Starting when the schools first met on the gridiron in 2005, some writers dubbed the rivalry the "War on I–4". When the series resumed in 2013, administrators from both schools named it the "I–4 Corridor Clash". Both names refer to Interstate 4, an interstate highway that runs through both Orlando and Tampa in Central Florida. In 2016, when the schools announced the official competition, they formally adopted the "War on I-4" name.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (October 2016)
Founded in 1956 and 1963, respectively, the University of South Florida and the University of Central Florida are located 82.6 miles (132.9 km) apart from each other.[a] The schools' distance, combined with their athletic programs concurrent establishment and rise to NCAA Division I helped create a natural rivalry between the two schools. The first meeting between the Florida Technical University Knights of the Pegasus (UCF) and the University of South Florida Golden Brahman was in 1972 in a basketball game in Tampa. The Golden Brahman won this game, 115–96. Since that time, the schools have played each other in 9 other sports.
On September 21, 2016, both schools announced the official recognition of the “War On I-4” rivalry series. The schools compete each school year in 14 sports for bragging rights, with each sports team's record counting equally toward a final tally for each program. The winner each year will take possession of a large trophy shaped like the iconic I-4 road sign, which will be displayed on their campus for the following year. The winner of the annual Thanksgiving weekend, football clash will also receive a similarly shaped “War On I-4” trophy.
Beginning on September 21, 2016, when the rivalry series was officially established, USF and UCF score their head-to-head competitions in 14 sports programs represented at both universities, with each sport being worth 6 points. Nine programs (football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball, men’s tennis and women’s tennis) compete head-to-head during the regular season. The five programs that don’t compete directly against each other (cross country, golf, and track and field) determine their winner based on the best overall conference post-season performance of the teams. The performances of both athletic programs in the annual NCAA Graduation Success Rate will be used as a tiebreaker, if necessary. Points will be awarded per victory in sports with multiple meetings in a given season.
Discussions about scheduling a game between the Knights and Bulls began shortly after South Florida fielded its first NCAA Division I-AA team in 1997. Supporters suggested such a rivalry could help generate interest and revenue for both burgeoning teams. The prospect became more serious when the Bulls entered Division I-A in 2001 and was very popular among fans, but as it would be a non-conference series, difficulties arose. UCF had overbooked its future schedules and would have to break commitments. Meanwhile, South Florida officials worried that their young program stood to take in less revenue from a home-and-away series against UCF than it would with an additional home game on the schedule. Serious planning for a series did not commence until 2003.
By 2003, serious discussions resumed as both schools had joined conferences – South Florida joined Conference USA (C-USA) in 2001, while UCF joined the Mid-American Conference (MAC) in 2002. That year, the schools' athletics directors met and agreed to schedule games for the 2005 and 2006 seasons. Subsequently, South Florida joined the Big East, an Automatic Qualifying conference, in 2005, while UCF joined C-USA the same year. The Bulls won both games, which both drew crowds over 45,000. The series was extended for 2007 and 2008 as part of an agreement with C-USA that the Bulls play a member of the conference annually for five years. South Florida won these games as well, including a 64–12 blowout in 2007. South Florida declined to schedule further games in the series, indicating it wished to pursue more competitive and high-profile opponents and teams from outside Florida.
The two schools discussed scheduling more games over the next several years, including a failed proposal by South Florida to play at the Citrus Bowl in 2011.
Conference realignment shed new light on the rivalry in 2011, when UCF was admitted to the Big East Conference (later realigned as the American Athletic Conference). For the first time, both schools were part of the same conference, and the rivalry resumed as a regular conference match beginning with the 2013 season. The games have been scheduled for Thanksgiving weekend. In 2013, UCF pulled off a late 23–20 win against the Bulls in Orlando to earn its first victory against South Florida. In May 2014, The American announced that as of the 2015 season, both schools will be a member of the East Division.
A crowd of 45,139, second-largest (until that time) in South Florida's relatively brief football history, watched the Bulls build a 21–0 halftime lead on the strength of a relentless running attack that finished with 326 yards. Andre Hall ran for 155 yards and scored two touchdowns Saturday night to help South Florida beat UCF 31–14.
UCF was held to 45 yards rushing and was shut out until Joe Burnett returned a third-quarter punt 60 yards to the South Florida 4, setting up Steven Moffett's touchdown run on the next play. Moffett also threw a 9-yard TD pass to Brandon Marshall late in the fourth quarter.
One play after Hall nearly scored on a 17-yard run, Pat Julmiste added South Florida's last TD on 1-yard quarterback sneak late in the third quarter. Kyle Bronson added a fourth-quarter field goal to make it 31–7.
South Florida freshman quarterback Matt Grothe threw for 302 yards and ran for another 73, eclipsing Marquel Blackwell's 239-yard game against New Haven in 1999. Blackwell also had a 238-yard game that same year against Liberty. Meanwhile, Grothe now has the top three rushing games by a freshman quarterback in South Florida history, including his 73 yards. He had 82 rushing yards against Florida International and 58 in the season opener against McNeese State. Blackwell had held the record with 57 yards against Southwest Texas State in 1999.
