Taped on the hallway wall in the suite of UCF Athletics executive staff offices in the new Roth Athletics Center is a detailed 10-by-29-inch chart of future UCF athletic events.
It represents maybe the ultimate challenge for not only the coaches and student-athletes, but the UCF Athletics staff, as well — easily the greatest multi-month undertaking in Knight history.
The columns across the top of the page list all 16 UCF varsity sports. Listed down the left side of the chart are individual dates from mid-January through the end of May. Shaded boxes indicate dates of competition for each sport over the first five months of 2021.
The Knights are accustomed to busy springs, normally including baseball, softball, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s golf, rowing, and track and field—plus the end of seasons in men’s and women’s basketball. This time, however, the chart also includes spring competition in men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball and cross country.
That’s because COVID prompted the NCAA, and then the American Athletic Conference, to push its traditional fall sports championships (other than football) into the spring.
In addition to expected AAC championships in March in men’s and women’s basketball, the conference also has rescheduled its fall championships for Feb. 6 in cross country, April 2-3 for volleyball and April 15-17 for men’s and women’s soccer. Later in April come AAC events for men’s and women’s golf and men’s and women’s tennis, followed by baseball, softball, rowing and outdoor track championships in May.
Ironically, the minute the printed version of the schedule arrived it was already out of date based on upcoming schedule changes.
“The challenge of keeping it up to date on a bulletin board became impossible quickly, so we’ve already gone to an electronic version,” says UCF executive associate athletics director and chief operating officer David Hansen. “Managing changes to the schedule and communicating those to all the people who need to know is critical.”
Spring Schedule By the Numbers
A closer analysis of the shaded boxes provides more detailed evidence of what’s to come:
The complete five-month schedule currently includes 112 home events:
- 26 in baseball (four doubleheaders)
- 23 in softball
- 13 in women’s tennis
- 11 in volleyball
- 10 in men’s tennis
- 6 each in men’s and women’s basketball
- 5 each in men’s and women’s soccer
- 3 in rowing
- 2 in outdoor track and field
- 1 each in women’s golf and one in cross country.
- Plus 15 days of spring football beginning in early March
Over the next three months, there are a total of 15 days through April that don’t include at least one UCF athletic contest (home or away).
The most ambitious weekend for on-campus competition is March 5-9 (Friday to Tuesday) when there are a dozen combined home events featuring volleyball, men’s soccer, baseball, softball and men’s and women’s tennis (tennis events are contested at the USTA campus in Lake Nona).
The heaviest overall weekend will be the period of March 12-16 when 10 teams compete at once, including the men’s basketball squad at the AAC Championship in Fort Worth, Texas. Home events that weekend feature women’s soccer, baseball and women’s tennis.
The slate winds down in May with AAC championships in softball (May 13-15 in Tulsa), rowing (May 16 in Oak Ridge, Tennessee), outdoor track and field (May 14-16 in Tampa, Florida) and baseball (May 25-30 in Clearwater, Florida). The final scheduled UCF home events will be three days (four games) of baseball May 20-22 against Houston.
The ongoing effects of COVID mean that, after the teams’ complimentary admissions are accounted, UCF is likely to sell only about 35 tickets for home softball games and approximately 750 general admission seats for baseball (walkup only).
Volleyball and men’s and women’s soccer are free for fans to attend, but the venues will have limited capacity.
There is no shortage of optimism as all these UCF teams prepare to play.
Both the volleyball and softball teams have been picked as favorites in the AAC. The UCF softball team stands 22nd in the preseason D1 poll, while the baseball squad is 32nd in the Collegiate Baseball preseason standings.
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association has put the UCF men 16th and women 18th in its preseason polls.
The UCF women’s basketball team is in second place in AAC standings with its current overall 7-2 record (5-1 in AAC play).
The Knight spring-sport teams are hoping to pick up where they left off last March as top-25 teams in the country when COVID ended their seasons. At that point, the UCF baseball team was 15-3, ranked as high as 12th; softball was 21-5-1 (its 16-2 start was best in school history), ranked as high as 22nd; and both tennis teams stood 10-3 (the women ranked as high as 12th, the men as high as 22nd).
The 2020 rowing team had won its only spring regatta coming off five straight top-20 national finishes. Men’s golf had played two spring events after a fall victory in the Tavistock Collegiate Invitational that helped the Knights rank 16th. Women’s golf had played three spring events, finishing ranked 39th after a No. 13 fall rating.
But, with COVID ongoing, changes are expected and almost guaranteed. There will be elements that normally happen at Knight home events that won’t be as notable in 2021. Advertising, promotions, marketing and in-game fan entertainment are examples, with all UCF venues dealing with reduced capacities and limited attendance.
“No. 1, it’s about prioritizing the experience of our student-athletes, making sure they can play,” says Hansen.