“Students working together in a positive, self-reflective manner to produce a comfortable social setting, esprit de corps, a non-critical and educational playing environment, a humble and cooperative work area, a love for our university, and one of the best bands in the country.” – Marching Knights Mission Statement (Written by Ralph Bordner)
In 1979, the University of Central Florida fielded their first football team. The next logical step for the university was to create a marching band. July 1, 1980, Mr. Jerry Gardner was hired as the first director of what would become the UCF Marching Knights. With the help of a young man by the name of Troy Driggers, who would become one of the first drum majors (along with Ken DeBord), Mr. Gardner poured through the file of every UCF student looking for those who had marching/band experience and invited them to join. All of their work paid off, as the first year, the Marching Knights fielded 125 members.
On November 8, 1980, UCF’s Homecoming, the Marching Knights performed their first halftime show. The show featured the selections: Triumph of the Titans, Sweet Georgia Brown, Crown Imperial, You are the Sunshine of My Life, and Love will Keep us Together.
In August of 1982, the Marching Knights were jolted by the sudden death of their founding drum major, Troy Driggers, killed in a tragic car accident. The 1983 season was dedicated to him, with the entire band wearing a pin on their uniform. To this day, the “Driggers’ Pin” is a part of the Marching Knights uniform. In 2014, the pin was changed from a black and gold ribbon, to an actual pin, featuring the letters “MK” inside a Pegasus star for “Marching Knights” and is stamped with the letters “TD” for “Troy Driggers” on the back.
In 1985, Mr. Gardner retired from directing the Marching Knights to focus on his health, and in 1986, Roger Newburn became the second Director. Since then, eight additional directors have led the Marching Knights:
- 1980-1986: Mr. Jerry Gardner
- 1986-1988: Mr. Roger Newburn
- 1988-2004: Dr. Richard Greenwood
- 1996-2010: Mr. Ron Ellis
- 2010-2013: Dr. Donny Allen
- 2013-2014: Dr. Scott Tobias
- 2014-2015: Dr. Ryan Kelly
- 2015-2016: Dr. Jason Cumberledge
- 2010-Present: Mr. Dave Schreier
- 2016-Present: Dr. Tremon Kizer
From 1991-1996, Richard Greenwood and Ron Ellis formed the Summer Knights. This was an “Ultra-hip, high-energy show band” consisting of 23 members of the Marching Knights that would tour high schools in Florida. This group of students were ambassadors of UCF and the music department.
Also in 1991, the Marching Knights Alumni Band Association was formed. Today, over 150 alumni return every year to perform with the Marching Knights during homecoming.
In 1996, the band was invited to perform for the 25th Anniversary of Walt Disney World. After spending all night at the Magic Kingdom, the band performed in the “Remember the Magic” Parade.
The Marching Knights would travel internationally for the first time in 2003. The band, under the direction of Richard Greenwood and Ron Ellis, travelled to Sweden for the Eksjö International Tattoo Marching Band Festival, performing several times throughout their trip, as well as visiting many sites along the way.
In 2005, the 25th Anniversary of the Marching Knights, the directors gathered around 40 members from 1986-2005 to record the first ever CD of the band: “UCF Marching Knights: Celebrating Twenty-Five Years of Music”. The album featured music from pre-game and UCF traditional cheers, like Go Knights Funk, the Chant, and the Fight Song.
In 2007, the Marching Knights made their “Hollywood Debut” by performing in the move “Sydney White”. They were in two scenes in the movie, and our fight song performed.
In 2009, at a Marching Knights rehearsal, Ron Ellis and then graduate assistants Dave Schreier and Jason Millhouse had a conversation on the field about naming the fight song. It only took two minutes before “Charge On” was born. The title was announced during pregame performances that year, and now has become a staple in UCF vernacular.
It would be almost ten years after recording their first album that the Marching Knights would produce their second CD: “Charge On”, named after the UCF Fight Song. This album, under the direction of Scott Tobias and Dave Schreier, would feature selections from the 2013 season, which ended in an inspiring performance at the 2014 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl where UCF would earn its first BCS Bowl victory. Unlike the 25th anniversary album, this CD featured the entire band recorded live at the Marching Knights practice field.
Also in 2013, the Marching Knights would be invited to perform as the house band for the ESPN College Football Awards Show, filmed live at Disney’s Boardwalk. Following that performance, the band was invited back for the 2014 awards show.
Thanks to the Fiesta Bowl victory, the Marching Knights would return to perform at the Magic Kingdom for the first time since 1996. In a special parade for the Fiesta Bowl Champions, the Marching Knights performed for a crowd that created a sea of black and gold. The parade was led by Grand Marshals: Coach George O’Leary, President John Hitt, Athletic Director Todd Stansbury, and Mickey Mouse. Following the marshals were the UCF Cheerleaders, the Marching Knights, the UCF Football team, and a float featuring the assistant coaches and staff, with Disney characters throughout. This performance at the Magic Kingdom created a new partnership between Disney and the Marching Knights. This partnership began with an invitation to perform at an awards presentation for the 10th anniversary of Festival Disney, at the Lights, Motors, Action theater at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in April, 2014.
2015 would be a season many Knight Fans would like to forget, as the football team would go winless for the first time in 10 years. However, for the Marching Knights there would be a few highlights. The first was an invitation to perform at a September Halftime for the Jacksonville Jaguars at Everbank Field. The band would perform a Tribute to Motown. In November, the band would travel to South Florida for the first time in many years to perform at the Park Vista Striking Cobra Invitational. Finally, the band would record their 3rd Album, “Sounds of Gold” at the UCF Soccer Stadium, which would be released in April 2016. This album, under the direction of Jason Cumberledge and Dave Schreier, would again feature the full band and selections from the 2015 season. Also, for the first time, “The Voice” of the Marching Knights, Jason Millhouse, would be featured on the Pregame tracks.
The 2017 season for the Marching Knights has been unparalleled in UCF’s short history. The season would see a team that two years prior not win a single game, go undefeated, including a New Year’s Six Peach Bowl win against Auburn. 2017 also featured exhibition performances at the FMBC State Championships, and incredible performances before sold out crowds at Spectrum Stadium for the War on I-4 Game against USF, and The American Athletic Conference Championship against an overtime thriller against Memphis. After the historic Peach Bowl win, UCF was again invited to a special parade at the Magic Kingdom, Featuring the Marching Knights, Cheerleaders, and Football Players. But perhaps most importantly in 2017, the Marching Knights cut the ribbon on their very own permanent building, cementing a permanent home on campus, and providing a safe location for our students.
2018 has started off where 2017 left off, to this day, our team is still undefeated. For the first time ever, ESPN College Game Day broadcast live from UCF on Memory Mall, and the Marching Knights were featured prominently throughout the broadcast. Following the Game Day broadcast was UCF’s first National ABC Primetime game, where the #11 Knights beat #24 Cincinnati, with plenty of opportunity for the Marching Knights to receive recognition on TV and Social Media as well.
Today, the Marching Knights are the largest and most visible student organization at the University of Central Florida. They are known for their high-energy performances, unique and contemporary drill designs, and musical selections including genres such as Jazz, Pop, Classical, Soundtracks, and more. The 365+ members experience the thrill of performing for tens of thousands of fans each year at UCF Football games, high school exhibitions, local parades, and bowl and championship games. With a commitment to excellence in performance, both on and off the field, the Marching Knights truly are “The Pride of Central Florida.”