ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - The University of Central Florida had its debut on ESPN’s "College GameDay" on Saturday.
The campus and its self-declared national champion football team hosted the program for the first time before its game against Cincinnati, which will kick off at 8 p.m.
The school said this kind of exposure is helping not only the school’s athletic department, but its enrollment.
Last year, the school had 66,183 enrolled students. This year, that number went up to 68,571.
UCF students Mikaylah Rouchard and Bryan Ashton said they've waited nearly two seasons for this weekend.
They said fans are ready to show America what UCF is made of.
“They are going to see a packed stadium. They are going to see an insane student section with a crazy mascot. And they're going to see a lot of student pride,” Rouchard said.
A huge weekend for sports fans in #Orlando as ESPN’s College GameDay visits the UCF campus, plus the Florida Classic and Lakers v Magic! Live coverage on #TV27at10 & #WFTVat11 @WFTV pic.twitter.com/PypNLp05CO— Ken Tyndall (@KenTyndallWFTV) November 17, 2018
.@CollegeGameDay setup in full swing at @UCF! Big weekend for the @UCFKnights...I’m looking into security measures that will be in place on Saturday. More on @WFTV daybreak. pic.twitter.com/uKbfzwOjeJ— Johny Fernandez (@jfernandezwftv) November 16, 2018
UCF will have one of the most nationally visible days in its history as the Knights' football game gets prime time billing on the same day ESPN hosts its "College GameDay" three-hour live broadcast from UCF's campus.
"People think about theme parks when they think about Orlando," UCF economist Sean Snaith said. "But there's a lot more to our region and our economy than just tourism. So this will be a way to highlight some of that."
The school said it has come a long way from its early days as a commuter school, and students are excited to see the UCF Knights be put on the map.
“We are going to show America how awesome UCF is. How big our campus is. How big our fan base is. And how great our team is. So we are really excited to give UCF the exposure we feel like it deserves,” Rouchard said.
The game is sold out, with more than 45,000 seats sold.
To prepare for the game, UCF is ramping up security on campus.
UCF police said they will have help from more than 20 surrounding agencies.
Students are planning on getting an early start Saturday morning.
“I'm getting up at 5 in the morning to get up and go to 'GameDay' so I can be in the front,” student Bryan Ashton said.
UCF fan Gena Morris said she would camp out on campus Friday night so she doesn't miss any of the action Saturday morning.
"How often does 'GameDay' come to UCF? Never. Like, this is the first time," she said. "It's absolutely worth being out here and absorbing everything about it."
UCF fan Lukas Terhall said the energy is electric.
"The UCF energy in the stadium is already insane enough," he said. "You're going to see it out here before the game -- get that started nice and early so it carries throughout the day."
The UCF Police Department estimated about 20,000 fans would be on campus for the "GameDay" broadcast, and that number is expected to double as fans arrive for tailgating and the game.
The police chief said it's the biggest crowd in the school’s history, which is why students can expect to see more officers on the ground.
“In this case, they will see more than they usually do because of the sheer numbers. They'll also not see a lot of the measures that we are taking into consideration,” UCF police Chief Carl Metzger said.
There are also other rules that apply to fans in attendance. There will be no alcohol allowed until 2 p.m. -- two hours after the ESPN broadcast ends.
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