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UCF continues with it’s “National Champions” push

Olivia Stacey

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Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama and Georgia may be preparing for Monday night’s College Football Playoff title game in Atlanta, however UCF has already named itself the “National champion.”

It’s not all just talk. The school is putting its money where its mouth is.

UCF is paying bonuses to its former assistant coaches — distributing an additional $300,000 to the nine on-field assistants and $25,000 to the support staff.

UCF has already changed its Twitter handle to “2017 National Champions,” is holding a parade at Disney World, and planning to hang a banner inside Spectrum Stadium. Could a national championship ring be next?

Ring or not, UCF is certainly making a statement.

Despite finishing the regular season 12-0, the Knights were not invited to the College Football Playoff. UCF remains the only unbeaten team in major college football after a Peach Bowl victory on New Year’s day over Auburn — an SEC team who defeated both participants in next Monday’s game.

Following the Knights’ Peach Bowl win, outgoing coach Scott Frost said there seemed to be a “conscious effort” to keep UCF out of playoff consideration.

“It wasn’t right,” Frost said. “… Our guys deserve everything they get, and they deserve more credit from the Committee than what they got.”

UCF taking action to claim a “national championship” has brought attention to the debate over whether schools in the Group of Five are treated equitably in the current playoff structure.

“If you take the long view of the history of college football, there’s an awful lot of national championships being claimed by universities that didn’t accomplish what we accomplished this year in those respective seasons, so we feel we’re more than justified to claim our first national championship, and we think it’ll be the first of many,” UCF athletic director Danny White told ESPN Wednesday. “I don’t think our kids should be penalized because we weren’t respected by the College Football Playoff committee, nor should our program be penalized because we weren’t around 20 or 30 years ago when people were claiming national championships left and right.

“We’re trying to build our program, and we feel very strongly as the only undefeated team and having beat Auburn, who beat both teams competing for the national championship, that we have an extremely sound case to claim the crown.”

While Knights fans are in full support of White’s actions, he’s taken a lot of heat from critics who point to UCF’s strength of schedule. The Knights’ undefeated record in the American was not judged to be as strong as the four teams from power conferences who all made it in with one loss. SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum minced no words when he called UCF’s attempt to claim a national title “laughable.”

“I know it’s fun for the national media to adopt a pet — sometimes it’s for all the right reasons, but this is getting to be a little be ridiculous,” Finebaum said. “UCF… deserves credit… but to demean the College Football Championship that’s going on in Atlanta, the two teams that earned it, that deserve it, is quite frankly, laughable.”

Whether you agree with UCF’s national title claim or not — I think we can all agree that they’re making the most of their perfect season.

Olivia is a multi-faceted sports reporter based in Tampa Bay where she has covered events from the College Football National Championship to the Stanley Cup Final. A native Floridian, she grew up rooting for Tampa’s sports teams, and graduated from East Lake High in Tarpon Springs. Olivia continued her education at the University of Florida where she received her broadcast journalism degree.

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