Tag Archives: University of Central Florida

Bumper Stickers, Like Fortune Cookies, Can Guide Us on Our Path

Ah, the bumper sticker. That adhesive little piece of vinyl that provides endless opportunities to customize one’s ride.

By most accounts, bumper stickers have been around almost as long as there have been bumpers.

Some bumper stickers are meant to make us laugh.

Some bumper stickers are meant to inform people about a cause near and dear to the driver’s heart.

Some bumper stickers are even meant to serve as bragging rights for someone’s child who may have made an honor roll, or be part of a band.

Once upon a time, bumper stickers for radio stations were even used in the hopes that the driver would be spotted by a radio station employee and win a prize for their loyalty to said station.

Whatever the message being told, in most cases, someone made a conscience decision to buy the bumper sticker, and then place it somewhere on their car for the world to see.

Of course, sometimes a bumper sticker can silently guide one’s path without ever finding its way onto a bumper.

Such is the case of a humble piece of vinyl advertising that I picked up during a trip to the store with my aunt, grandmother and mom nearly 40 years ago. That piece of vinyl is a University of Florida (UF) bumper sticker.

Nearly 40 years ago, I picked up this bumper sticker at the end of a register at a five and dime store in Florida having no clue the role it would play in my life in the decades that followed.
Photo R. Anderson

Had I known at the time what that bumper sticker would lead me to, I likely would have made a bigger deal about it the day I got it.

Instead, the bumper sticker that I plucked from the Pic N’ Save Drugs register has quietly nudged me along from its place on a bookshelf in my life-long dream of becoming a Florida Gator.

To be fair, I did not pick up the bumper sticker because I thought I was setting my collegiate future in stone. Instead, I most likely thought that the colors were cool, or perhaps I just liked that it was free.

Back then, younger me loved to grab every brochure and other marketing material that I found. So, it very well could be that I was merely continuing that trend when I saw the stack of bumper stickers on the register.

Even though it would be nearly a decade before I would have a bumper to put the sticker on, and even more years after that before I would need to pick a college, for whatever reason, on that day I grabbed the bumper sticker and never looked back.

To me, that bumper sticker was more than just some mass-produced marketing collateral advertising a radio station, a drug store and a college football team on one 3” by 6” mosaic.

In the first seven to eight years of my life I was not really aware of college football. But thanks to that bumper sticker, I now had a college football team to root for and would spend many Saturdays in the fall glued to the television set watching the Jefferson Pilot Sports broadcasts of the Gators. Once Steve Spurrier brought the Fun n’ Gun to town, my fandom of the Gators went to a whole new level.

Thanks to a chance encounter with a bumper sticker, I spent many Saturdays glued to the television watching the Jefferson Pilot Sports broadcasts of Florida Gator football games. Once Steve Spurrier brought the Fun n’ Gun to town, my fandom of the Gators went to a whole new level.
Photo R. Anderson

As I grew older and started to become interested in journalism, the bumper sticker reminded me that the University of Florida had a really good journalism program and alumni like Bob Vila and Bob Ross.

Local media personalities I followed in Orlando were also Gator alum, which made me think that if I wanted to be a serious journalist in Florida I best become a Gator.

Ultimately, despite touring the campus with my parents and being thrilled that the College of Journalism and Communications was across the street from the football stadium, my undergrad collegiate career did not end up in Gainesville.

Instead, I stayed close to home and went to a two-year community college 20-minutes from home, before enrolling at the University of Central Florida (UCF), which I could literally see from my parents’ house.

When the Gators won the National Football Championship during my junior year at UCF, I was briefly bummed that I had not been there to take part. In my mind, I would have been a sports reporter for the UF student newspaper and have spent many days interviewing Coach Spurrier about the finer points of the Fun n’ Gun offense.

Instead, I was at UCF blazing a course that I would not have otherwise had. At UCF, I was able to start and run my own newspaper, which is something I would likely not have gotten to do at UF.

I was also able to see UCF grow from a small commuter university trapped in the shadow of the three dominant Florida schools, to the largest university in the country in terms of enrollment and one that routinely best those three “legacy” Florida universities in academics and athletics.

While my undergrad studies did not involve interviewing the ‘Head Ball Coach,” at UCF, I interned in the Sports Information Office and played a vital role in the school’s transition to compete in the highest level of collegiate athletics.

I do not regret choosing UCF over UF one single bit. I am proud of my UCF degree and all of the friends, memories, and experiences that came out of it. I am also proud of my years of service in supporting UCF alumni causes as both a donor and a board member. That will never change.

Still, that bumper sticker remained on my shelf reminding me that, although I did not get my undergrad degree at UF, I could always try to get a graduate degree from there.

After moving to Texas, I even applied a few times for various online programs at UF, but life always seemed to get in the way and I never followed through with enrolling.

Despite not being a UF student, I remained a fan of UF athletics and cheered loudly whenever the Gators were on television. On special occasions, I even enjoyed the Gators in chocolate chip cookie cake form.
Photo R. Anderson

Despite not being a UF student, I remained a fan of UF athletics and cheered loudly whenever the Gators were on television.

Afterall, my fandom of the Gators had about a 10-year head start on my fandom of the Knights thanks to that bumper sticker.

