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Knights Name 2023 UCF Athletics Hall of Fame Class

by John Heisler

Six accomplished UCF athletes, coaches or administrators, plus a Knight national championship team, comprise the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame class for 2023.

The inductees are former baseball ace Kyle Bono, former UCF president Dr. John Hitt, current UCF director of broadcasting and play-by-play voice Marc Daniels, former UCF football coach Gene McDowell, former volleyball standout DeLaina Sarden and softball star Shelby Turnier—and the 2007 national champion UCF cheer team.

That group will be recognized at an induction banquet on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, at the Celeste Hotel (4105 N Alafaya Trail, Orlando, FL 32826) on the UCF campus in Orlando. Individual tickets are $150 each—or $2,000 for a Hall of Fame Table (10 seats)--and include an hour-long cocktail reception beginning at 6 p.m. ET followed by the dinner and program at 7 p.m. ET.

Tickets are available here: https://foundation.ucf.edu/athleticshof2023. Questions can be directed to Aly Derksen in UCF Athletics at 321-558-6291.

The inductees will be honored on the field at halftime of the UCF-Oklahoma State football game the following day at FBC Mortgage Stadium (kickoff time TBD).

The UCF Athletics Hall of Fame since 1998 has been inducting former Knight players and coaches and others connected to the UCF program.

Here are details on the 2023 inductees:

2007 National Champion Cheer Team
--finished first in Division IA Cheer finals of the 2007 College Nationals Cheerleading and Dance Team Championship at Walt Disney Wide World of Sports
--finished ahead of Alabama (second), Kentucky (third), Tennessee (fourth) and LSU (fifth) in final standings
--coached by UCF Hall of Famer Linda Gooch, along with assistant coaches Ginny Hitt, Mike Pare and Ryan Rinaldi
--second of three championships won by UCF (also 2003 and 2020)
--team members include Allie Morgan, Ashley Draper, Brian White, Brittney Farrell, Chris Stadler, Christal Velez, Cory Brown, Jake Waldrup, Joe Mortenson, Keegan Hubbard, Kendall Wulff Brookover, Kimmy Barker Pruitt, Lauren Segall, Meghan Myer, Mike Pucci, Randy Brown, Stefan Domenig, Tim Johnson and Tyson Walters

Dr. John Hitt, University President, 1992-2018
--strengthened the university’s academic quality and national reputation, as well as partnerships that continue to benefit students and the community
--awarded more than 260,000 degrees, more than any other president in State University System of Florida history, expanding UCF’s talent pipeline of graduates who advanced to successful careers in industries vital to the region and state.
-- shepherded an athletics program that enjoyed strong success during his presidency in competition and in the classroom, and that delivered him the nation’s only undefeated season and a national championship in his final year as president.
--championed the construction of an on-campus football stadium, which played a key role in UCF heading into the Big 12 conference in 2023
--established the John & Martha Hitt Athletics Scholarship Fund in 2018; recently the Hitts established an endowment to support the UCF AD discretionary fund
--Hitt, who became UCF’s fourth president in 1992 and retired in June 2018, died February 20, 2023 at the age of 82.

Kyle Bono, Baseball, 2003-2004
--one of most dominating pitchers in school history as both a closer and starter
--2004 All-American and all-conference performer
--holds both single-season (0.83) and career (1.66) records for lowest earned-run average and shutouts with five—and those records have stood for 19 years
--averaged 11.85 strikeouts per nine innings in 2003 and 10.38 in his UCF career
--ranks eighth on single-season list for strikeouts (107 in 2004)
--batterymate during his UCF career was twin brother Ryan
--represented UCF on 2004 Chatham Anglers team in Cape Cod League
--set Cape Cod league record by not allowing a run in 17 innings (0.00 ERA) and making league all-star team
--signed record bonus with Boston Red Sox in July 2004
--traded to Arizona Diamondbacks in 2005
--started Bono Baseball, LLC, where he and his two brothers train and coach youth baseball and softball in Central Florida
--teamed with brother Ryan to form Landscapes of Florida, a local landscaping maintenance and design company

Marc Daniels, Director of Broadcasting, 1994-Present 
--serves as "Voice of the Knights” while handling radio play-by-play for UCF football, men’s basketball and baseball since 1995
--celebrated 25th football season and 300th football game versus East Carolina in 2019 and is in 29th season with UCF in 2023-24
--began career as broadcaster in 1983 at age 15 as disc jockey at Piper High School in South Florida
--attended University of Florida handling a variety of roles as a play-by-play voice, reporters and announcer at WRUF AM/FM and was sports anchor for WUFT-FM
--came to Orlando in 1989 to work as sports-talk host and later helped start Orlando's first all-sports radio station and would later serve as program director for more than a decade --has been recognized as voice of sports talk in Orlando
--named UCF Athletics director of broadcasting in 2016
--hosts a weekday sports show-"The Beat of Sports" on UCF's flagship station 96.9FM/740AM/WYGM
--boasts longest tenure as play-by-play voice at any school in state of Florida

Gene McDowell, Head Football Coach, 1985-97
--led Knights through NCAA Division II (1985-89), Division I-AA (1990-95) and into Division I-A (1996-97)
--finished 86-61 while leading UCF teams to NCAA playoff appearances in 1987, 1990 and 1993
--led Knights to Division II semifinals in 1987 and Division I-AA semifinals in 1990
--won Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year award in 1990
--known as “Father of UCF Football” based on growing program on and off the field
--credited with pulling UCF from brink of extinction due to financial woes
--served in dual role as football coach and athletics director in late 1980s
--helped obtain first $1 million donation for football from Wayne Densch
--won more games than any other UCF head football coach as the longest-tenured individual in that role and also served as the Knights’ athletic director, he died on Jan. 26, 2021. He was 80.

DeLaina Sarden, Volleyball 2011-2014
--only three-time American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American in program history
--had 1,203 kills, 2.71 kills per set and 462 blocks (fourth) in her UCF career
--helped UCF win its first American Athletic Conference championship in 2014 and make the NCAA Championship for first time since 2003
--AVCA Honorable Mention All-American (2014, 2013, 2012)
--AVCA First Team All-Region (2014, 2013, 2012)
--AAC Player of the Year (2014), First Team All-Conference (AAC: 2014, 2013 and C-USA: 2012)
--C-USA Freshman-of-the-Year (2011)
--C-USA All-Freshman Team (2011)
--Pre-Season All-Conference Team (AAC: 2012 and C-USA: 2011)
--AAC All-Academic Team (2013)
--C-USA Commissioner's Academic Honor Roll (2012 and 2011)


Shelby Turnier, Softball, 2014-16
--most decorated softball player in UCF history
--became first All-American in program history as 2015 NFCA Division I first-team pick
--top-10 finalist for National Player of the Year
--became first UCF player to earn ESPNW National Player of the Week award (2/18/15) and second Knight (alongside Stephanie Best in 2003) to earn an NFCA National Weekly honor, as first UCF pitcher to be named NFCA Pitcher of the Week (2/17/15)
--led NCAA in ERA in 2015, tying school record at 0.87
--2015 American Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year
--became third Knight in history in 2016 to reach 70 career wins and 800 career strikeouts (also Allison Kime and teammate Mackenzie Audas)
--led UCF to three straight NCAA Championship regional finals from 2014-2016, two AAC regular-season championships (2014 and 2015) and the 2015 AAC Tournament championship, pitching one-hit shutout over Tulsa to clinch 1-0 homefield win
--voted fifth on list of Top 80 UCF Female Athletes of All-Time