This year, head coach George O'Leary has a new plan to fill BHNS: invite the enemies and create hybrid fans. "You should be a Gator-Knight," O'Leary told an audience at the Rotary Club of Orlando.
"If the Gators aren't playing, we're the hometown team. I'm not telling you -- don't root for your team... But, Seminole-Knight, Hurricane-Knight. Support your hometown team."
Um. Okay. Good luck with that?
As a native Floridian who was closest to UCF growing up and read the Orlando Sentinel's sports section like a secular Bible that happened to have Mike Bianchi in it, I know what it's like to be expected to like UCF. I also know what it's like to not even bother applying to UCF and choose Florida because it's a school on par with schools beyond the Sunshine State. There's no way I'm going to be a "Gator-Knight," even if I will cop to pulling for the smaller Florida schools when they're not playing the Gators.
That said: I get what O'Leary's going for, and wouldn't be surprised if there are some Gators fans who are not alumni who end up trekking out to Bright House Networks Stadium for some of these games. It's not like Gators don't know Knights; it's just that most in-state Florida fans are Florida fans first and last when it comes to college football, and there's really no way around that.
There are also optics problems with this push: Big East Coast Bias' Mark Ennis scoffs at O'Leary's idea, noting that this is the sort of thing that makes people wonder if UCF has a fan base, and I wonder how UCF fans who actually are devoted feel about their coach trying to wrangle a bunch of local fans of other teams.
If you want to be a Gator-Knight, Florida Fan Reading This Right Now, be my guest. But I suspect you don't.