Marc Daniels: The Time 25 Years Ago When Bob Ryan Called Them C-F-U

Connecticut Huskies v Central Florida Golden Knights

It was my first season calling UCF sports and here I was headed to the NCAA Basketball Tournament where 11-18 UCF was set to play the number one team in the country, UMass.

Former UCF coach, Kirk Speraw, appeared on the radio show two weeks ago and looked back at that team and its run through the conference tournament and how his team hung with John Calipari's team that featured Marcus Camby. If you missed that interview, you can listen here.

This column is not about the game on March 14, 1996. This is about everything other than the game. UCF hit a bunch of threes in the first half, knocked Camby out of the game briefly and trailed by only four, 43-39, at the half. The Minutemen had a big start to the second half and won 92-70.

UCF won the TAAC tournament and with an 11-18 record, they knew they would be a 16th seed and they knew Calipari's UMass squad would be the opponent, even before the bracket was announced.

In 1994, UCF made its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament, at the D1 level, and faced Glen Robinson and Purdue. That game was played at the famous Rupp Arena in Lexington. 

Before Selection Sunday, I looked at the regional sites and hoped for a great city to head for the regional. Orlando hosted games that year, but an 11-18 team was not going to get to play in their hometown. But there were regionals also in Dallas, Indianapolis, Tucson....oh wait, there was also Providence, Rhode Island. And considering how close Providence was to the UMass campus, I knew it was time to look at the advanced weather forecast to Providence. It called for sunshine and temperatures in the 30s and 40s. Did I mention that it also snowed for an entire week before the regional and upon landing in Providence got off the plan and saw piles and piles of snow all over.?

As the 16th seed, you don't get the nicest hotel. You get the hotel whose lobby needs a paint job and seems to have an odor that smells like your aunt's house who has a cat and knows she hasn't changed the litter box in four years.

I remember the shootaround and how cold the Providence Civic Center was. That's right, we didn't play in an arena or coliseum, we played in a civic center. Even that sounds old.

In order to broadcast games in the NCAA Tournament you have to pay a rights fee. I think the fee in 1996 may have been $400 per game. We weren't the biggest broadcast department back then or the most advanced. I actually brought a handwritten check and delivered it to someone at the shootaround. I am not even sure if that check ever got into the right hands or not.

On gameday, I arrived early at the arena to set up. There are four broadcast positions and my location at one of the press row where my name was neatly written on a card and said: Daniel Marks, CF University. I don't save many items from the many games I have broadcast, but that is one I wish I would have taken home.

During my setup, I noticed one of the media assigned seats next to my broadcast location. It was legendary writer Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe. Ryan is known for his passion for basketball and the Celtics. But Ryan also knew his college basketball and UMass was a big story. In 1996, I am 29 years old and the idea Bob Ryan would be near me for the game was a big deal.

As the teams took the floor for warmups a packed "Civic Center" had that vibe of a big game. Not because anyone thought UCF would give UMass a game but because it was a big deal to see John Calipari's team. But minutes from the tip and still no Bob Ryan.

The game tipped off and my attention was on the game calling the action. After a barrage of three-point baskets, UCF was going toe-to-toe with the number one team in the country. And then it happened.

During a media timeout, someone tapped me on my arm and I turned and it was Bob Ryan, He asked me a few questions about UCF and a couple of their players. I didn't have much time so I spoke quickly. But I said to myself, Bob now probably wanted to talk more at other timeouts. Heck, maybe at the half, we'll stroll back to the press room and grab a coffee.

But Bob was nowhere to be found at the end of the half, halftime or the start of the second half.  

As UMass took control of the game my mind shifted to important things: post game meal, when was I getting home, would I get an aisle seat on the plane. But suddenly Bob was back. With minutes left to play he sat back down and started writing on a pad. There it was. The great wordsmith was doing work, right next to me. I peaked over hoping to see if he might be saying something nice about the Golden Knights(they were still golden then). I saw something that would challenge me. Could I possibly correct the great Bob Ryan? How would he take it? Would he get upset and ruin the friendship we never had?

Ryan had written down C-F-U. He was using that in his story. In 1996, using Central Florida was common. But people used UCF. No one used CFU. 

As the final horn sounded and UCF's effort gave them reason to hold their head high and be proud of their performance, I reminded the audience that the post-game show was coming up. After tossing to a commercial break, I leaned over to Bob and said something like "not too bad a performance for UCF." See what I did there? Hoping Bob might get the message. He gave me a look that said a lot without saying anything. It was a look of "I'm done communicating with you and don't bother me."

Ryan got up and headed back to the press room where Kirk Speraw praised his team's performance and then John Calipari echoed most of what Speraw said.

Whether an editor corrected Ryan or whether Bob did it himself, his column in the Boston Globe the next day was full of classic Ryan. It was full of sarcasm, humor, basketball analysis and history. 

Bob Ryan can probably tell you a lot of the 1996 UMass team and might even remember being at the NCAA Tournament game in Providence. There is no chance he remembers talking to me. He had no reason to remember me.

What did he write? I am glad you asked. Read Bob Ryan's column from March 15, 1996 here

Final Thought: Bob Ryan is 75. He started covering the Boston Celtics in 1969.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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