UCF President John Hitt is not just the leader of the third biggest university in the country, he also happens to be a big football fan. Dr. Hitt knows the game. He played it in college and is not like others with a similar title who might follow along while chatting with VIPs in a luxury box. Dr. Hitt watches the game intently and can identify two-deep coverage and post routes.
He travels to just about every game and like all Knight fans rejoices in the wins and feels a little hurt when the score does not go our way. And when the Knights take the field on Saturday in the school’s third bowl game, Dr. Hitt knows the long journey the program has taken.
When he became UCF’s leader it was in March of 1992. The football program was still a 1-AA team. Over the years he preached that a successful program could exist at UCF and played a vital role in the school’s move to division one.
But after watching season after season at an aging Citrus Bowl, Dr. Hitt not only was willing to listen but encouraged the growing idea of an on-campus football stadium. Many laughed at the idea saying it simply could not be done. There was no way UCF could pay for a stadium while plans to build a new arena were on the table as well.
Instead of taking no for an answer, Hitt welcomed the challenge. Even city and county leaders laughed privately and then publicly doubted UCF’s ability to build the stadium and certainly offered no help. Hitt could have said the dream would have to wait for a better time. Instead, he gathered a group of believers who stepped up and made it happen.
Today, Bright House Networks Stadium is a centerpiece for the sports complex many doubted UCF’s President could help build.
Respected among his peers, Dr. Hitt’s leadership has played and will play a significant role in where the program goes in the future. While the team handles the success on the field, Hitt can be very influential away from the gridiron.
So when the Knights take the field on Saturday at the Dome in St.Petersburg, glance towards the VIP box where UCF’s President will be. There is a very good chance you will not find Dr. Hitt chatting with others. He likely will be focused on the game and should UCF come out victorious, he might just savor the win more than any in the Black and Gold Nation.
Source: UCF Athletics, by Marc Daniels.