May 30, 2007
The Early Years Timeline
Orlando, Fla. (www.UCFAthletics.com) -
The following story is part one in a series of short features detailing the history, legacy and folklore behind the Florida Technological University (FTU) and University of Central Florida (UCF) athletics department. The story is courtesy of University Archives, and was recently updated by UCF Athletics Communications.
In its early days, the Florida Technological University's athletic program was a shoestring operation without any shoes to lace up.
Frank Rohter, FTU's original athletics director, first formed a basketball team to play in Orlando's recreational league.
"Students and faculty played. We had no uniforms, nothing," Rohter recalled.
With almost no money for sports, it was up to students and staff to get things started. Special Collections librarian Norbert St. Clair wanted a soccer team, so Rohter bought him a ball, and the makeshift team practiced behind the library, using trees as goal posts. When a student asked for a baseball team, he was given some equipment and permission to play at a local high school.
"We knew as a young university that this wouldn't be the time for emphasizing sports, so we were going slowly," Rohter explained. "It was the logical way to start. We wanted to build on student interest.
"It was sort of fascinating. Some of the students had played ball in high school, and they liked the challenge of starting something new."
Basketball drew the strongest interest among sports, so Eugene "Torchy" Clark was hired. Clark went on to lead the basketball team to 13 winning seasons and numerous titles in the 14 years he coached, becoming a local legend along the way.
Three other notable coaches were also hired in those early days.
Lex Wood left Florida State to coach FTU's first tennis team. "He was a natural because he had played at the highest level in that sport," said Rohter. "He attracted good athletes even though there were no scholarships."
Gerald Gergley sought a teaching position and a coaching job in wrestling. When he was told there would be no wrestling because there were no wrestling mats, Gergley pulled a mat out of his car. "We would take down the chairs in the dining room and put down the mat. Every evening, we would have to clean it all up," Rohter added. "Wrestlers even had to wash their own uniforms."
When Dennis Kamrad, formerly athletics director at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, became a counselor for FTU's liberal studies, he started a crew team. Kamrad and Gergley both went on to be early successes.
"Those were great days," said Rohter. "We all supported each other. Basketball players would watch the wrestlers compete and the wrestlers would watch the basketball games. It was a roll-up-your-sleeves mentality. It was a good feeling to build a foundation for a new university."
FTU's athletic program proved money isn't everything. It began with little money, no equipment, few coaches and no scholarships. Nevertheless, right from its unassuming start, the university established a winning tradition. Starting in the school's second year of classes, the basketball team went 11-3. In 1971-72, two wrestlers won state titles and the following year three won state titles. The archery team was dazzling, with the men's and mixed teams being best in the state.
Crew won the university's first national title in 1973-74 in the men's four category, and both men's and women's crew have gone oar-to-oar with the best ever since, racking up more than 16 national and international titles. "Not only were we the first sport at FTU to win a national title--first the men, then the women--but we were the first to repeat that accomplishment," said Dennis Kamrad, crew's founder and longtime coach. Women's crew took the national title in the four in 1976-77. Later, the women's rowing club gained varsity status in 1995. The varsity eight made the program's first NCAA Championship appearance in 2007.
Back then, for a small university, a little adversity could be devastating. Kamrad recalled the year a tornado hit the crew boathouse at Lake Pickett and wrecked many of the rowing shells.
During those first 10 years, trophies and prizes in every sport continued to mount up. In the 1975-76 season, UCF men's basketball won the inaugural Sunshine State Conference title--and repeated the following year. Softball finished as a runner-up and volleyball fifth in the state. Over the next few years, tennis, men's soccer and basketball all won conference titles, and in 1977-78, Torchy Clark was named Sunshine State Conference Coach of the Year when the team won state and regional titles and went to the small school Final Four.
Also in 1977-78 men's soccer and tennis won SSC titles and the FTU Gymnasium opened up as the home court for basketball and volleyball.
In 1978-79 when FTU officially changed its name to the University of Central Florida, the university captured six state titles and eight regional titles. The volleyball team, led by Coach Lucy McDaniel, torched its opponents, going a perfect 55-0 en route to winning the AIAW National Championship. The Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women was the equivalent to the NCAA for women in those early years.
Basketball continued to shine with a runner-up berth in the Sunshine State Conference and Bo Clark, the coach's son, led the nation in scoring and earned first-team All American honors for Division II.
Kamrad credits the "extremely good coaches" that the university had gathered and the spirit of those early athletes for the surprising successes, saying, "Those kids were really brave."
