The College Football Playoff Committee told the American Athletic Conference its 25-0, back-to-back conference champion does not deserve a seat at the table.
The American Commissioner accepted the decision as a fact of life, it would seem, until he spoke up for the Knights again on Wednesday in an interview with CBS Sports.
The man tasked with driving the conference introduced a ‘Power 6’ campaign over the last two years (for better and for worse) and adopted the UCF national championship claim in Rhode Island in July in an effort to stretch out of diplomacy with the ‘Power 5.’
Through the new year, and until the last week of polls and rankings of the 2018 season, the UCF-faithful became frustrated with their parent leader who continued to defer the conversation to a later date while his overall most successful football program staked a claim for not only the respect of its entrenched competitors but the chance to play for the national title.
And after the Wednesday announcement, all punches thrown were pulled as they hit, frustrating fans further.
“I’m not here to attack the committee. It’s a great committee. They’re all good people, and they’re good friends. There are a couple of issues. One, of course, is when you do what they’ve done, what UCF’s done: you win 25 straight games. I was talking to one of the student-athletes on another team — one of the really good players — yesterday, and he said, you know, being a player, that’s pretty remarkable to do that. And unfortunately, there’s this perception of our conference, which is just flat-out wrong, like somehow we play JV football, which is ridiculous. Temple went down and beat Maryland by three touchdowns,” the commissioner said to Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports.
“I’m not singling out anyone, but we’ve got seven so-called P5 wins this year, 33 in the last four years; we’ve had big wins against top programs. The point is, what I think a big concern is they weren’t really seriously considered for [the playoff].”
In defense of the AAC’s man-in-charge, the conference has fought hard for a wide-cast net to propel its group as a whole to the spotlight. The role at the top of 12 member universities and six associate member universities has its greater demands for more than one successful school’s conversation in one sport, albeit the economic engine of 22 sports.
UCF Director of Athletics Danny White has been vocal and unreserved for two seasons against the decisions coming out of the College Football Playoff Committee and all the while sharing those opinions on live television and social media. White struck while the iron was (and still is) hot and burning on rare breakout opportunity. The same high-water mark would not be met by his conference commissioner.
The record shows peers will play to the level you’ll allow – controversial claim, clean live debate, consistent risk in favor of a winning underdog, and the turning tide of opinions lead to recognition of talent:
A victory in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl against LSU on New Year’s Day would not be a conciliatory prize. No matter the three-loss SEC team’s record, the Tigers stand in the way of UCF and the only remote, organic chance of entering the playoff by at least the coveted 4th spot. There is no doubt LSU will be “motivated.”
The slight against a successful team in the ‘lower half’ of college football is both outright and implied: needing to win your schedule, but not enough to do it twice; claiming a wide margin of victory, but by 30-points-per-game, not enough; winning your conference championship – the 13th data point, we know how that goes; all of the above in consecutive years, too easy; winning, and both losing to quality opponents, a convenient, dismissing way of saying the eye test does not work on a team with no pedigree.
Danny White’s post-Peach Bowl, no-turning-back-now campaign for his student-athletes brought College GameDay to the campus when just two weeks earlier a now-all-too-silent, fringe, Florida fan base smothered UCF fans ahead of GameDay before losing to Georgia in Jacksonville. White showcased the Knights on national television at a fraction the budget of larger schools while advocating for an eight-team playoff.
The Big 10, even, in all their mishap, won’t see the playoffs. It will be the second-straight year the conference is out of the final four and the third-straight year its conference champion will be as well.
The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach tweeted a text message exchange on Selection Sunday involving Big 10 Commissioner Jim Delaney; in it, a concession that the final four teams are the worthy.
“Obviously would love to be in the system every year but (I) have respect for those chosen and offer sincere congratulations to players and coaches at Alabama, Clemson, ND, and OU,” Delaney said.
More Jim Delany to @TheAthleticCFB : “Proud of our teams, players and coaches in 2018. We look forward not backwards and appreciate the great conference competition/conference race. … We define ourselves, and CFP does its job with a four-team field.”
— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) December 2, 2018
“That’s the way it’s always been” are dying words. In and out of football.
If never the case, national championship titles would remain contests between ivy league schools as they had been for nearly 40 years, until the Blue entered the scene. To believe the next forty years will pass unchanged? No, even if the “little guy” doesn’t speak up. Monopolists will defend their stake by arguing the competition is not worth considering. Somehow, they still never last.
Even now, The American will attempt to lock its members into a lucrative short-term contract so long as its best performers stay. UCF and others can choose to rake in $6-8 million now (from $2 million) or gamble for an annual payout of up to tens of millions later. A no from those that need to adopt the contract will be a sign of things to come.