The voice of the UCF Knights, Marc Daniels, and former Football Head Coach Gene McDowell headline the 2023 UCF Athletics Hall of Fame Class, the UCF Athletic Department announced on Thursday afternoon.
According to a press release, the seven inductees will be honored at a ceremony at the on-campus Celeste Hotel on Nov. 10 at 7 p.m., the night before the UCF Football team will host Oklahoma State in its annual Space Game.
It’s the Hall of Fame’s largest class since 2011.
Here are the inductees:
Gene McDowell (Football)
Gene McDowell was the Knights’ Head Football Coach from 1985-1997, leading the program through Division II (1985-1989), Division I-AA/FCS (1990-1995), and into Division I-A/FBS (1996-1997).
He will be the fourth UCF Football head coach to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, joining inaugural head coach Don Jonas, George O’Leary, and former player and interim head coach Alan Gooch.
McDowell went 86-61, leading UCF to three NCAA playoff appearances (1987, 1990, 1993) and advancing to the Division II semifinals in 1987 and Division I-AA semifinals in 1990. McDowell won the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year award in 1990.
McDowell is known as the “Father of UCF Football,” helping grow the program on and off the field as he is credited with pulling UCF from the brink of extinction due to financial trouble. He served in a dual role as coach and athletic director in the late 1980s, getting the football program’s first $1 million donation from Wayne Densch.
McDowell passed away at the age of 81 on January 26, 2021.
Marc Daniels (Broadcaster)
Marc Daniels has provided the soundtrack for so many memorable moments in UCF history.
Daniels has been the “Voice of the Knights,” handling radio play-by-play for UCF football, men’s basketball, and baseball, with the 2023-24 season marking his 29th year on the job.
To put Daniels’ legacy in perspective, Daniels has called and covered all 14 of UCF’s bowl games, 9 NCAA Baseball Regionals, all four 4 NCAA Basketball Tournament appearances, including three New Year’s Six Bowl games as well as the Knights’ first-ever bowl win and the first ever DI NCAA Tournament win in Basketball.
Daniels has called UCF games as conference members of the A-SUN, MAC, C-USA, AAC, and now the Big 12.
Daniels has called every UCF football game since 1995. He also hosts “The Beat of Sports” on 96.9 FM/740 AM The Game.
Shelby Turnier (Softball)
— UCF Softball (@UCF_Softball) September 14, 2023
Former Knights right-hander and NFCA All-American Shelby Turnier becomes the fifth softball alum to be selected for induction into the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame! pic.twitter.com/LwdG1w3GYp
Following last year’s induction of Mackenzie Audas in 2022, Shelby Turnier joins the other member of UCF Softball’s iconic “Shake and Bake” duo in the Hall of Fame.
Turnier will be the fifth UCF Softball player to be inducted, joining the aforementioned Audas (2012-2015), Stephanie Best (2002-2005), Natalie Land (2009-2012), and Allison Kime (2007-2008).
Turnier was the first player in program history to be an All-American, making the NFCA’s Division I All-America First Team in 2015, and finishing as a Top Ten finalist for National Player of the Year. She was the first UCF Player to earn the ESPNW National Player of the Week award (2/18/15) and the first Knight since Best in 2003 to earn an NFCA National Weekly honor, being the first pitcher to be named the NFCA Pitcher of the Week (2/17/15).
Turnier led the NCAA in ERA in 2015, tying a school record with a 0.87 ERA set by Kime in 2007. She became the first Knight to win AAC Pitcher of the Year (2015) and is one of only three Knights to win a Pitcher of Year award along with Audas (2012-CUSA) and Sarah Willis (2023).
Turnier is one of only three Knights pitchers in school history to reach 70 career wins and 800 career strikeouts, along with Kime and Audas.
Turnier led UCF to three straight NCAA Tournament regional finals from 2014-2016, two AAC regular season championships (2014 and 2015), and the 2015 AAC Tournament championship, pitching a 1-hit shutout over Tulsa in a 1-0 win at the UCF Softball Complex.
Turnier ranks in the top five all-time at UCF in seventeen categories including:
- Wins (2nd - 80)
- Appearances (2nd - 143)
Sstarts (2nd - 113)
- Strikeouts per 7 innings (2nd - 7.83)
- Lowest opponent batting average (3rd - .188)
- Shutouts (3rd - 23)
- Innings pitched (4th - 742.1)
- Strikeouts (3rd - 830)
- Saves (5th - 5)
- Lowest earned run average (5th - 1.75)
- No-Hitters (3rd - 3)
Turnier has the most strikeouts in a seven-inning game with 16 against Bowling Green in 2014, which ranks as the 3rd most overall in a game behind Audas (17 in 2013 vs. UTEP in 11 innings ) and Kime (18 in 2007 at FSU in 12 innings).
