can have. And a lot of people in broadcasting never do that, they never — I love writing columns. I write columns for the radio stations, website. I’ve written columns for UCF and everything, and I love it. It’s great. It’s the ultimate form of storytelling because you’re trying to put into words what someone’s going to visualize. And it’s incredibly powerful when that happens and it connects and someone can actually read what you wrote and visualize it. And if they do it the way you want it to, then you broke the formula and it works.
It’s one of the great things I love about radio. It’s my job to paint the picture for somebody. It’s my job to let them know, not just score, down, distance, how much time is left. Is it warm? Is it cold? Is it tense? Is it a gray day? Is it a physical day? What’s the game like? What’s happening? Who’s the start of nowhere? Give me this little bit of information to make me care more about that player that just made that play and the art of storytelling. It’s incredible. And when it works, it works. And it’s a beautiful thing.
Alex Cumming: When it works there’s nothing like that.
Marc Daniels: Yeah, it’s awesome.
Alex Cumming: And I’ll close with this, what’s one thing that you’re still hoping to.do?
Marc Daniels: Call the first football national championship for UCF, what are you talking about? ,That’s it, man. That’s it. And hopefully many of them. I really look, again, I am blessed and privileged to do what I do at UCF. And as I’ve said, I have been so fortunate to be able to broadcast many firsts at UCF, but there are so many more and I want to be a part of those. And there’s so many more great moments that I want to see. And if I can be a part of some way, that excites me.
I love the next game because you never know what’s going to happen. I love the next moment. I love going to a game I’m not even broadcasting because it may come down to the final seconds and someone may become a hero. I love to learn the stories of our student-athletes and our coaches.
I just want to keep on being there for those memorable moments. What’s going to be the next reservation for six? I don’t know. But man, I want to find out.
Alex Cumming: What’s the next line that people are going to come up to you.
Marc Daniels: Yeah. And I have no idea what it is, but man, I can not wait for that to happen.
Alex Cumming: The days where they come and say, “Hey, can you do the line?” And you’re like, “Oh, which one?”
Marc Daniels: I love it though. So I don’t know when it’s going to be, what sport, where I’ll be, but man, I am looking forward to being there.
Alex Cumming: I look so forward to hearing you announce those games and the first UCF national championship game that you’re announcing. That’ll be something. I look forward to seeing you there. Marc, this conversation, I’ve enjoyed it so much.
Marc Daniels: Thank you. I appreciate that.
Alex Cumming: I want to say thank you so much for coming on, it’s been such an honor and a pleasure to get to speak with you.
Marc Daniels: Thank you so much. It was great. Thanks for having me appreciate it.
Alex Cumming: Thanks again for listening. Be sure to stream and download on whatever platform you use to listen to podcasts. I hope you’re enjoying learning how Knights are making a positive impact in our community, our nation and the world. And hey, if you’re doing something cool, whether that’s at UCF or somewhere you took UCF that we should know about, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and maybe we’ll see you on an episode in the future. Go Knights, and Charge On!