University of Central Florida President John Hitt just got back from watching his school's football team clench the Fiesta Bowl championship title. FOX 35 sat down with Dr. Hitt on Friday morning to discuss the historic victory and the future of the program.
"It was an overwhelming moment. We've been working for this for the 22 years that I've been president. We watched it unfold right down on the field," said Hitt.
It was a hard-fought, 52-42 win over a top ten team in which the Knights were the underdogs.
"It's kind of a script you'd write doing it from the UCF standpoint," said Hitt.
So what does winning a BCS Bowl mean to UCF?
"Well, I think we've arrived -- to any reasonable measure, we've now arrived -- on the national stage. One way to put it is, we're now really relevant. That kind of success just can't be dismissed out of hand," said Hitt. "We are now a football school, that gets your foot in the door. What you do after that is up to you. That's the message that we want to hone and that we want to deliver with some real class. We've got a such a great story to tell. I'm optimistic we'll do it."
UCF has the second largest student body in the country. Yet the university didn't start offering classes until 1968, so some people are still learning about UCF.
"We're on a steep climb, I wouldn't say from obscurity," said Hitt. "It's hard to have attitude about something you don't even know about," said Hitt.
That's why on Wednesday night, before a national audience, the university highlighted their own story.
"If you watched our halftime video, you saw a little bit about how we style ourselves and the types of accomplishments that we want to put forward. I think you tell the story over and over again."
Hitt wants everyone to know that UCF is a top academic institution that recruits, on average, at least 60 National Merit scholars yearly. UCF offers more than 200 majors, and it now has a nationally ranked NCAA Division I FBS football team.
When asked about the long shadow cast across the state by top athletic programs like the University of Florida or Florida State University, Hitt said he believes there is room for another institution.
"If you look at the ratings on the game Wednesday night, they sure weren't second to anybody else. I think there's an appetite for another really strong state university in that top tier of athletics in Florida, and we'd be delighted to fill that niche," said Hitt.