As far back as you can go, national championships have been disputed and split throughout the sport. Before UCF’s 13-0 run, the most recent serious threat of a split title came from Utah in 2011, when the state’s then-attorney general filed (and later dropped) a suit against the BCS on antitrust grounds. The Mountain West’s Utes went 13-0 back in 2008 and finished No. 2 after blasting Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
The Knights aren’t going quite as far as their fellow snubbed non-powers, but they are unabashedly claiming that, as college football’s only undefeated team, they are national champions. We’ll keep updating this as the Knights’ claim develops. Here’s how UCF’s title claim played out throughout the college football season.
UCF is dealing with the effects of Hurricane Harvey, which forces two games to be canceled and another (a conference game against Memphis) to be “called off” and rescheduled. A canceled game against Georgia Tech has no make up date.
UCF’s offense is fully cranked up, scoring 38 points or more in every game. It racks up 63 in a win over ECU. It’s taking a toll on the spirit squad.
The struggle is real...— UCF Knights (@UCFKnights) October 15, 2017
63 points, 63 push-ups. @UCF_Football put @UCF_CheerTeam to work! #SCtop10 pic.twitter.com/KdH6nZMpsI
The Knights get past their toughest test to date, taking Navy down 31-21. Now the talk about UCF getting the Group of 5’s New Year’s Six bowl bid is legit. The spot goes to the highest ranked G5 champion. To rep the Midshipmen during the week in practice, coach Scott Frost suited up.
Who is that under center? pic.twitter.com/ECoiHFdYCw— Gerrod Lambrecht (@GerrodLambrecht) October 17, 2017
UCF is 6-0, and people are starting to notice what the team in Orlando is doing on the football field. Powered by a potent offense, Frost spoke with SB Nation at the time about how it works.
“We ran a lot of inside zone last year and had limited success,” Frost said. “I think going into this year with our guys understanding schemes and everything better, we wanted to mix it up a lot more. The guys have done a good job with more plays on the call sheet every week.”
UCF is the highest-ranked G5 team in the first College Football Playoff ranking. But they rank only five places higher than Memphis, a team the Knights smashed by 37 points in September.
First Rankings: Top 2️⃣5️⃣ pic.twitter.com/2nefOfDhyV— College Football Playoff (@CFBPlayoff) October 31, 2017
UCF stays at No. 18 following a 31-24 win over SMU.
Second #CFBPlayoff Rankings: Top 2️⃣5️⃣ pic.twitter.com/Mjp8GJgRgv— College Football Playoff (@CFBPlayoff) November 8, 2017
They sit 10 spots behind Wisconsin, and it’s clear the Knights don’t deserve to be ranked that low when you stack the resumes up against each other.
UCF vs. Wisconsin
|Best win||40-13 vs. #22 Memphis||33-24 vs. #25 Northwestern|
|Second best win||31-24 at 6-3 SMU||31-14 vs. 6-3 FAU|
|Third best win||31-21 at 5-3 Navy||uhhh idk|
|vs. winning teams||4-0||2-0|
|Avg. score vs. FBS||45-18||36-12|
|vs. Big Ten||1-0||6-0|
|Strength of Record||#10||#8|
Ohio smacks Toledo on a Friday night and effectively disqualifies the MAC from the G5 berth. What’s clear is that the American is the best G5 league, yet the glass ceiling is in place.
UCF beats UConn. The Knights still do not care about the Civil ConFLiCT trophy.
Early morning shade from #UCF in the game notes!— Tyler Graddy (@TylerGraddy) November 6, 2017
"Because it was never a thing" - RIP #ConFLiCT pic.twitter.com/V7IoCHF1ao
UCF actually moves up in the Playoff rankings after the win over UConn ... all the way up to No. 15.
UCF beats Temple, 45-19, and celebrates exquisitely while doing it.
UCF: a party school with a football problem pic.twitter.com/ENe3smq8p7— Barstool Knightly, National Champions (@UCFStool) November 18, 2017
The win sets up the rivalry matchup we’ve all been waiting for against one-loss USF. It is the biggest game in AAC history, as the division is also on the line.
Another week, and more disrespect. UCF hangs tight at No. 15.
Fourth #CFBPlayoff Rankings: Top 2️⃣5️⃣ for games played through November 18 pic.twitter.com/8nowa91muv— College Football Playoff (@CFBPlayoff) November 22, 2017
Ahead of the UCF-USF game, AAC commissioner Mike Aresco asserts his case to SB Nation.
