Every once in a while an unexpected college football team will rattle off an impressive win streak and shoot up the rankings. Think Boise State’s perfect season in 2009. Think TCU in 2010. Or just take a look at the present day UCF Knights, which have won 25 straight games. None of those teams competed for a national championship.
It’s not uncommon for such teams to develop huge, short-lived egos that may deflate after a few losses. As it seems for UCF and its fans, they’ve let a couple really good seasons cloud their judgement and forgotten their program’s roots.
I think it’s time for a history lesson.
It’s 2006. Florida has just beat the living crud out of UCF in The Swamp. The scoreboard reads 42-0. Chris Leak threw for 352 yards and four touchdowns. Tim Tebow ran for one of his own. Percy Harvin scored, too. UF goes on to win its second ever national championship that year before winning another two years later.
The Knights, then part of Conference USA, were supposed play the Gators again in 2007. They instead bailed on the game and were forced to pay Florida a $100,000 buyout, according to documents obtained by ESPN.
Yep, that’s right. UCF once paid Florida to NOT have to play them, and the two teams haven’t faced off since.
Central Florida, a team that launched in 1996 as an independent, likely saw a chance to take steps forward by scheduling a team like the Gators. Five of UCF’s first 11 seasons up to that point went down as winning seasons. In theory, that’s how you build a program. That’s how FSU — originally a girls-only school before men were allowed to attend, and its modern team formed in the late 1940s — did when Florida was already well-established. Bobby Bowden helped grow the program, first joining the ACC in 1991 before winning two national championships in the 1990s and installing the Seminoles as a legit major program. But reaching that point takes decades. It doesn’t happen overnight.
Now that the Knights have put together two pretty remarkable seasons, they expect the world. UCF Athletic Director Danny White has refused Florida’s offer of a two-for-one series featuring two games in Gainesville and one in Orlando. He says that “Top-10 programs don’t schedule two-for-one series where the balance is not in their favor.”
Bingo, Dan Mullen.
Of course, anyone outside of Orlando can see the obvious here. UCF needs a team like Florida on its schedule much more than Florida needs UCF. That’s why the Knights have found themselves outside the College Football Playoff bubble two years in a row.
That’s also why Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin told White that “UF isn’t in the market for home-and-home or a neutral site games against non-Autonomy 5 opponents” in emails obtained by the Orlando Sentinel.
What’s also obvious is that UCF isn’t a top-10 program. It is a top-10 team, which is an important distinction. Top-10 programs do more than win games against mediocre teams. They generate hundreds of millions of dollars for their schools. Think Alabama, Ohio State or Texas. Florida can even be considered a top-10 program.
In this Forbes story, UCF isn’t even on college football’s top 25 most valuable teams in terms of revenue. Not even Oregon, Georgia or Florida State crack the top 10.
Add in the fact that UCF’s appearance versus Auburn in last season’s Peach Bowl produced the worst TV rating of all the New Year’s Six bowls, and you can see why the bowl committee would rather keep the Knights out of the playoff.
If UCF doesn’t step down from its high horse, will it ever find a way into the playoff?