The University of Central Florida captured the hearts and imagination of college football fans across the nation with their undefeated 2017 campaign and subsequent claim to a national title. But, how much do you know about the varied history behind the UCF Knights mascot and the program’s nickname?
Who Is the UCF Knights Mascot?
There have been multiple mascots before him. The UCF program had even been nicknamed “the Knights” long in advance of his introduction in 1994. However, there is only Knightro — the gold and black masked Knights mascot and face of the new kids on the Big 12 block.
With his glorious golden armor, black and gold helmet that earned the nickname “Train Face” from some students in 2007, piercing white eyes set in a black surround, and a flowing mohawk-esque lock of jet black hair, Knightro is both iconic and to be revered.
Knightro’s current look is a modernization of the first knight-related costumed mascot — Sir Wins-A-Lot — who became the face of the program in 1980. For a two-year period prior to his introduction, the program was represented by a horse and rider combination.
For a brief period of time, a dragon costume donated by Disney formed “Puff the Dragon,” creating elaborate dueling scenes on the field of UCF games.
Sir Wins-A-Lot was replaced in 1989 by Mack the Knight, who became the face of the program until a new Knights mascot was unveiled — unnamed — to UCF students in 1994.
Knightro was named in 1995, and an updated costume was created by a local Disney character developer in 1996 alongside a female friend named Glycerin, who lasted just four years.
Having previously ridden astride a white stallion, Knightro has acquired several motorized vehicles from UCF engineering students during his lifetime. The first, in 2005, was named Chariot II, while the most recent — Pegasus I — pays homage to the official university seal.
The unmistakable look of the current UCF mascot was adopted in 2007. The change coincided with the introduction of a new logo for the athletic department. To complete his look and place him into program folklore, Knightro had his name emblazoned on the back of his flowing black cape.
Why Is the UCF Mascot a Knight?
While Knightro has been the unmistakable UCF mascot, why does the program use a knight as a mascot? There is an almost obvious answer, given the program’s nickname. Yet, UCF hasn’t always been the Knights. Furthermore, there have been movements since to try and rename the program’s athletic teams.
The Citronaut — we’ll get to that shortly — was the first unofficial mascot of what was then known as the Florida Technological University. In that same year (1969), Judy Hines proposed a mascot named “Vincent the Vulture” after the vultures that made their presence known in the skies above the campus.
Neither the Citronaut nor Vincent the Vulture received significant support from students. In 1970, a student vote resulted in the program adopting “Knights of Pegasus” as UCF’s nickname. Despite attempts in 1988 and 1993 to rebrand as the “Sharks,” the names — and the Knights mascot — have held firm.
Why Is UCF Called the Citronauts?
You may have heard UCF referred to as the “Citronauts” at various points and rightly may be wondering why! You might also be forgiven for thinking, “what on earth is Citronaut?!” Let’s shine some light on those mysteries right now.
The Citronaut was the original, unofficial, mascot of UCF when the program was FTU (Florida Technological University). The mascot consisted of the body of an orange emblazoned with the FTU logo while having what is meant to be the face of a space helmet-wearing astronaut.
The bizarre combination paid homage to the two major economic influences on the area surrounding the university at the time. UCF was originally founded to support the space program operating out of Cape Canaveral while the area has been a pillar of the citrus industry.
Although the unofficial mascot for only a brief time at the end of the 1960s, the logo has appeared on several sports uniforms. According to “A Familiar Flight,” it was first used by the football team for their 2018 clash with Temple.