UCF Knights Set To Pay Tribute To Space Industry With Alternate Uniforms vs Houston on Saturday
By UCF Knights // October 31, 2019
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ORLANDO, FLORIDA (UCF Knights) – Not so long ago, college football uniforms usually qualified as simply routine–often bland, if not boring.
Dark jerseys at home, white jerseys on the road.
That was about it—and it was no different at UCF.
So, now, welcome to the 21st century.
This week’s home game against Houston provides the latest “Space Game” wrinkle —and, boy, are these Nike design elements a long ways from those old traditional football threads worn by the Knights.
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“Under (former UCF head coach from 2004-15) George O’Leary we mostly wore gold jerseys at home with white pants,” says Eric DeSalvo, UCF’s assistant athletics director for #content (he directs all the Knights’ football social media accounts).
“On the road it was white jerseys with either gold or white pants. Always the same helmet—the stacked UCF logo on a white helmet and a large stripe down the middle that was gold with black.”
Three years ago, UCF decided to change the approach to its football game uniforms as part of a complete rebranding exercise—and the results have turned the Knights’ week-by-week apparel announcements into must-see TV.
The UCF equipment room now has its own Twitter account—from which it officially “announces” what uniform combination the Knights will wear each weekend.
The 2019 campaign ranks as the fourth in which the Knights choose from a virtually limitless list of combinations featuring helmets, pants and jerseys in white, black, pewter (a lighter grey shade) and anthracite (a darker grey). With jerseys featuring different-colored numbers and trim, there’s plenty from which to select for UCF director of equipment operations Rich Worner and his staff.
“We look at what we’ve done in the past and try to do something different. Sometimes I’ll get input from players or others in the department,” says Worner.
“I generally create a spreadsheet in the summer for the games, but we’re not locked into that. We still make the decisions week to week.
“We want to make sure that we don’t end up wearing the same color pants or helmets as our opponent, just in case they make a late change.
“So there’s not always a lot of science behind it – some of it is just common sense.
“And we want to be able to take advantage of all the combinations we have to help to promote that aspect of the UCF brand.”
Adds DeSalvo, “Rich asked if he could get a UCF equipment Twitter account, and so we unveiled that the day we launched the uniforms (May 5, 2016). People went, ‘Whoa, we’ve got an equipment Twitter account now?’
“But we knew people would be intrigued to see what we would wear week to week because we had all these options now.”
All the various combinations also allow the UCF marketing staff to coordinate recommendations for what colors fans should wear—and the multiple options have even given rise to a third-party Twitter account that actually keeps track of how the Knights play in their various pieces of apparel.
For example, this season when UCF played host to Stanford, that account noted that it marked the debut of that exact combination—but that (since the rollout of the new combinations in 2016) the Knights stood 7-2 on the field in their gold helmets (but that marked the first time the UCF logo appeared in white on gold), 6-3 in anthracite jerseys and 8-3 in white pants.
“We went with all white the first week at home against South Carolina State (in 2016) and that was unheard of at UCF,” says DeSalvo.
“Each week our team created a graphic template where we would plug in the helmet, jersey and pants. (Former UCF designer) Carlos Phillips made every single possible combination, so we just plugged in what Rich told us it would be from one week to the next.
“We still use those same templates—we’ve just updated the jersey to number 19 to signify the year (for 2019). When it’s a new combo we’ll use computer animation. Sometimes we’ll mix it up and use a uniform model and add a short video. Other games it’s just the standard graphic that goes out about two o’clock each Thursday afternoon.
“It (the uniform announcement) gets really good engagement—one or two hundred retweets, 500 or 600 likes.
“A lot of quote tweets with people sharing their fashion advice—some good, some bad, some pretty funny stuff.
“Then we share it across Instagram and Facebook as well and a lot of feedback comes back from those. It’s something people look forward to–people seem to generally like it.”
The new uniform plans also gave UCF a reason for a throwback, once-per-year, retro tribute to its early years–the late 1960s when the original unofficial UCF mascot was the Citronaut, a nod to both the Florida citrus industry and to the University’s connection with NASA and the space program.
For the third consecutive year in 2019, the Knights this week versus Houston (noon ET at Spectrum Stadium on espn2) will wear an entire specially designed uniform (helmet included) dedicated to that space connection. The official theme this year is “Rendezvous With the Stars,” a tribute to the Apollo 11 mission from 1969. The “Space Game” uniforms each season result from a full year of collaboration between Nike, Worner and UCF athletics marketing staffers, led by Jimmy Skiles, associate athletics director for brand advancement.