The Early Years (1968-79)
When it all began. Dr. Frank Rohter becomes the school's Director of Athletics, taking over for Richard Hunter who served briefly in that capacity. Just three days after the University official began classes, October 7, the school's associate and special collections librarian, Norbert St. Clair, had six students kicking a ball in a field behind the library, using their coats as goalposts. "It was exactly like kids on a playground," says St. Clair, the "Father of Knight Soccer."
Basketball, baseball, wrestling and tennis teams are formed to play at the club level. Torchy Clark is hired to coach basketball; the team plays its home games at Winter Park High School and finishes its first season with an 11-3 record. Mike Clark paces the Knights with 24.4 points per-game. Gerry Gergley is tapped as the school's first wrestling coach. Under the direction of Jack Pantelias, the baseball team, known as the Goldsox, sees its first action with 20 games in an amateur baseball league. Norbert St. Clair's soccer club grew to nine players. Lex Wood coaches the first men's tennis team. Jim Kelahar registers a 12-3 mark in singles play.
The basketball program gained varsity status and began at the NCAA Division II level. The team won nine out of 10 during a mid-season stretch and wound up 17-9. The soccer program jumped to 14 members and began scrimmaging local amateur teams. Tennis player Don Hodskin posts a 12-3 singles mark. The baseball team battles to a 15-12 record.
The wrestling team gains varsity status and finishes the season with a 5-4 record, highlighted by a win over Florida State. Paul Allard wins the state title in 118 lb. class and is named Outstanding Wrestler in the state. Walter Wilce wins state title in 126 lb. class. Tennis gains varsity status and the team registered an 11-4 record. The basketball team registers its first 20-win season with a 20-6 record. Doug Holmquist takes over the baseball program mid-season after the resignation of Jack Pantelias; the team plays 31 games and goes 13-18.
The basketball team wins nine in a row en route to posting a 19-7 record. The wrestling team goes 10-5-1 and wins matches against Notre Dame, Florida State, Georgia and Georgia Tech in the process. Wrestlers Curt Sucher and Sam Williams win state titles in 126 and 150 lb. classes, respectively. Pat Murphy wins state title and Southern Open in 126 lb. class. The baseball team posts another winning season with a 16-15-1 record. Pete MacLoughlin strikes out 18 batters while pitching a no-hitter in a 7-3 win over Columbia. The tennis team posts a 13-6 record.
The Tennis team goes 17-6 and finishes 10th in its first trip to the NCAA Tournament. Crew wins the school's first national title in the Men's Four category. The basketball team registers its fifth consecutive winning season with a 16-8 record. The baseball team eclipses the 20-win plateau with a 21-16 record.
Winston DuBose earns honorable mention All-America honors for soccer. John Powell becomes the school's second Director of Athletics. Under the direction of Lucy McDaniel, a softball team is formed. The team finishes third in the state and third in the National Intercollegiate Tournament. The tennis team goes 16-11 and finishes 17th in the NCAA Tournament. The basketball team picks up its firs wins over Rollins and South Florida while posting a 14-10 record. The baseball team ups its record for wins in a season to 29 with a 29-10 mark; Sam Swanger earns second-team All-American honors.
Florida Technological University (FTU) becomes a charter member of the Sunshine State Conference, a name coined by FTU's Dr. Cal Miller. Winston DuBose earns honorable mention All-America honors for soccer. The basketball team wins the inaugural Sunshine State Conference title and makes it first appearance in the NCAA Tournament, finishing with a 20-5 mark. Under Lucy McDaniel, the volleyball team begins play and finishes fifth in the state with a 30-8 record. Wrestler Rich Dombrowski wins the 150 lb. class state title. Jim Rudy is hired as soccer coach and the team is elevated to varsity status. The softball team finishes runner-up in the state. The tennis team records a 16th place finish in the NCAA Tournament after posting a 15-15 mark. Jack Sexton becomes the school's third baseball coach.
