Sure, I get it. The University of Central Florida had a great season last year and, then, got all up in their feelings. Yet, I’m not so sure I wouldn’t have done the same thing.
I love the underdog and little guy. “Ru-dy! Ru-dy! Ru-dy!”
Heck, I even have my own tiny connection to the UCF program as my alma mater, North Alabama, used to play them in Division II way back in the ’80s. The Knights reclassified shortly thereafter and are claiming a piece of the FBS national title for 2017 while the Lions just earned a win in their first-ever game as an FCS team last Saturday. Definitely a different path those two programs have taken over the past three decades.
However, per the NCAA, the sensational national championship claim is now over for the Knights. Alabama defeated Georgia to win the College Football Playoff and that’s it.
But, it’s sure taken us a while to get here.
Here’s What Happened
So, you know the general story. Central Florida opened up their season with crazy scheduling issues due to Hurricane Harvey including two canceled games against Maine and Georgia Tech. Once the season was back to normal, they did well in the rest of their games including capping off with a scoreboard fest in a rescheduled game with Memphis.
When the final College Football Playoff poll was released, the AAC champions were ranked 12th just after a 2-loss Washington squad and before a 3-loss Stanford team. This ranking put them into a Peach Bowl matchup with Auburn, which is the scenario that sent minds into overdrive with whataboutisms.
The cauldron was full of all of the components needed to stir the spell together for a win. And they did just that.
UCF Celebrates and Incites a Digital Riot
The perfect storm was complete as the Knights won the Peach Bowl. And, right on cue following the 7-point win over Auburn, AD White found a camera and proclaimed again, “National Champs. Undefeated.” After UCF sent the first shot just weeks prior, that’s all it took for the media campaign to go into full swing. This has all been documented in several other articles.
And, so, it went on and on. There were tweets, posts, memes, billboards, a parade at Disney World, rings, banners, a decked-out university police cruiser, a decree by the Governor, and a vote in the state legislature over commemorative license plates. There’s even been a war on Wikipedia (which hasn’t fully stopped).
They went all out! Why wouldn’t they? In their minds, they were riding the wave to right the wrong that was done to them and their team and their school and their city.
It was all enough for some, including USA Today writer George Schroeder, to ask if the “celebration” had gone too far. Even Golf Digest chimed in with a confused look while an Auburn player deemed UCF’s claim, “a little extra”. Most felt they knew the truth of the matter, but Knights fans (and some in the media) persisted even after last season’s head coach, Scott Frost, jumped off the bandwagon a few months back following his move to Nebraska.
In May, Nick Saban addressed the questions about UCF by saying:
“I guess anybody has the prerogative to claim anything,” Saban told USA Today. “But self-proclaimed is not the same as actually earning it. And there’s probably a significant number of people who don’t respect people who make self-proclaimed sort of accolades for themselves.”
Colley Matrix in the News
While the Colley Matrix is pretty far out in left field in relation to current relevance for determining the college football national champion, it is certainly a legitimate rating system recognized by the NCAA. Of course, the rating system is no stranger to the news. Oddly, on at least three occasions it has involved Alabama.
The NCAA deems the Colley Matrix, developed by Statistician Wes Colley, to be “a mathematically based power rating.” They used the computer rating in culmination with other computer polls during the BCS era to determine that organization’s standings.
Back in 2010, an omission of entering an FCS playoff game score caused errors in the BCS rankings used to determine Bowl pairings that year. While it did swap LSU and Boise State’s positions in the BCS rankings, in the long run, no pairings would have changed, Yet, it didn’t keep Boise State from getting pretty miffed at the mistake. Alabama and Nebraska’s rankings were also affected but didn’t change their place in the BCS standings.
Alabama fans will recall even more than that, I’m sure, when the Colley Matrix ranked Notre Dame No. 1 at the end of the 2012 season – even after the Fighting Irish lost to the Crimson Tide by 28 in the BCS National Championship Game that year. That outcome, coupled with the error from 2010, soured college football fans even more on the use of computer rankings and the BCS overall.
A year later, the postseason system born in the SEC offices in Birmingham – the BCS – was dead.
NCAA Record Book
When the official record books were recently released, Central Florida was recognized for being the top-ranked team in the Colley Matrix ratings. Knights Nation flipped out again. They all claimed “Mission Accomplished” and boasted a bit more on social media.
Interestingly, Notre Dame’s top ranking by the Colley Matrix in 2012 was not notated.
Once word got around, they jumped on it like rabid dogs on fresh meat. Enough with preseason pontifications, this was news! The frenzy fed into their fan base enough that word got out of an Orlando attorney planning to fly a banner over Camping World Stadium for Alabama’s kickoff there against Louisville.
That may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.
And then on NCAA.com
Within a couple of days, the NCAA finally “spoke”. Last Monday, comes a nonchalant release on their website “College football championship history”. It raised my eyebrow because of the timing and media attention that the UCF claim continued to garner.
Sure enough. There they were and there they weren’t. The listing starts with 2017 and only lists Alabama as the organization’s recognized national champion for that season, laying to rest any controversy that the media and die-hards in Orlando had hoped to stoke.
If you go to the Wikipedia page of NCAA FBS football champions listings, you see down below the recent update from the NCAA the convoluted mess that folks have gone through to try to determine the champions based on who anyone in the world named a national champion or ranked No. 1 in a particular season.
The release by the NCAA should put an end to the madness, at least of 2017.
You Be You
But, let’s keep it real, folks. What UCF wanted was to be heard and validated (well, at first) as legitimate contenders for a title. Not just their team in that particular year but for all of those on the outside looking in of the P5 country club. We’ve heard it for decades from lots of programs. I get it!
Again, I’m not so sure I wouldn’t be celebrating and stirring the pot, too, if it was my North Alabama Lions that had come up with a magic mix of wins and conspiracy theories to dub ourselves co-national champs with the Crimson Tide. What a day that would be in Florence!
However, I’m glad the NCAA finally clarified all of this and we can move into the new season after having gone through an array of emotions before coming back to reality.
“Bless their hearts” and Roll Tide!
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(Photo Courtesy GridironNow.com)