“I don’t think the system has credibility if a team like UCF or USF or Memphis doesn’t have a chance to compete for a championship, if they’re a really good team, because they’re in a so-called Group of 5,” AAC commish Aresco said. “I hate that term. I hate being lumped in. We’ve separated ourselves from the Group of 5 [one term for FBS’ five non-power conferences] by a lot of measurements.”
UCF and USF mess around and play the damn regular season game of the year. The Knights win 49-42 over their rivals.
All I want at the tail end of the year is a game with no defense, high stakes, and a regional and/or possibly theoretical rivalry that only 500 people care about — but care about enough to threaten you with murder for underestimating how much they care.
The War on I-4 had 1,182 yards of offense, five lead changes, and a 605-yard performance by USF quarterback Quinton Flowers. Flowers nearly won by himself, evening up the game at 42 with a score and two-point conversion, but the game went full coronary as UCF’s Mike Hughes returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown.
Breathless, all over the place, and actually important in the larger shape of things. Basically a perfect game, if you have the right medical professionals on hand.
Their heroics are rewarded with a one-spot jump — right behind three-loss Stanford.
Fifth #CFBPlayoff Rankings: Top 2️⃣5️⃣ for games played through November 25. pic.twitter.com/9Y3Qf70EQA— College Football Playoff (@CFBPlayoff) November 29, 2017
Athletic director Danny White is not pleased.
The biggest disrespect here is how in the world is @USFFootball not in the #CFP Top 25?! They have a heck of a FB team. The American is much stronger than what tonight's ranking indicates. It's about the present & the future, not the past! #Power6— Danny White (@UCFDannyWhite) November 29, 2017
Someone got creative with a billboard on a Florida highway.
Look what popped up in Orlando overnight. @CFBPlayoff @UCFDannyWhite @ESPNCFB @espn @UCF_Football @DavidHaleESPN @dpshow @JessePalmerTV @PaulMyerberg @KirkHerbstreit @aadelsonESPN @dannykanell @CBSSportsCFB @TimBrando @ESPNRadio @espn_ReceDavis @SportsCenter pic.twitter.com/ux8tGwPRUn— Ken Kueker (@BBConnectionOrl) November 29, 2017
UCF wins the AAC in a classic over Memphis, 62-55, in double overtime to put a capper on the 12-0 season.
The Knights clinch the New Year’s Six berth with the win. But just hours after the game ends, Frost becomes the head coach at his alma mater, Nebraska. Frost reaches an agreement to coach UCF through the bowl game.
UCF is slated to play Auburn in the Peach Bowl. Auburn is key to all this, since the Tigers beat Alabama and Georgia.
#CFBPlayoff Selection Day: Final Top 2️⃣5️⃣ Rankings pic.twitter.com/QGU2DBKBxf— College Football Playoff (@CFBPlayoff) December 3, 2017
UCF replaces Frost with Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Heupel.
Jan. 1, 2018
UCF beats Auburn, 34-27, to finish 13-0. In the joy toward the end, White makes a declaration: “National champs.”
.@UCFDannyWhite didn’t stutter...#ChargeOn pic.twitter.com/ozdNaz4MCW— UCF Knights (@UCFKnights) January 1, 2018
In light of the semifinals and UCF’s win, we ask some real questions about what the committee was thinking.
Whatever other numbers the committee’s using, they’re ... flawed. A review of quality advanced stats back in November showed UCF was pretty clearly being rated several spots too lowly, and that was before UCF beat USF, Memphis again, and Auburn. Multiple metrics that perform favorably against Vegas spreads had UCF as a top-10 team almost two months before the Peach Bowl, and yet the committee parked the undefeated Knights at No. 18 behind eight two-loss teams and then at No. 15 behind a three-loss team.
With FBS’ only undefeated record and transitive wins over both the National Championship’s participants, White makes a stunning declaration during a radio interview when he announces a victory parade for UCF.
A split national championship is in no way rare in the broader history of college football, but it’s something that’s only happened once since the BCS was formed: When USC and LSU split the national title in 2003 when the Trojans were the AP’s No. 1 and the Tigers were the Coaches poll No. 1. The difference with UCF’s case is that UCF is the major entity claiming that the Knights are national champs.
It is scheduled to take place at the most magical place on earth.
What are we going to do next? We’re going to Disney World! #ChargeOn pic.twitter.com/15rJTZ8NdF— 2017 National Champions (@UCF_Football) January 3, 2018
UCF AD Danny White says #UCF will be hanging a National Championship banner at Spectrum Stadium.— 96.9 The Game (@969thegame) January 3, 2018
A thing to note about UCF’s claim the entire time is that UCF isn’t saying it’s the national champ, but that it is a national champion. The school announces it will be paying its outgoing coaching staff the national title bonuses owed.