The Bulls defeated the cross-state Knights 64–12 in front of a home crowd announced at 65,948. The Bulls held the Knights to just 145 total yards and Kevin Smith, who came in as the nation's leading rusher at 172 yards per game, to just 55 yards in one half of play, the only time during the season that a defense held Smith to under 100 yards. South Florida gained 543 total yards—over three times as much as UCF—while holding the ball three fewer minutes than the Knights. UCF scored their only offensive points—a Kyle Israel rush for a touchdown, and a field goal—in the first half. UCF and South Florida would also exchange safeties.
In what was the final meeting of the War on I-4 for many years, the visiting Bulls downed the Knights 31–24 in a closely contested overtime battle. With UCF trailing 24–7 late in the 4th quarter, quarterback Michael Greco threw two touchdown passes in less than a minute, including passes of 13 yards to Corey Rabazinski and 31 yards to Rocky Ross, to tie the game at 24 with 1:40 remaining in regulation. South Florida won the game when they stopped UCF on a 4th and short in overtime.
UCF debuted their black helmets for the first and only time for this matchup (worn with gold jerseys and black pants). Despite turning the ball over five times, the Knights found a way to earn their first victory in the I-4 Corridor Clash against South Florida. Running back Storm Johnson fumbled the ball on UCF's first two drives, including a drop at the Bulls 10 yard line. Trailing with under five minutes left in regulation, QB Blake Bortles found WR Breshad Perriman for a 52-yard go-ahead touchdown reception. With 1:20 left in the fourth quarter and charging down the field, South Florida quarterback Mike White was intercepted by CB Jordan Ozerities, and he returned the ball 52 yards to the Bulls 37 yard line. The Knights ran out the clock for the victory.
After a scoreless first quarter, Justin Holman led the Knights on a 17-play, 80 yard scoring drive to open the second quarter. The Knights held the Bulls offense to a three-and-out on the next series, which was followed by an 8-play, 73 yard scoring drive by UCF capped off by a 21-yard run from Rannell Hall. UCF held South Florida to 200 yards of total offense, 5 yards rushing, and forced three turnovers on downs. The Bulls missed a field goal and were not able to convert on three UCF turnovers.
After scoring a field goal on their first drive, the Knights were shut out by the Bulls defense. The Bulls held UCF to 203 yards of total offense and caught two interceptions. Scoring 44 unanswered points and gaining 455 offensive yards, South Florida handed UCF their twelfth loss of the season, guaranteeing their second winless campaign since 2004. For the first time since 1995, UCF wore black jerseys and black pants. USF, on the other hand, completed one of the biggest single-season turnarounds in college football history to finish 8–4 after a 1–3 start.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (November 2016)
The 2016 game was the first official War on I-4 football game and both teams entered the game having already secured bowl eligibility (UCF was 6–5 and USF was 9–2), for the first time since the 2007 meeting. Following the game USF was ranked in both the AP and Coaches poll.
The two schools began competing against one another in men's basketball during the 1971–1972 season and have met thirty-three times to date. The Bulls currently hold a 22–12 edge over the Knights, however two Knights' victories were vacated due to NCAA sanctions. The 2013–2014 season marked the first time the schools would compete in the same conference, with UCF holding a 5–2 series lead in American Athletic Conference play. USF holds the longest win streak in the series having won nine consecutive games against their rivals, while the Knights have never won more than four in a row against the Bulls.
The schools claim two different baseball records and results, due to when they declare the first meeting occurred. According to USF, they lead the women's basketball series 25–9, with the first meeting occurring on January 20, 1973, with a USF 41–30 win in Tampa. According to UCF and the official War on I-4 website, the first meeting occurred on January 12, 1978, with a USF 81–70 win in Tampa, resulting in a 22–6 USF lead in the series. USF had not lost a game in the series since the 1980–81 season until UCF beat the #22 USF on February 14, 2017.
The schools claim two different baseball records and results, due to when they declare the first meeting occurred. According to USF, they lead the baseball series 68–62, with the first meeting occurring on March 13, 1971, with USF winning 5–1 in Tampa. However, according to UCF and the official War on I-4 website, the first meeting did not occur until FTU's 6–3 victory over USF on April 12, 1973, in Orlando, giving USF only a 65–63 lead in the series. Since that time, the two schools have played each other at least twice per year, except for 1981–1984, in which they did not face each other. The two teams have played four times in the postseason, splitting the games 2–2.
Softball was first played between the teams on April 16, 2003 in a double-header in Tampa. USF won both games 9–0 and 5–4 respectively. The two schools have played each other five times in the post-season, with USF holding a 3–2 advantage while UCF has won the most recent post-season matchup, 3–1, in the 2015 American Athletic Conference Softball Tournament semi-finals.
The two schools claim different records in Men's Soccer, due to when they declare the first meeting occurred. Unlike other sports, UCF and the official War on I-4 website claim the first meeting occurred earlier than USF does. According to UCF and the official War on I-4 website, the first meeting occurred in 1975, with USF winning 4–1, giving USF a 24–5–4 lead. However, according to USF, the first meeting did not occur until USF's 2–1 win on September 26, 1979 in Tampa, giving USF a 21–5–3 lead.
Unlike Men's Soccer, the two schools claim the same records in Women's Soccer. The first meeting occurred in 1998 with USF winning 4–0 at home in Tampa. UCF currently leads the series 10–2–2, after the most recent meeting ended in a double overtime tie in Tampa on October 7, 2016.