Fiesta Bowl win could make already-popular university more so

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

The University of Central Florida Knights football team is due back on campus Thursday afternoon, following their big win in the Fiesta Bowl.

The Knights stunned Baylor 52-42 Wednesday night in their first appearance in a BCS bowl game.

The win has created big buzz around the school.

It's the moment the team and their fans have been dreaming about; not just playing in a BCS bowl game, but beating a highly ranked team in a high-scoring, four-hour game.

"It's a fantastic day to be a UCF Knight. It was a fantastic win out in Arizona, and we're excited to be back here and celebrating," said UCF spokesman Grant Heston.

University officials see the victory as something the school can capitalize on.

UCF is the second largest university in the nation, with nearly 60,000 students and ranks highest in the state for high school seniors sending in SAT scores.

The win is expected to attract even more students to UCF.

"I think you'll see a spike in applications, as typically what happens when universities get this type of exposure and we're excited about that," said Heston. "UCF wants to be known for who we include instead of who we exclude. So if you're a high-achieving student, we'll help you find a way to get a UCF degree."

Channel 9's Karla Ray learned that UCF's acceptance requirements have gotten tougher over the years in an effort to keep enrollment from exploding to a size the campus can't handle.

That means getting into UCF after the Fiesta Bowl win could be even tougher.

"(We want) growth with quality, with the kind of students that have average SAT scores of 1,250, National Merits that rank in the top 30 in the country for all institutions. So we're excited to be big, but also very, very good," said Heston.

Numbers just released show that in Orlando alone, 440,000 viewers saw an ad during the game that touted UCF's academics.

Nationally, the game was watched by 9 percent more viewers than last year's Rose Bowl, which aired during the same time slot.

"Athletics turns a spotlight on your university, and this was a huge spotlight on UCF, so we're proud to show everything that we do, from football to academics to research to community, so it just lets more people know about everything we offer," said Heston.

More students means more development on campus. The school has $120 million in expansion plans for 2014.