As we get ready to ring in the New Year and a new decade, the staff at KnightNews.com dug through our archives to take a look back on the biggest stories of the first half of the school year.
A New Source for UCF News was Born
Our first big story of the 2009 school year, is ourselves. KnightNews.com launched in the middle of July and became UCF’s only news source locally owned by students. Since our launch, we’ve produced hundreds of videos and focused on a 24-hour breaking news format. Since UCF doesn’t have a student-run TV station, 2009 marked the first year students enjoyed consistently produced video content geared toward their interests. It seems fair to say that KnightNews.com has revolutionized how students stay informed — and entertained — at UCF.
VIDEO: Our search for UCF students auditioning for American Idol was one of our first videos.
A New Quarterback Came To UCF
KnightNews.com was the first campus media to report about a new quarterback who quietly transferred to UCF from Wake Forest. We reported how this new Knight would fight for the starting QB job, and Brett Hodges did just that. Hodges eventually won the starting job, and helped the Knights recover from a rough season start, due in part to former starting QB Rob Calabrese’s inconsistency. Hodges went on to lead the Knights to its first ever win over a ranked opponent, and a winning season.
Board of Trustees Slashes Majors, Jobs
The tough economic times plaguing the nation, hit home at UCF this summer. In July, the UCF Board of Trustees voted to cut several majors from campus. The move cost 1,000 students their majors and 37 employees their jobs. It saved $4.6 million from UCF’s budget. Administrators said the cuts were critical and needed, while faculty union reps claimed administrators had plenty of money in reserves. Regardless, the meeting was emotional, reducing on BOT member, Ida Cook, to tears. Only Cook and SGA President Brian Peterson voted against the cuts. The cuts came after UCF students saw unprecedented tuition and fee increases this school year.
Deaths of 2 Popular Students Occurred Days Apart, Shook Student Body
The end of July marked a sad time for the Knights, with the deaths of students Trevor Shipley and J.P. Saul happening just days apart. Shipley, a member of Beta Theta Pi, died in a car accident in Tavares. Members of Shipley’s fraternity spoke at his memorial in Tavares. KnightNews.com provided a live streaming video of the service, and later uploaded the entire video for those unable to attend. Saul, known as the “Van Wilder of UCF” for his love of partying, died of unknown circumstances in his Boardwalk apartment. Friends designed T-shirts to wear at tailgates in his honor, and organized memorial services at UCF’s Reflecting Pond and Knight Library, his favorite Happy Hour spot. Proceeds from the shirts went to help his family with Saul’s final expenses.
UCF Surpasses UF as the Largest School in Florida, Becomes Third Largest in Nation
With UCF’s freshmen class of 2013 pouring onto campus in August, the University of Central Florida officially outgrew UF and became the largest school in the state. The preliminary fall 2009 headcount showed 53,811 students enrolled. UCF officials boasted about the No. 1 ranking, but we reported about horrible parking headaches to plague students — especially around the first few days of class. We showed you how Parking Services was unforgiving, dishing out hundreds of tickets to new students who claimed they didn’t know they couldn’t park on curves. (http://knightnews.com/2009/08/parking-a-big-problem-on-ucfs-first-day-of-class/)
UCF Grad Blasts Into Space
As 100 current UCF students watched Space Shuttle Discovery blast off from a campus parking garage this August, a former UCF student was living her dream on board. With Saturday’s awe-inspiring midnight launch, Nicole Stott became the first UCF graduate to soar into space. Stott earned a UCF master’s degree in Engineering Management in 1992, and credits the support of her professors and program with giving her the confidence boost to go for her dream and apply to be an astronaut.
SGA Senate Elections Marred By Bribery Scandal
In September, KnightNews.com broke news of an elections scandal involving SGA veteran William Lusk and UCF’s College Republicans. Lusk was found in major violation of SGA Election Statutes, for allegedly attempting to bribe the College Republicans club with money, in exchange for the group endorsing Lusk’s Unite Ticket. The elections commission voted 7 to 1 in favor of William Lusk receiving a major violation. Lusk appealed the finding to SGA’s Judicial Council, but his attempts to keep his Senate seat were unsuccessful — the council upheld the initial finding against him. Despite talking to KnightNews.com before we broke the scandal, Lusk refused to talk to us after we brought you the news. Because of that, our cameras chased him trying to ask the tough questions anyway. The video became popular, drawing a fierce debate on the comments section between both political sides.
All Fraternities Go On Suspension After Parent Claims Pledge Was Beaten, Bruised
Claims of a brutal pledge beating rocked UCF’s Greek community after KnightNews.com broke the exclusive details revealing how a parent called UCF President John Hitt’s office saying she found her son “beaten and bruised” by his fraternity. After the call, UCF officials persuaded all fraternities to go under a short “voluntary” suspension, drawing criticism from Greek leaders. It was later revealed in an e-mail to Greek leaders from the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life that the anonymous caller accused an African American Fraternity of the beating. UCF had said they never were able to confirm the claims, so no fraternity ended up being punished for the accusations.
President Hitt Gives Student Media First Known Interview in Years
After years of declining interview requests with campus media because of a controversy over an old political cartoon, UCF President John Hitt broke his silence to KnightNews.com. Hitt gave an exclusive interview to KnightNews.com reporters following his Sept. open forum. Despite Hitt clearing off more than an hour of his schedule and sending out a campus e-mail advertising the forum, only two students showed up to ask questions. In our exclusive interview after the forum, Hitt told KnightNews.com that although the forums usually last longer, he was not completely surprised to see how quickly it ended. He elaborated on this claim by saying that very few questions indicate students’ contentment with how the University is run. However, after we published the story, many students commented that they never got the e-mail. The problem could have been with the new Knights e-mail system, which was in its early stages at the time.
Cops Arrest UCF Bartenders, UCF Helped Plan the Undercover Sting Operations
As bar after bar in the UCF area was being hit by an underage drinking sting, KnightNews.com was providing live continuous coverage, telling you which bars were being hit, and how the cops were conducting their operations. Several student bartenders were arrested from at least three area bars, including Devaney’s, Scoops and TD’s Sports Bar. After breaking the news of the bar busts, KnightNews.com did some digging, and discovered UCF President John Hitt was a co-creator of the task force that planned and carried out undercover operations. Hitt created the task force, along with Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty in 2008, after it was discovered that two UCF freshmen died in alcohol-related accidents. We exposed how the deputies used 18-year-old “confidential informants” to buy alcohol from bartenders. After our report, we haven’t heard of any other stings using that technique at UCF bars.
UCF Greeks Dance for a Good Cause, Videos a Big Hit on KnightNews.com
Each fall, Kappa Delta and Zeta Tau Alpha sororities get UCF’s Greek community up on stage to dance for a good cause. KnightNews.com gave both events coverage like never before, including quickly uploading videos of all the fraternities and sororities performances. The videos quickly became a big hit, and led to never before seen video coverage of organizations dances during Homecoming as well.
Tailgate Time Cuts Meet Fierce Opposition from Outrages Alumni, Students
Angry alumni raised their voices at meetings — and some even showed up on game day and sat in protest — after UCF officials announced a plan to make major cuts to tailgating start times for night games. Administrators said it was to make the game day safer, less about alcohol and save money. Some fans said it the change was unacceptable — especially because UCF waited to tell fans about the change until after season tickets were bought. Attendance during games was down this year. Was it because of the time cuts, or just the economy? We report, you decide!
Tailgate Time Cuts Didn’t Stop People From Getting Drunk, As Seen on Our Fan Cam
A new UCF tradition was born this year, with the KnightNews.com fan cam. Patrolling UCF’s Memory Mall with a camera during tailgate parties proved quite entertaining, and this quickly became one of our most popular segments. We saw everything from Knights running around to upper classmen teaching freshmen how to dance and the best places to party. We saw tailgaters wearing practically nothing, and some wearing giant paintings of sex organs on their bodies. It was an interesting and entertaining time, and is sure to be back next year!
Another Popular UCF Student, Brother of ATO, Dies in Car Crash
UCF lost another Knight in a tragic car crash in October. John Grosso, a member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, was only 21 when he died. He and a friend, who did not attend UCF, crashed on Tanner Rd. after coming around a sharp curve in the early morning hours. Grosso’s fraternity brothers held a candlelight vigil at their house, and invited KnightNews.com to document the tribute to their fallen friend.
Creepy Sex Offender Stars in YouTube Video
OK, so this didn’t have much to do about UCF, but we covered it. This elderly, and very creepy, sex offender got in trouble for posting videos on YouTube. He’d sing in the videos, or have his dog bite his stomach. He was booked in a Central Florida jail. The videos are something else. Take a look!
Marcus Jordan’s Shoes Cost UCF Millions
When the UCF Knights basketball team scored the son of NBA legend Michael Jordan to play on the team, they also inherited a little problem — Marcus Jordan doesn’t wear Adidas shoes. UCF promised Marcus he could wear his dad’s Air Jordan brand by Nike during recruitment. But the Adidas reps UCF got the OK from, weren’t high enough on the totem pole to OK that. In the end, Jordan wore Jordans, and UCF lost the $3 Million Adidas deal.
String of Robbers Targeting UCF Students Still at Large
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office released surveillance video to KnightNews.com showing the faces of the men investigators believe to be involved in the robbery to Jimmy John’s on University Blvd. at gunpoint in October. The video of the suspected robbers was taken outside Shamrock Liquor Store, in the shopping plaza with McDonald’s right across from UCF, before the Jimmy John’s was robbed early Oct. 4. These suspects are still on the run.