There’s even a full-blown “Space Game” merchandising line with T-shirts, hats and other items (this year the initial order sold out in two days) featuring that old-school Citronaut logo that lasted for only one year in 1968-69 when the school was known as Florida Technical University. FTU first partnered with nearby Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Base in 1963, the same year the University was founded.
“Actually the helmet we’re wearing this year we had planned for last year, but it took longer than we expected to get it the way we wanted it,” says Worner.
“We’ll come up with the jersey and pant concepts and then Nike will tell us if they can replicate it or not based on the technology and fabrication of the uniforms.
“The helmet this year was a collaboration with Schutt Sports because they do all our decals and painting and reconditioning, even though our players use Riddell, Schutt and Vicis helmets.
“We came up with the idea for the light and dark side of the moon and then let their graphic design people come up with some samples. We liked one side of the first sample and the other side of the second sample and that’s how we ended up with the two shadings.
“It’s a lot of back and forth on all the different aspects.
“We decided to change the color of the facemasks (to match the rest of the helmet) about a month ago.”
The final helmets arrived Monday. The pants and jerseys have been in Worner’s equipment room since September.
Here are details of the 2019 “Space Game” uniforms:
–Each helmet, hand-painted by Schutt Sports, is modeled after the dark and light side of the moon. The base of the rear of the helmet reads, “One Small Step For Man.”
–The 321 on the front bumper of each helmet is in recognition of the area code of the Space Coast of Florida just east of the UCF campus.
–The constellations represent roads and buildings on campus at UCF, including Orion (the name of the road that circles Spectrum Stadium) with his club or sword drawn at Taurus the bull, the victim of Orion’s strike. Taurus represents the opponent and the conquered.
–The sleeves feature a large Pegasus constellation where the Pegasus logo would typically be on the uniform.
–The unofficial first mascot of UCF (Citronaut, who first appeared on the 1968-1969 school handbook) returns to the #UCFinSpace football uniform on the front of the pants. It has now made appearances on five sets of threads: football (2018), men’s and women’s soccer (2015) and baseball (2014 and 2019).
–The custom Nike pants come complete with a red and blue USA mark to match the Apollo 11 rocket.
–Other design elements include:
* The outline of the Arecibo telescope, the largest fully operational radio telescope on the planet (the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico is under UCF management.)
* The flight coordinates “SS50 R-090/31 LC39A” that show how the 50-yard line of Spectrum Stadium lines up on the exact latitude as Launch Complex 39A, NASA’s most historic launch pad, 31 miles to the east
* A shape of the planet named after UCF (UCF-1.01)
Last year when UCF played host to Temple various constellation patterns were featured on the pant stripes, shoulder pads and across the helmet stripe. The base uniform color in 2018 was black, but the center helmet stripe and elements of the stacked UCF logo featured blue colors to represent the water and sky at Cape Canaveral. On the lower backs of the helmets read “Reach for the Stars.”
In 2017 versus East Carolina the space game featured only a unique helmet plus an authentic-looking mission patch. The helmet stripe included a number of different designs with galactic references. The stripe was cut into five uneven sections, representing the five sections of the Saturn V rocket, which carried the first astronauts to orbit the moon in December 1968.
UCF has a long history of connections with the space program:
–UCF is home to NASA’s Center for Lunar and Asteroid Science.
–In 2012 UCF had a planet named after it after UCF researchers discovered an exoplanet candidate they named UCF-1.01. It’s only two-thirds the size of the Earth and 33 light years away, with surface temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees.
–UCF boasts two astronauts: Fernando “Frank” Caldiero (Class of ’95) and Nicole Stott (Class of ’92).
–The University is currently working with commercial companies including Space X, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic—as well as other industry and academic partners—to help prepare for a trip back to the moon and beyond.
–UCF produces more graduates who are hired by aerospace and defense companies than any other university in the nation.
–Thirty percent of Kennedy Space Center employees hold UCF degrees.
–Astronaut John Young, an Orlando native who commanded the Apollo 16 mission and was the ninth man to walk on the moon, spoke at UCF’s first commencement in 1970.
–You can see the rings of Saturn and more at the Robinson Observatory on campus.
–Alan Eustace, a 1979 UCF grad, made the longest free-fall jump from space, 26 miles above ground, in 2014.
–Jason Dunn, a 2007 UCF grad, was the first person to send a 3D printer to the International Space Station.
As “Toy Story” character Buzz Lightyear famously said, “To infinity . . . and beyond!”
UCF football continues to do its part.
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