UCF alum Kenneth Dixon hopes to spark more athletics donations

In an ironic twist of fate, 66-year-old UCF alum and donor Kenneth Dixon was placed in the VIP seat to witness perhaps the most important week in UCF athletics history.Late last week, administrators announced Dixon’s $5 million gift to the athletics department...

UCF alum Kenneth Dixon hopes to spark more athletics donations

In an ironic twist of fate, 66-year-old UCF alum and donor Kenneth Dixon was placed in the VIP seat to witness perhaps the most important week in UCF athletics history.Late last week, administrators announced Dixon’s $5 million gift to the athletics department...

27 February 2017 Monday 10:26
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UCF alum Kenneth Dixon hopes to spark more athletics donations

In an ironic twist of fate, 66-year-old UCF alum and donor Kenneth Dixon was placed in the VIP seat to witness perhaps the most important week in UCF athletics history.

Late last week, administrators announced Dixon’s $5 million gift to the athletics department -- the single largest cash donation ever to the school. UCF athletics will name a 95-acre lot after the real estate mogul titled the Kenneth G. Dixon athletic village.

Dixon, who is a former junior college basketball athlete and passionate sports fan, was then able to watch UCF record its first victory in school history against No. 15 ranked Cincinnati Sunday. Coincidentally, Dixon was recognized during the game for his generous donation and earned a standing ovation from the announced crowd of 5,763 at the game.

“I think it’s a big win for us with regards to what we want to accomplish because it shows what’s possible,” UCF men’s basketball coach Johnny Dawkins said. “It’s one thing to talk about it, but until you can have a win like that where people can say I can see it, it becomes easier for people to understand where we’re headed with this.”

UCF administrators are working to launch projects that help push the athletics program into the national spotlight. And Dixon is already playing a key role.

In fact, Dixon is more than the new Wayne Densch of UCF athletics, taking over as the man behind the largest cash donation. He hopes to be a financial evangelist of sorts as school leaders work to secure funds to complete the athletic village vision within the next few years.

 “We’re not a top 25 sports program, but we should be. I want to get to where we –  at least in the state of Florida – where people talk about the Gators, the Seminoles [and] I want the Knights to be in that conversation. And it can happen,” Dixon told the Sentinel recently during an exclusive interview. “It only takes two things in my opinion, just like it is in business, resources and time.”

The athletic village will feature new facility innovation for the athletic department, including a new leisure center for athletes, a nutrition center and an athletics headquarters office that will sit between the current football offices and field house.

Dixon’s donation brought the school to just over $10 million in total contributions and the Knights need to raise $25 million to complete the village.

“There are a lot of us [potential donors] out there, we just have to tap them and get them to see the vision. That’s what I would hope, and I hope I can be a springboard for that,” Dixon said. “Even if I’m not … it’s going to happen in time. It’s just going to take more time if we can’t get these resources. Either way, (athletics director) Danny White is going to make it happen. I can tell you that.”

Golden Knights Club President Mark Wright first groomed the relationship with Dixon three years ago before White closed the deal with his vision for the future of UCF athletics. Dixon, who said he usually prefers giving toward an endowment for a university rather than a direct cash donation, said he was equally impressed with the quality of coaches UCF had added, including football coach Scott Frost and Dawkins.

Wright and White have pushed to spark renewed interest from fans and potential donors alike.

The number of Diamond Knight donors, those who give UCF athletics at least a $10,000 annual contribution, has jumped from 60 to 120 in the past year. More than 30 individuals made gifts exceeding $100,000 financial commitments in past three years, according to Wright.

“I know we have a lot of people that are passionate about UCF and if folks can follow Ken’s lead and just do whatever they can. If it’s $100,000, if it’s $100 dollars, if it’s $10 million dollars -- if everybody does what they can, the numbers are there,” White said. “I think we can raise more than what we need for these projects.”

The athletic village is geared to add more recruiting cachet and value for current athletes at UCF. Dixon said he already sees an impressive campus, but he believes there are bigger goals on the horizon that can be achieved with more financial support.

“It was nice when I graduated from UCF in 1975. It is awe-inspiring now,” Dixon said. “…If you looked at what’s happened and what can happen in the future, why can’t we be a USC? There’s no reason [why we can’t]. You just need resources and some notoriety with a couple of top 10 teams.”

Matt Williams reflects on senior season with UCF basketball

Matt Williams reflects on senior season with UCF basketball

Matt Williams reflects on senior season with UCF basketball

Matt Williams reflects on senior season with UCF basketball

UCF coach Johnny Dawkins, guard B.J. Taylor and center Tacko Fall preview the Knights' matchup with Tulsa Tuesday. 

UCF coach Johnny Dawkins, guard B.J. Taylor and center Tacko Fall preview the Knights' matchup with Tulsa Tuesday. 

UCF's 2017 football schedule was released by the American Athletic Conference Thursday morning.

UCF's 2017 football schedule was released by the American Athletic Conference Thursday morning.

UCF head coach Scott Frost talks about how they've learned to save scholarship spots after National Signing Day to attract more and better recruits.

UCF head coach Scott Frost talks about how they've learned to save scholarship spots after National Signing Day to attract more and better recruits.

For the second straight season under UCF coach Scott Frost, the Knights finished with a top-three signing class in the American Athletic Conference.

For the second straight season under UCF coach Scott Frost, the Knights finished with a top-three signing class in the American Athletic Conference.

sgreen@orlandosentinel.com

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