Turnier is one of three Knights to be selected to an All-Region team three times, joining Best and Alea White.
Turnier was drafted by the Chicago Bandits with the 11th overall pick in the 2016 NPF Draft, the highest by any Knight, and made an immediate impact as a pro, becoming the third UCF alumna to win the NPF Championship, doing so in her rookie year with the Bandits as their closer.
Turnier played three seasons in NPF (2016-2018), making All-NPF honors in 2018, the first UCF Knight to ever make All-NPF honors. Shelby worked as an assistant coach at the University of North Florida for two seasons (2017-2018). She is currently a pitching instructor at Delta Performance Softball in Illinois.
DeLaina Sarden (Volleyball)
Lawrenceville, Georgia’s own DeLaina Sarden (2011-2014) was the first multi-time AVCA All-American in UCF Volleyball history, doing so three times (2012-2014), alongside three All-Region selections (2012-2014).
She will become the fifth volleyball player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, joining Laura Smith (1977-79), Renata Mechikova (1995-97), Tyra Harper (Turner) (1994-97) and Jenny Frank (2000-03).
Sarden was named the CUSA’s Freshman of the Year in 2011 and the AAC’s Player of the Year in 2014, becoming the first of two UCF players to win Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year in a career.
She ranks second in program history in career block solos (85), second in attack percentage (.383), fourth in block assists (377), fourth in total blocks (462) and ninth in blocks per set (1.04).
Sarden helped UCF win its first AAC Championship in 2014 and make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003. She was inducted into the program’s Ring of Honor in 2022.
Nowadays, she is a Principal for an executive search firm.
Kyle Bono (Baseball)
Occasionally pairing with his brother Ryan in the UCF battery, Bono became one of the nation’s dominant relief pitchers in his freshman year in 2003, posting a UCF single-season record 0.83 ERA in 28 appearances.
He will be the eighth baseball player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, joining Tim Barker (1984-87), Tim Foskett (1980-83), Jason Arnold (1998-2001), Chad Mottola (1990-92), Justin Pope (1999-2001), Dee Brown (2002-05) and Drew Butera (2003-05).
As a sophomore, Bono earned All-American honors with an 8-2 record and 1.93 ERA as part of a 1-2 punch along with Matt Fox that helped UCF win the ASUN regular season championship and earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Bono’s 2004 season is also the UCF single-season record in shutouts (5) and the 8th-most single-season strikeouts in program history (107).
Bono ended his college career as UCF’s all-time career ERA leader with 1.66 and tied for the single-season shutout record at five. Both still stand today. He also ranks 5th all-time in career strikeouts per nine innings (10.38).
Nowadays, Bono owns and operates the Bono Baseball & Softball Training facility in Lake Mary.
The 2007 Cheerleading Team
In honor of their National Championship performance, the 2007 UCF Cheerleading Team joins the 2003 squad in the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame. The championship marked the second in program history.
Coached by UCF Athletics Hall of Famer Linda Gooch, the 2007 Knights broke a three-season-long championship streak held by Kentucky. From 1995-2010, Kentucky won 14 of 16 national championships. The two that they lost (2003 and 2007), were both won by the Knights.
The Wildcats took home third place at Walt Disney World in 2007, joining fellow SEC schools Alabama (second), Tennessee (fourth), and LSU (fifth) in the top five. The Knights’ win was depicted in the WETV docuseries Cheerleader U.
Notable athletes on the team include UCF Cheerleading Assistant Coaches Ashley Draper and Randy Brown and Spirit Squad Tumbling Coach Stefan Domenig.
John Hitt (UCF President)
Thank you for teaching us to dream Big— UCF Knights (@UCFKnights) September 14, 2023
President John C. Hitt will be inducted posthumously into the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame in November pic.twitter.com/L8PG7vAiDc
The fourth President of UCF, John Hitt assumed office in 1992 and would remain there for 26 years.
Within months of assuming office, Hitt approved the Knights’ move into the ASUN Conference (then known as the TAAC). He also presided over the UCF Football team’s joining of the MAC in 2001, the Conference USA move in 2005, and the Big East move (which would later become The American) in 2013.
Apart from athletics, Hitt conferred over 260,000 degrees during his tenure and oversaw the formation and development of UCF’s College of Graduate Studies, Burnett Honors College, and College of Medicine.
Hitt also oversaw the construction of several on-campus athletic facilities: the Nicholson Fieldhouse, the first indoor practice facility in the state of Florida, FBC Mortgage Stadium, Addition Financial Arena, John Euliano Park, and the UCF Softball Complex (AKA The Plex). He also played a roll in UCF’s Tennis teams playing their matches at the USTA National Campus, which opened in 2017.
Hitt retired from his position in June 2018 and passed away on Feb. 20, 2023.