“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. Three more albums have followed: Charge On (2013: Tobias/Schreier), Sounds of Gold (2015: Cumberledge/Schreier), and Live From Driggers Field (2018: Kizer/Schreier).
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 performed our fight song.
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 for the first time during pregame performances that year, and now has become a staple in UCF vernacular.
The Marching Knights have performed in several bowl games over the years, but gained much notoriety after performances at New Years Six Bowl Games: 2014 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, 2017 Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl, and 2018 Playstation Fiesta Bowl.
In 2013 and 2014, 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. In 2014, The band would return to perform at the Magic Kingdom for the first time since 1996 for a special parade for the Fiesta Bowl Champions. 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. UCF would again be honored with a special parade following an undefeated football season, capped off with a Peach Bowl win in 2017.
In addition to an incredible undefeated season, a major bowl game, and parade at disney, 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.
In 2018, 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.
In a challenging 2020, dealing with a global pandemic, the Marching Knights have persevered. With many precautions and mitigations, they were able to still have a season and be together to perform in person. While nothing looked the same, and the band did not move on the field, the spirit of the Marching Knights grew stronger as they found unique ways to share music and school spirit during a very unique period in history, while still celebrating their 40th Anniversary – including a very special online roundtable featuring former drum majors, directors, Driggers’ award winners and other prominent alumni members.
To this day, 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 375+ 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.”