Jack O'Leary becomes the school's first full-time athletics director. The men's basketball team wins 22 out of 23 during a mid-season swing and sets a school-record for wins with a 24-4 record. The Knights clinch their second consecutive Sunshine State Conference crown with a dramatic triple-overtime victory against St. Leo and advance to the NCAA Southeast Regional. Bo Clark earns All-America honors. Clark and Jerry Prather are named first-team All-Sunshine State Conference. Cal Lingelbach is also named to the second-team All-Sunshine State Conference. Clark sets a school-record with 70 points against Florida Memorial and finishes the season third in the nation in scoring with 28.6 points per-game. Winston DuBose earns second-team All-America honors for soccer. The volleyball team posts a 40-13 record and finishes first in the state and first in the regional and advances to the AIAW National Volleyball Championship tournament. The wrestling team finished 18th in the national tournament. Haruki Kawamukai becomes UCF's first All-American in wrestling at 118 lbs. The softball team posts a 22-9 record and finishes runner-up in the state. The tennis team wins 17 matches in a row en route to compiling a 30-4 record. The Knights win the inaugural Sunshine State Conference tennis title and finish fourth in the NCAA Championships. Doug Baxter and Toby Crabel named to All-America team. Jim Hall wins 24 singles matches in a row. In his second season at the helm, Jack Sexton coaches the baseball team to a 24-18 mark. Crew wins the national championship in the Women's Four category.
Men's soccer wins the Sunshine State Conference' first regular season title. The FTU Gymnasium, housing the Education Building, opens and becomes the home court for basketball and volleyball. The men's tennis team wins the first Sunshine State Conference tournament championship. The volleyball team finishes with a record of 56-6 and places fourth in the AIAW National Volleyball Championship. Laura Smith and Sharon Koskey earn All-America honors. The men's basketball team sets school-records with a 24-game winning streak and 26 total wins. The Knights with the Sunshine State Conference regular season title, the inaugural Sunshine State Conference post-season tournament, the NCAA South Regional and the NCAA Quarterfinals en route to making an appearance in the Final Four in Springfield, MO. Cleveland Jackson is named Most Outstanding Player at the South Regional. Jerry Prather is named to the South Regional All-Tournament Team and to the NCAA Division II All-Tournament team. Prather and Jackson are named first-team All-Sunshine State Conference. Torchy Clark is named Sunshine State Conference Coach of the Year. After several seasons as a club sport, women's basketball gained varsity status. Judy Martino coached the team to a 10-11 record. The wrestling team finished 12th in the nation. Ray Barker earns All-America honors in the 190 lb. class. The softball team goes 27-8 and finishes runner-up in the state. Nate Smith, Jr. takes over the tennis program and leads it's to its second consecutive Sunshine State Conference Championship. The team finishes the season with a 22-6 mark and ties for sixth at the NCAA Tournament. Toby Crabel and Steve Bryant earn All-America honors. Bill Moon takes over the baseball program. Hal Staats, Cal Lingelbach and Jeff Rudolph are named to the All-South team.
The school's name is officially changed to the University of Central Florida. The volleyball team blazes through the season with a perfect 55-0 record and wins the AIAW National Championships held at UCF. Karen Fischer, Sharon Koskey, Laura Smith and Celestine Wilson earn All-America honors. The new soccer fields on campus are completed. The men's soccer team wins the Sunshine State Conference regular season title. The men's tennis team wins the Sunshine State Conference championship. Steve Reid is named to the All- Sunshine State Conference golf team. Joe Corso takes over the wrestling program. The team finishes the season ranked 11th in the nation, the fourth time in the last eight years the team finishes the season ranked in the top-20. The team won the state and regional titles for the first time. UCF captured state titles in six categories and also won eight regional titles. All-American Rich Dombrowski, 158 lb. class, won the state title for the third time. He finished sixth in the national tournament. Doug Peters, 138 lb. class, won state and regional titles. Ray Barker, 190 lb. class, won the regional tournament. Haruki Kawamukai, 118 lb. class, was state and regional champion. Mike Brown, heavyweight, won the state and regional titles. Pete Konter, 142 lb. class, was also state and regional champion. Bard Biddle, 167 lb. class, was regional champion. Nancy Sirmons was appointed women's basketball and softball coach. Softball team finishes fourth in the state with a 19-9 record. Baseball posts a 27-16 record and shares the Sunshine State Conference honors with defending national champion Florida Southern. The team makes its first appearance in the regional tournament. Jeff Rudolph and Hal Staats are named to the All-South team. Henry Brandon takes over the tennis program and guides it to a runner-up finish in the Sunshine State Conference. Under the direction of Rocky Thomas, a women's tennis team is added. The team goes 7-11 in its first season. The basketball team finishes runner-up in the Sunshine State Conference with a 19-7 record. Bo Clark leads the nation in scoring with 31.6 points per-game, and earns first-team All-America honors. Clark is also named first-team All-Sunshine State Conference. Cleveland Jackson and Wil Nix earn honorable mention All-Sunshine State Conference accolades.