So, I resigned myself to the fact that I would likely never be a real Gator, in the same way that Pinocchio likely thought that as hard as he wanted it to be so, he would never be a real boy.

But Jiminy Cricket, that bumper sticker still had me wishing on that Gator star whenever I would dust it on my shelf.

Dreams are a funny thing; they don’t really have an expiration date as long as one continues to believe in them.

So, despite getting a Masters Degree in Sport Management from HBU during the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, my dream to be a Florida Gator continued to burn deep inside me. So, I decided to apply to UF once more.

Today, is the first day of class for me as a student in the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida. It has been a long and winding road to get here, but I am here nonetheless and could not be more excited.
Photo R. Anderson

And while I had hoped to start in 2021, today, is the first day of class for me as a student in the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida.

It has been a long and winding road to get here, but I am here nonetheless and could not be more excited.

As I stare at the bumper sticker that started it all for me so long ago from its new frame on my wall, I have but one thought which is, “man, I am so glad that it wasn’t a Florida State University bumper sticker at the end of that Pic n’ Save register.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some schoolwork to get to, and in the words of that life altering bumper sticker, “Go Gators!”

Copyright 2022 R. Anderson

Upsets Aplenty in College Football

This past weekend nine out of the college football teams ranked in the Top 25 lost to teams that were ranked lower than they were, or in some cases to teams that were not ranked at all.

There are upsets every week in college football but the collapse of nine schools in a single week is a little odd. From Friday to Saturday night the teams ranked 3rd, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 11th, 15th, 20th, and 22nd lost.

While eight of those upsets occurred throughout the day on Saturday, the biggest upset in my mind occurred Friday night when the 8th ranked Louisville Cardinals lost to the University of Central Florida Knights.

The University of Central Florida Knights upset the Louisville Cardinals Friday night kicking off a weekend of upsets where nine of the top 25 teams in the nation lost. Photo R. Anderson
The University of Central Florida Knights upset the Louisville Cardinals Friday night kicking off a weekend of upsets where nine of the top 25 teams in the nation lost.
Photo R. Anderson

While many could have a strong case in questioning the fact of whether the Cardinals really should have been considered the 8th best team in the nation, the fact remains that the polls said they were and the unranked Knights defeated them despite trailing by 21 points at one point in the game.

In the end it became UCF’s first victory in school history over a team that was ranked in the Top 10.

The victory also spoiled Louisville’s homecoming and ended a bid at a perfect season for the Cardinals.

So right about now you are probably asking yourself why a game between two American Athletic Conference teams warrants mentioning since most of college football is focused on which of the teams from the SEC will claim the national title this year.

It warrants mentioning because UCF just happens to be my alma mater and I have a bit of a history with the football program beyond just being an alumnus.

I worked in the Sports Information Office as an intern, and also as the editor in chief of a newspaper covering the college when the Golden Knights, as they were then known, made the jump to the upper levels of collegiate football.

So having been around when some of the early seeds were planted it is nice to talk about the current state of the program as well now that some of those seeds are bearing fruit.

Since making the jump to the highest level of college football UCF has gone from playing games at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium to a stadium on campus.

They have also improved their practice facilities from a crab grass covered field next to the disc golf course to an indoor air conditioned practice facility.

After years of playing "home" games at a stadium across town from the campus the UCF Knights got an on campus stadium of their own a few years back. Photo R. Anderson
After years of playing “home” games at a stadium across town from the campus the UCF Knights got an on campus stadium of their own a few years back.
Photo R. Anderson

The football team has not been alone in the facility renaissance. Virtually every team on campus has received new or completely remodeled facilities since making the jump to Division I.

While many other schools have the same amenities as UCF many of them have also been playing football for many decades more than UCF has.

While the improved stadium and practice facilities have been nice they are not the only change in the program.

The Knights have won bowl games and conference championships and occasionally get mentioned as a growing program by the national media.

The truth remains though that despite having one of the largest enrollments of any public university in the entire nation, UCF still does not get the coverage of some of the smaller schools with a longer history of competition.

So defeating the Cardinals during a nationally televised game on ESPN gives UCF more exposure. The fact that the Friday night game was the only televised game on at the time makes it even better.

Whenever the UCF knights are playing within four hours of Houston I try to attend the game and show my support. Of course it was way convenient when they sahred a conference with Rice University and I only had to drive 30 minutes to the game and had ample parking to pick from. Photo R. Anderson
Whenever the UCF knights are playing within four hours of Houston I try to attend the game and show my support. Of course it was way convenient when they shared a conference with Rice University and I only had to drive 30 minutes to the game and had ample parking to pick from.
Photo R. Anderson

While a single victory against a Top 10 team in front of a national audience does not mean the the Knights are ready to compete year after year for the national title, it does show the next step in a growing program that is evolving into something that other schools need to look out for.

Although I have not made it back to campus to see a home game in the new on campus stadium, I have been fortunate enough to see several away games in Texas and Louisiana over the past decade or so.

Who knows, maybe before long I will get to see UCF play in a major bowl game as well before too long.

As a nice bonus the Knights were ranked in the Top 25 following their victory over Louisville so perhaps that flying under the radar will soon be coming to an end.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get my tickets to see the Knights play Southern Methodist University in December. Go Knights.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson