A UCF Athletics superfan has asked his fellow Knights to support a trip to New York City to watch the UCF Basketball team play in the National Invitation Tournament Semifinals.
His fellow Knights delivered.
“Knightfan Neal,” or Neal Surrena, has been a supporter of UCF Athletics since his time as a student in the College of Business Administration.
Off the cusp of UCF Athletics history, taking a trip to witness UCF men’s basketball team play at Madison Square Garden for the first time would be the dream of a lifetime.
“I leave [Tuesday] morning at 6 AM and it really hasn’t hit me yet,” Surrena said. “One week ago, I was sitting at home watching UCF basketball and now I’m about to leave for freaking New York City.”
“I think once I stand in front of Madison Square Garden and see UCF on the billboard it will finally get to me. This team has improved beyond what anyone expected in such a short period of time, I am just very proud of the hard work they put in to get this far and I truly believe we can win this thing.”
Over his GoFundMe page, ‘NealtoNYC,’ the alumnus met a goal of $800 in four days.
The page went up after UCF’s 68-58 NIT Quarterfinal victory against Illinois last Wednesday. UCF Athletics staff donated to Neal personally as his name is known around the group.
“To be completely honest, it started as a joke. My girlfriend and I were sitting in our apartment in Jacksonville last Wednesday night when UCF knocked off Illinois. I told her we’re going to NYC. Then we looked up plane tickets… Those didn’t quite fit in the budget,” Neal said.
“Jokingly, I set up a GoFundMe and shared it across my social media accounts. From my friends to my coworkers to UCF Athletic employees, everyone showed us extreme generosity. I don’t know what we did to deserve this but we can’t wait to pay it forward.”
“My favorite donation was from Tyler Newman, a die-hard USF fan. We have had a heated rivalry between each other for years. He donated $20 and shared the GoFundMe page saying ‘Not a UCF Fan, but understand the desire of wanting to go, so help Neal and get him to NYC.’ That meant a lot.”
Neal’s GoFundMe began to pick up steam. Shortly after posting the page, students, alumni, and other Knights fans contributed to Surrena’s goal.
“Hi, my name is Neal…Knightfan Neal. UCF Basketball is having the best season in their history and has advanced to the N.I.T. semifinals in New York City at Madison Square Garden on March 28th. You guessed it…I want to go and support my Knights and travel New York City…a city in which I’ve never been to. However, you can help is much appreciated. As always, Go Knights & Charge On!,” Surrena says on the page.
New York won’t be the only be the only place the superfan has visited to support the Knights.
In 2013, Surrena attended Walt Disney World’s Fiesta Bowl Parade. He will now find himself in front of the Knights in another championship series. This time, in Madison Square Garden.
“The first time I went to Disney’s Magic Kingdom was for the UCF Fiesta Bowl Parade and now the first time I’m going to NYC, I’m seeing UCF basketball compete for a championship. Being a UCF fan will take you places! Charge on!” said Surrena.
UCF will play in the NIT Semifinals at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday at 9 p.m. and face the winner of the 7 p.m. game in the championship on Thursday.
Knight News has a team there to bring you coverage live from NYC and Madison Square Garden. Follow @UCFKnightNews to watch UCF Athletics history unfold.