Amid more big changes for UCF Athletics, Todd Dagenais remains a constant

Photo courtesy of UCF Athletics Communications.

Things can change pretty quickly.

Just think about it: One week ago, Danny White was still the athletics director at UCF and there really didn’t seem to be any signs that he would soon take the same job at Tennessee, leaving Orlando after five incredible years. White’s departure signaled the end of an era for UCF Athletics. The big shift that just occurred? It can’t be overstated.  

So, seriously, if such a big change can occur in one week—or just a few short days, really—imagine how much has changed at UCF since January of 2008. That’s when Todd Dagenais was hired as UCF’s head volleyball coach. On Tuesday, he will get his 13th season underway. That kind of longevity for a head coach isn’t an everyday thing, especially at UCF, and that’s why it’s crazy to think about how much change Dagenais has seen throughout his time as a Knight.

Let’s break that down. Back in 2008:

  • UCF Football was fresh off of its first-ever conference championship, as well as its first 10-win season at the FBS level. Now, UCF has six conference titles and seven 10-win seasons as an FBS program. The Knights also have two BCS/New Year’s Six bowl wins, as well as an NCAA-recognized claim to the 2017 National Championship. And in the span between 2008 and the present, the program has had three different head coaches (with a fourth if you count Danny Barrett, the interim head coach during a winless 2015 season).
  • Kirk Speraw was still the head coach of the UCF Men’s Basketball team. A few years later, Donnie Jones replaced him. Jones spent six seasons with the Knights before Johnny Dawkins arrived in 2016 to take the program to new heights, namely that 2018-19 run that saw UCF barely miss out on an upset of No. 1 overall seed Duke and a spot in the Sweet 16.
  • The UCF Women’s Basketball team hadn’t yet begun its drastic decline that led to the end of Joi Williams’ head coaching tenure. After back-to-back seasons with single-digit wins (2014-15 and 2015-16) led to Williams’ firing, the Knights were revived by Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, who has led the program to four straight 20-win seasons and a 2019 NCAA Tournament berth since.
  • The Bounce House was only one season—and not even a full year—old.
  • Addition Financial Arena was still in the midst of its first season as the new home for both of UCF’s basketball teams.
  • The Venue, the former home of UCF Basketball and UCF Volleyball’s current home, hadn’t yet been fully renovated and opened as a volleyball-specific arena. That happened later in the 2008 calendar year.
  • The Wayne Densch Center for Student-Athlete Leadership didn’t exist and was still eight years away from opening.
  • UCF Downtown didn’t exist either, as groundbreaking didn’t occur until a full nine years later.

You get the point. UCF Athletics has seen a ton of growth since 2008. There have been milestone moments and seasons, as well as significant changes to the athletics village and campus as a whole, and Dagenais has been around to see all of it. He is the second-longest tenured coach at UCF, trailing only UCF Cheerleading’s Linda Gooch. Again, longevity like that—especially at UCF—seems to be hard to come by. 

Of course, Dagenais has been around as long as he has for great reason. The Central Michigan alum and former USC assistant has turned UCF Volleyball into a perennial contender. In his first 12 seasons, Dagenais has racked up 237 victories, making him the winningest coach in the program’s history. Under his direction, the Knights have won three AAC Championships (2014, 2018, 2019) and made three NCAA Tournament appearances (2014, 2018, 2019). In 2019, the team went 25-8, won the first-ever end-of-season AAC Tournament and picked up its first NCAA Tournament win since 2003 by beating Florida State in the first round.

What Dagenais has helped UCF accomplish on the court has been outstanding, but the program’s off-court success has been just as impressive. Since May 2008, the team has finished every single semester with a collective 3.0 GPA or better, and 62 Knights have landed on all-conference academic teams.

There’s no denying that Dagenais already has his place in UCF’s history forever, but the fun part is that he’s not done. His 13th season in Orlando begins on Tuesday with a match against FAU at The Venue, and expectations are high.

The Knights were picked as the preseason favorite to win the AAC and if they follow up on that, it will mean a three-peat and a third straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Led by unanimous AAC preseason player of the year McKenna Melville, UCF appears primed for another big year.

More wins, more milestones and more big moments are ahead for Todd Dagenais and UCF Volleyball.

At least one thing isn’t changing.

About Bailey Adams 204 Articles
Bailey Adams is a senior writer covering UCF Football and Baseball for Knight Sports Now. You can follow him on Twitter at @BaileyJAdams22.