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Central Florida is really going all-out in claiming itself as the national champion.
After UCF upset Auburn in the Peach Bowl, athletic director Danny White was quick to call the 13-0 Knights — the only undefeated in FBS — national champions. He and the rest of the athletic department are not backing down from that boast.
In an interview on 96.9 The Game Wednesday morning, White confirmed that a national championship parade would take place. Wednesday afternoon, the school announced it would be at Disney World on Sunday.
UCF will hang a championship banner in Spectrum Stadium, too.
“We’re definitely getting a banner,” White said. “We won a national championship and we’re going to treat it as such. These kids deserve that. Like other football programs do all across the country, you claim a national championship, you’re the only undefeated team in a season, we’re going to hang a banner.”
As SB Nation’s Jason Kirk detailed Wednesday morning, college football programs have been claiming national titles for decades. Why should UCF be any different? The fact that UCF beat Auburn, a team that knocked off both CFP title game participants, Alabama and Georgia, makes the Knights’ claim even stronger.
“We feel strongly that our football team is a national champion. In looking at research and what’s happened across college football through the years, there’s tons of examples whether there’s a dispute on one or two or three teams, even four teams in some years. They feel like they have claim to a national championship,” White said. “But I don’t know how you don’t call this team national champions when they went undefeated and in the last game of the year they beat the team that beat both the teams competing in the CFP championship.”
Of course in the playoff era, a declaration like this from UCF will get some blowback. White doesn’t mind.
“We’re in the fourth year now of the CFP,” White said. “That doesn’t need to define us. Before the playoff structure, teams like us were calling themselves national champion.”
White says the school needs to fight and stick its neck out for a team that accomplished as much as the Knights did this season.
“Our kids deserve for us to fight for them with what happened this year — both things inside our control, which would be the 13 games we won, and things outside our control, which would be the fact that nobody else went undefeated and the season that Auburn had beating both Georgia and Alabama,” White said. “The way this whole thing played out, I don’t know how in any kind of equitable system you don’t consider us the national champion. I think we need to fight for that. Our kids have earned that.”
This isn’t the first time White has spoken out in this manner. In the second-to-last rankings from the College Football Playoff selection committee, UCF was ranked No. 14. At that point, White told Yahoo Sports he “couldn’t accept the lack of respect” for the American Athletic Conference. A week later, after UCF beat Memphis to win the AAC title, the Knights were No. 12 in the final CFP rankings.
Following the Peach Bowl win, UCF coach Scott Frost (now at Nebraska full-time) said it “looked like a conscious effort” from the CFP committee throughout the season to “make sure they didn’t have a problem if they put (UCF) too high.”
On Tuesday, CFP executive director Bill Hancock told ESPN that the committee “respected UCF” before pointing out the team’s strength of schedule.
“To qualify for the playoff, teams need to play tough schedules against good teams — that is the way for all teams to stand out and be ranked high by the committee,” Hancock said. “UCF is an excellent team, but you still have to take into account who each team played and defeated during the regular season.”
White didn’t buy that explanation. He thinks the AAC deserves more respect and said there is “an inherent bias” on the committee “that needs to be called out.”
“Our wins in conference should matter a lot more,” White said. “I don’t think they gave us enough credit for beating a really good Memphis team twice. UCLA found out Memphis is pretty good. I don’t think they gave us enough credit for beating a really good South Florida team. We beat Navy at Navy. Navy had won 17 straight home games — the nation’s longest home winning streak. Those are hard games. If you’re in the Pac-12, you get credit for your in-conference games, but we don’t seem to be getting the same credit. That needs to change.”
In the CFP era, the AAC has lamented the “Power Five” label for the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC and tried to market the “Power Six,” where the AAC is included. White backs that sentiment.
“It’s not just UCF, it’s our conference. We’re different. They want to lump us in to the Group of Five. In the BCS era, there were six high major conferences and the Big East was one of them. We’re what’s left of Big East football and we’re actually, I think, stronger than Big East football was for quite some time,” White said.
“We’re way closer in terms of how we compensate our coaches, how we fund our programs, the level of recruits we get and the way we compete to Power Five conferences. Most years, we’re better than several of the Power Five conferences. We strongly believe there’s a Power Six, not a Power Five and I think the committee needs to recognize that.”
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