Today is a dark day for UCF Athletics. There’s simply no other way to put it.
I said it when Scott Frost left and I’ll say it again today: UCF can withstand almost any loss and keep going. But not Danny White. You have to keep Danny White.
But with news today that White is headed off to become Tennessee’s Athletic Director, Knight Nation is faced with an uncomfortable reality.
Most of the contributors to UCF’s rise to national prominence are now gone.
John Hitt, the president who hired White, is retired.
Frost, the coach who led the Knights to a National Championship, is leading Nebraska.
McKenzie Milton, the quarterback so integral to that season and the brand, is at FSU.
And now White, who revitalized a broken department and breathed new life into virtually every major sport, will attempt to do the same thing at Tennessee.
I truly don’t know where UCF goes from here. We don’t know if this current administration will nail a new AD hire. We don’t know how much that AD will be looking to change, or which Knights coaches will suddenly find themselves on the hotseat. And, of course, we don’t know how the COVID-19 Pandemic that has placed UCF in a dire financial situation will impact all these other things.
But I do have two thoughts that I hope Knight Nation can hold onto.
The first is that UCF is in a far better place than it was when White came in. Football had suffered through a catastrophic 0-12 season. Men’s and Women’s Basketball had been awful for years. Baseball was stagnating. Knights fans had little to be proud of anywhere across the board.
The good news is that the pressure isn’t on like it was last time to find an AD capable of taking on a department-wide rebuild. All that’s required now is someone that can keep the ball rolling. UCF sports are still flourishing. Football and Men’s basketball have had some rough times due to COVID-related situations, but both are still primed for future success. This opening is not nearly as critical as it was in 2015.
And the other thought I hope fans can remember is this: Be grateful for White. Don’t curse him for leaving or feel betrayed. Tennessee is one of the richest and most prominent jobs in the nation. He’ll have the ability to hire his own football coach out of the gate and take on the task of rebuilding what was once one of the most successful athletic departments in the nation and has all the tools to be again.
You can’t blame him. But you can thank him.
The last few years have seen this school truly reach its potential. It’s been an amazing journey, one that felt generations, not months, away in 2015. All you can truly ask of an AD is that they leave the department in a better place than they found it.
Danny White did that. And so much more.