UCF Student Arrested For Seeking ‘Kinky’ Sex With Underage Girl
We were the first local news source to tell you about a UCF student accused of a heinous Internet sex crime. Nathan B. Schaller stands accused of taking pictures of his penis and pleasuring himself over a Web cam while wearing a UCF T-shirt — all to try and lure what he thought was a 14-year-old girl into “kinky sex,” according to a Palm Beach County charging affidavit obtained by KnightNews.com. It turns out, the person on the other end of the computer wasn’t a young girl, but an undercover agent instead.
Vortex Amazing Takes Area By Storm
If you haven’t been in this thing yet, you have to try it at least once. This big trailer likes to post up next to Scoop, and lure drunk students in for a $2.00 cover charge. When you are inside, you feel it’s “vortex” power. The guy who owns it works in construction, and made it to stay afloat during the tough economic times.
Knights Make Historic Football Win, Cops Grab, Detain UCF Fan Who Tried Storming Field
When UCF beat the nationally ranked Houston Cougars — the first victory ever against a ranked team — one UCF fan tried celebrating the way many college campuses would with such a win, by storming the field. But UCF police had different plans for him. Armed with riot gear, including an apparent bean bag gun and dogs, the fan was swarmed and taken down. KnightNews.com captured exclusive video of it unfolding. What shocked many fans was, CBS College Sports reported O’Leary gave fans permission to storm the field before the game, so long as the Knights won. We asked UCF police and UCF Athletics for comment about why O’Leary and police apparently were not on the same page, but we never got an answer to that question.
Kyle Schumacher, Caitlyn McManus Named UCF Homecoming King and Queen
During UCF’s Historic Homecoming game against nationally-ranked Houston, Kyle Schumacher and Caitlyn McManus were crowned UCF Homecoming King and Queen. McManus is a member of Alpha Xi Delta sorority, and Schumacher is a DU, but more widely known for being elected IFC President. What will the future hold for these two? Could either make a run for SGA President in Spring? Schumacher has worked in the White House before, so anything’s possible! We will watch them both closely, and of course, break the news if they do — or don’t — decide to throw their hats in the ring.
Bomb Scare Rocks Campus, Days After Mass Downtown Orlando Shooting
Tensions were high following a mass shooting in Downtown Orlando, and days after that horror unfolded just down the 408, the UCF campus became center stage for a major bomb scare. The FBI and bomb squad came to campus and shut down garages after UCF police arrested student Cory Carr for making a bomb threat in Classroom 1. No bomb was ever found, and Carr later blamed the incident on a misunderstanding caused by his reaction to Obama’s plan to send troops to Afghanistan. Carr, a former marine, claims he spoke out loud, saying the US should blow the terrorists up, rather than put US marines in harm’s way. Other students, he said, misheard him, and reported him for claiming he planed to blow up Classroom 1 when he never planned to. Carr says UCF found him not in violation of any campus rules at his hearing.
Beta Theta Pi Gets UCF to Back Down, Let Them on Campus Early, Despite Sexual Misconduct Finding
The brothers of Beta Theta Pi will be back on campus in by Summer of 2010, despite being found in violation of school rules prohibiting sexual misconduct by UCF’s Office of Student Conduct. Beta Theta Pi was suspended by UCF after being accused of gang raping a girl, but the girl later dropped the case. A controversy ensued when UCF found the group to have committed sexual misconduct, based on school rules, despite the criminal case being dropped. Beta showed UCF it would fight them in court, and UCF backed down and cut the suspension in half as part of the settlement.
T-Pain, Asher Roth, Party at Scoop with UCF Students
After UCF’s homecoming concert, headliners T-Pain and Asher Roth kept the party going — at UCF’s popular college bar, Scoop. The two posed with students, and KnightNews.com posted exclusive photos of the party. It wasn’t all fun though, we got reports that T-Pain ordered lots of top shelf drinks, but didn’t pay the bill, never mind tip his bartenders.
Knights Lose to Rutgers in St. Pete Bowl
Hopes were high that UCF would beat the Big East’s Rutgers in the St. Pete Bowl, and show the BCS conference it’s where we belong. But the game merely proved we couldn’t hang with the big boys. O’Leary even said he was embarrassed by the performance. QB Brett Hodges went out on a low note, and the man he replaced, Rob Calabrese, finished out the last game after Hodges took one too many hard hits. All in all, the Knights seemed to appreciate Hodges though, and at least he didn’t cry after losing — unlike the QB for that smaller university a little bit to our north.
Our QB’s Don’t Cry, But Do They Drink and Drive?
Kyle Israel made headlines as UCF’s star Quarterback in 2007, when he led the Knights to a C-USA championship, and against Mississippi State in the Autozone Liberty Bowl. (Which we lost). But he also made headlines two years after his glory days ended — for being arrested on DUI charges near campus. UCF police made the bust, claiming he was twice the legal limit. Israel has declined comment.
The entire staff at KnightNews.com thanks all of you for your tremendous support this year. Be sure to invite your friends to be our facebook fan, and send us tips by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to hear from you, and how we can better serve the campus. See you next decade. (Hey, we couldn’t resist)… And Goooo Knights!