Goooood morning, Orlando pic.twitter.com/naOjmys64o— 2017 National Champions (@UCF_Football) January 7, 2018
Sunday Funday— 2017 National Champions (@UCF_Football) January 7, 2018
Reply with your from Magic Kingdom rocking UCF gear! #ChargeOn pic.twitter.com/DFB86vMHuP
A look into the history of claiming national championships shows something: At least UCF did it immediately.
The suspect thing about a few old claims, though, was how long it took them to become claimed. USC discovered its ancient title in 2004, Kentucky added one about 50 years after the fact, and A&M tacked on a couple in 2012, the same year Minnesota proclaimed one from more than a century earlier.
Florida governor Rick Scott decrees UCF will be recognized as the national champions within the state.
One of the former BCS computers, the Colley Matrix, ranks UCF No. 1. It adds some validity to UCF’s claim.
Turn to page 108 of the NCAA’s football records. There you’ll see a list of “national champion major selectors.” These are national polls, computers, historians, and other rankings that the NCAA recognizes as contributing to the selection of national champs throughout the sport’s history.
It’s also significant because even 2017’s consensus champion Alabama has much more dubious claims on its list of past titles.
Amid all of this, another Florida politician floats the idea of UCF and USF joining the Big 12.
“I think because of the business analytics of college football, it would be extremely logical for the Big 12 to look at who can give them the most television revenue,” Olszewski adds. “And getting USF and UCF with the media markets they represent in Florida would be a wonderful fit.”
House Bill 1359 filed in Florida Legislature to create a specialty Florida license plate honoring UCF as national champs pic.twitter.com/7JodOqSuxP— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) January 17, 2018
And Sports Illustrated chronicles the epic battle for the soul of UCF’s Wikipedia page. It is required reading.
The Knights adorn their practice field with their new achievement.
#UCF adds National Champions banner to @UCFFootball practice fields https://t.co/Bf3duNJdpM pic.twitter.com/gGf5NBaB5H— Roger Simmons (@RogerSimmons) January 22, 2018
The NFL recognized the Knights (though not explicitly as national champions) in an on-field presentation at the Pro Bowl in Orlando.
Rain or shine, the Champs are in the !— 2017 National Champions (@UCF_Football) January 28, 2018
Thank you, @NFL ✊#ProBowl pic.twitter.com/h0lFxNUKPK
Some Alabama players want to know where the Knights’ title trophy is. First, it was Tide running back Damien Harris:
These pictures are live! Where can i find one with y’all holding the trophy? https://t.co/eo4O6daenL— Damien Harris (@DHx34) January 29, 2018
i been silent for too long lol— Damien Harris (@DHx34) January 29, 2018
Alabama defensive end Isaiah Buggs got in on the fun, too:
Since y'all wanna be champs so bad y'all schedule BAMA then‼️‼️ https://t.co/jqcXVsc20f— Isaiah D. Buggs (@BigPooh_91) January 28, 2018
UCF then pointed out that it wouldn’t have a problem facing Alabama. Some Knights fans even put a billboard up in Tuscaloosa asking for a home-and-home.
That’s what we’ve been saying... ♂️— 2017 National Champions (@UCF_Football) January 28, 2018
Aaaand Buggs also reminded UCF who has the actual trophy:
January 28, 2018
The bill proposing national championship license plates in Florida passes 113-0 — it went undefeated!
A Florida House bill which includes a UCF "National Champions*" license plate passes 113-0.— Joe Reedy (@joereedy) March 5, 2018
Some media and Twitter jawing between former Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick and former UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin, after months of both teams claiming the title:
The campus police are now involved.
Oh hey, UCFPD National Champions car #ChargeOn pic.twitter.com/GhtrrjMX5d— UCF Police Dept. (@UCFPolice) April 18, 2018
We’ve got press box signage now:
Perfection. pic.twitter.com/7EFO3lyeVQ— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) April 21, 2018
And title rings:
UCF even has their own championship rings now— SB Nation (@SBNation) April 22, 2018
( : @UCF_Football) pic.twitter.com/b8PDHjQ9g7
AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco congratulates the Knights on their national championship at AAC Media Days. He also points out the Colley Matrix, a former BCS computer, had UCF over Alabama, and that the Tide has claimed national titles before:
The full remarks from AAC commish Mike Aresco about UCF and the national title: pic.twitter.com/eoeKJPsK4M— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) July 24, 2018