By: Travis Kilpatrick
How should UCF and the NCAA handle UCF’s undefeated season?
On Monday night January 8th, the CFP National Championship will be played in Atlanta between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs and the winner will be crowned by the NCAA as National Champions of college football. However, there is a large group of people (mostly centralized in Orlando, Florida) that believe the National Champion was already decided in that same stadium one week earlier. On January 1st in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl the UCF Knights beat the Auburn Tigers 34-27 to cap off the only undefeated season in D-1 college football, and UCF nation and UCF athletic director Danny White are calling the Knights the true National Champion. So how should those two entities handle this historic season that UCF had? Here is one writer’s opinion on the matter.
How should UCF handle it?
Let me preface this section by stating that I am a UCF alumnus and 100% devoted to my UCF Knights on and off the field. I love everything about the school and would choose it over and over again if I had to. However, I will also say that I do not fully agree with the position that athletic director Danny White as well as many fans have taken on handling this situation.
I believe that UCF is among the best teams in the nation this season and would have a realistic shot of winning if given the opportunity to play the winner of Alabama vs. Georgia. I will stand my ground against any doubter that says that we haven’t played anybody of worth or that Auburn wasn’t motivated for the Peach Bowl. But with that being said, I do not believe that Danny White and the fans should be dying on the “We are the true National Champions” hill that they seem to be dying on. The system is flawed, that is for sure, and proclaiming that we could potentially be the best team in the nation but nobody gave us a chance is very much warranted. However, I do not think we should make a claim to the National Championship at all. I think it gives an air of validity to the description that the NCAA has given it.
Our play on the field and the fact that we are the lone unbeaten team in the FBS speaks volumes about our team and the quality of product that we put on the field every week. Especially considering the fact that Hurricane Irma tried to destroy our season before it even really got started. I personally do not want to be considered the champion by the NCAA in it’s current system. I want to stand true to the fact that I believe the system is flawed and that we are actually better than the system itself. I want to use this as a platform to promote the little guy. The 2006 Boise States, the 2008 Utahs, the 2010 TCUs. Not to mention the Power 5 conference teams that have had an argument for National Champion as well. I will be buying shirts that say “Only unbeaten team” but I will not be buying a “National Champion” shirt. I believe that makes us look like we are being sore losers and complaining that the NCAA won’t call us National Champions when, in reality, we are not National Champions based on the system that is in place.
We don’t need to attack the CFP committee or the team that wins the CFP National Championship game on Monday; we need to attack the system.
On the flip side of that, I defend the goal behind Danny White’s National Champion strategy. If I were there, I would absolutely attend the parade. Not sure about the banner unveiling. I just want to make sure that his purpose behind the claims is not “We got screwed by the NCAA” but rather “This system needs to be changed”. We may never go undefeated again, but someone in the G5 will, and we need to fight for them as passionately as we are currently fighting for ourselves.
How should the NCAA handle it?
I believe the NCAA is in a much tougher position than the fans of UCF. It’s not as easy for them to say that the system that they have in place isn’t perfect, even when everyone knows that is that case. I think a solution that could work is handing UCF the end of season AP #1 and having them and the winner of the CFP National Championship game be Co-National Champions while they work on a system that can work for the future. That way each school can argue until their head falls off who the better team is but the NCAA will have acknowledged that the system is wrong and that there is no real way to tell which team was truly better this season.
That solution will not happen since it would be ridiculous to jump UCF over all of those other teams that won their respective bowl games, but it would only be a band-aid fix even if they did choose that route. Their real mission moving forward needs to be creating a better system for finding a true National Champion instead of a money generating National Champion. I have a few methods that could potentially work.
My co-host on the podcast Eddie Melville and I have spoken at length about our plan for an 8-team playoff. It would include the five P5 champs, the highest ranked G5 school and two wild card teams chosen by the committee. While it would still have some problems given that there is still the subjectivity of who the committee ranks as the top G5 school and which two teams are put in as wild cards, it would solve the problems of conference championships not meaning anything as well as the G5 being left out completely. It would also be the easiest to install since the committee could stay the same and it would only add one more game to the postseason for the two championship teams. I feel like that is the best current fix as far as playoff systems are concerned.
I have also heard points being made about a 12-team playoff that would include all P5 and G5 conference champions so that it means something in every conference to win your conference championship and then two wild cards. I like this idea aside from the fact that it would cause controversies with the four byes and just seems like it would be more of a headache to install than the 8-team playoff.
Another thing that I think the NCAA needs to install in order to try to fix some of the strength of schedule arguments is force the best P5 teams to play G5 champions. It’s no secret that teams such as Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, and Oklahoma do not want to play good G5 teams because they stand to lose much more than they stand to gain. If the NCAA forced the P5 regular season champs to keep a schedule spot open and make them play a G5 regular season champ it would allow for many more opportunities for the G5 schools to prove their worth against actual talent instead of having to settle for the Marylands and UNCs of the world. For example, this year Georgia, USC, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Clemson would be required to keep a spot on their schedule open for one opponent between UCF, FAU, Toledo, Fresno State, and Troy. There could be a rotating yearly schedule for which G5 conference plays which P5 conference so there is no arguing that one conference always gets the toughest games. It would not be a perfect solution but it would at least give the G5 schools something to look forward to every year so that they don’t feel like they are just the redheaded stepchild when it comes to scheduling.
Is there a perfect solution? No, of course there isn’t. 68 teams make the NCAA basketball tournament and some teams still complain that they were left out. There will always be someone being left out and someone making excuses for why they lost a game that they feel like they shouldn’t have lost. That’s the nature of competition. It’s what we all live for. It’s the reason why College Football is so great.
This post is the opinion of one man and sure to bring controversary from the readers, and if you’ve read along this far then I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Please comment on this post or write us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your opinions. Thanks for reading and, as always, be a stud not a scrub!