What a Rip

How one torn pair of jeans cemented the destiny of a Knight.

The call on the hall pay phone in my dorm was from my high school friend, David Kruhm, ’84, an engineering major at UCF. We were both in our sophomore year, but I attended Flagler College, a small, private school in St. Augustine, Fla. I was enjoying my college experience, and so was David. But he had a new sense of pride. And that’s why he called.

“Want to come to Orlando for the first UCF home football game?” David asked me. Now, this was a long-distance call, and most college students didn’t have enough change to keep dropping coins into a pay phone. (Yes, this was the Dark Ages.) “Sure,” I said, because I didn’t have time to ask questions and figure out if I cared enough to spend the $12 bus fare to see a game.

Late Friday afternoon David showed me around the campus. In 1979, there were about 12,000 students at UCF, and you could see the Reflecting Pond from every classroom building. Compared to my campus, it was huge. Yet, surprisingly, I wasn’t overwhelmed. I was intrigued.

The first home game took place on a beautiful Saturday night. It was Sept. 29, 1979, and UCF was playing Fort Benning. As we walked into the stadium, it was hypnotic. I wasn’t a football fan and had never been to a college game before. Growing up in Central Florida, I really didn’t have a team to root for—especially without Gator alumni in my family. And, let’s face it, in 1979 the Gators weren’t really anything to get worked up over, were they?

But I was drawn into the Tangerine Bowl by an undeniable force. First, it was the lights. Once I stood in the upper bowl, it was the spectacle. A horse galloping on the field. A band marching.

Cheerleaders—men and women—building human pyramids, flying in the air. Black. Gold. And the kickoff hadn’t even started.

David nudged me. “C’mon,” he said. He hopped a fence and pointed to some open seats in the lower bowl, near some of his engineering buddies. I couldn’t take my eyes off the field. And as I took my supporting foot off the fence, my favorite jeans caught on the top of the links. I was stuck. David quickly hiked me up, setting my pant leg free, and we were over.

The score was 7-6 UCF. Instinctively, I knew something happened to UCF that had nothing to do with the score. And something happened to me that really had nothing to do with football. David mailed me an application and information about my major. And as I sat in my private school dorm, wearing my ripped favorite jeans, I filled it out. I was going to be a Knight. Because on that magical Saturday evening, I hopped a fence into my future. I saw what could be. And it held a promise of something big. ✦

In 2005, McCain earned a master’s degree in mass communication from UCF and joined the faculty of the College of Sciences’ Nicholson School of Communication as an advertising/public relations instructor. She is an avid sports fan and a season ticket holder for UCF Knights football.