The founding father of the UCF men’s basketball program, Eugene “Torchy” Clark, passed away Wednesday morning in Orlando. Clark, 80, was an icon at UCF, on and off the court. Not only was he responsible for starting the men’s basketball program in 1969, he aptly served many additional years in the UCF College of Education.
“We’re deeply saddened by the news of Torchy’s passing,” said UCF head men’s basketball coach Kirk Speraw. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his children and the entire Clark family. Torchy was much more than a basketball coach, he was the founder of our program, an icon. He touched the lives of thousands of students at this university as an educator. He was one of a kind and will be greatly missed by our basketball team and university community.”
Clark’s first team in 1969-70 played its first game before the squad even had a nickname. He would go on to extend his legendary career through the 1983 season, compiling a record of 274-89 (.754). Under Clark’s direction, UCF was ranked in the top 10 nationally at the Division II level for seven consecutive years and he guided the Knights to six NCAA Division II Tournament appearances. He led UCF to five Sunshine State Conference championships, and, in 1978, he guided UCF to the Division II Final Four. Clark was voted Sunshine State Conference Coach of the Year four times and was named the conference’s coach of the decade.
In 1998, Clark, along with his son, Bo, UCF’s all-time leading scorer from his graduation in 1980 until just this past season, and the only UCF player to ever have his jersey retired, received the highest honor UCF Athletics can bestow on one of its own when he was inducted into the inaugural class of the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame. In 2001, Mike Clark, joined his father and brother in the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame, for his accomplishments as a player in his father’s program from 1969-73.
Prior to taking the reins at UCF, the Appleton, Wis., native spent 10 seasons in his hometown as the head men’s basketball coach at Xavier High School, where his teams registered 208 wins and just 26 losses. In addition to the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame, Clark is a member of the Florida Sports Hall of Fame, the Sunshine State Conference Hall of Fame and the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.