Football

Is Florida home to the college football champs? One school thinks so — and others agree

The UCF Knights celebrate defeating the Auburn Tigers 34-27 to win the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Jan. 1, 2018, in Atlanta. UCF went undefeated this season.
The UCF Knights celebrate defeating the Auburn Tigers 34-27 to win the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Jan. 1, 2018, in Atlanta. UCF went undefeated this season. Getty Images

The University of Central Florida, which went undefeated in the 2017 season but was not part of the College Football Playoff, has declared itself national champions. And now, the Florida Legislature could be considering passing a resolution saying just that as well.

After the Knights defeated Auburn 34-27 in the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Day, Kevin Cate, a Democratic consultant and Auburn University graduate, tweeted that the Florida Legislature should consider a resolution proclaiming UCF as 2017 national champions.

“They’re undefeated, and they beat a team that beat both of the teams in the national championship game, in my Auburn Tigers,” Cate told the Orlando Sentinel on Wednesday. “It may be symbolic in nature, but the players, coaches and school deserve it. … I think anyone who was watching that Auburn game — even if you’re an Auburn fan like me — if you didn’t get the chills watching that, I can’t help you.”

And Cate has gotten some traction, at least on Twitter. At least five state representatives and senators have expressed support, including Rep. Kionne McGhee from Miami and Sen. Oscar Braynon II from Miami Gardens.

Fred Piccolo, spokesman for Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and a UCF graduate, also supported the notion, writing in an email to the Orlando Sentinel “I vote HELL YES.”

Regardless of what happens in the Florida Legislature or in Monday’s national championship game between No. 3 Georgia and No. 4 Alabama, UCF is not backing down on the notion that it is and should be considered a national champion this year.

The Knights finished the 2017 season 13-0 and were the only team in the country to go undefeated this year. Among those 13 wins, four came over teams ranked in the top 25 heading into the postseason.

However, despite holding a perfect record, a conference title and the top-ranked scoring offense in the country — averaging 48.2 points per game — UCF never had the chance to compete in the College Football Playoff. The selection committee ranked the Knights, who play in the American Athletic Conference, 12th in the final poll, behind one Power Five conference team with three losses (Auburn) before bowl season began and five others that had two losses. One spot below UCF at No. 13 was 9-4 Stanford.

UCF coach Scott Frost, who turned the Knights from winless to undefeated in just two years, said after the Peach Bowl that he felt there was a “conscious effort” from the 13-member committee to keep UCF out of the top 10.

College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock told ESPN he stood behind the selection committee’s reasoning for ranking UCF 12th and said the committee “respected UCF.” Selection committee chairman Kirby Hocutt also told ESPN he “strongly believe(s) the selection committee got it right this season.”

“Fans will forever disagree with the rankings,” Hocutt said, “but as the selection committee, our goal is to rank the top 25 teams and get the four very best teams in the country for inclusion into the semifinals, and I would say mission accomplished.”

ESPN radio host Dan Le Batard was among one of the many UCF supporters following their win in the Peach Bowl and said the Knights “could have been the most suprising national champion in the history of football” if given the chance to compete for a national title.

But since UCF wasn’t afforded that chance, the school decided to take things into his own hands.

The name for the Knights’ official football Twitter account (@UCF_Football) is now “2017 National Champions.”

UCF President John C. Hitt called the school’s “undefeated, national champion Knights” an “inspiration” after they “created a defining moment for UCF.”

The school is holding a parade at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom on Sunday to celebrate the team’s perfection. Athletic director Danny White is even paying the coaching staff the bonuses in their contract that they receive for winning a national championship and tweeted that the school would be raising a banner signifying a national championship in Spectrum Stadium.

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