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Nick Saban takes his biggest shot yet at UCF’s national championship claim

“Self-proclaimed is not the same as actually earning it,” he says.

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Mercer v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

UCF says that its 13-0 team was college football’s national champion in 2017. Alabama won the Playoff, and if you ask a bunch of Tide players what they think, they usually say a variant of the same thing: They respect UCF’s season but don’t care what UCF says.

USA Today’s George Schroeder interviewed Nick Saban for a story that came out Tuesday. The Alabama coach offered his harshest assessment yet of UCF’s championship claim:

“If you honor and respect the system that we have, (despite) some of the imperfections that you understand that the system has, then you wouldn’t do something out of respect for the system that we have,” Saban told USA TODAY Sports. “I guess anybody has the prerogative to claim anything. But self-proclaimed is not the same as actually earning it. And there’s probably a significant number of people who don’t respect people who make self-proclaimed sort of accolades for themselves.”

Saban also says some stuff about how he has a “tremendous amount of respect” for UCF’s unbeaten season (going unbeaten’s hard!) and absolutely feels UCF’s argument that the Knights should’ve been in the Playoff (yeah, arguably). But he also added:

But we have a system, and it’s not fair to the people who went through the system and earned their way playing really, really good teams — I mean really good teams — and really tough games. It’s not quite fair to them for somebody else just to decide to (claim a national championship).”

Schroeder’s whole story is worth a read and, again, is here.

Saban had previously been a little bit nicer about UCF’s title claim.

He belittled it a little bit right before January’s national championship game against Georgia, but said then he was “fine with it.” Saban didn’t exactly light into the Knights here, but he strongly implied that he doesn’t respect them for laying claim on a mantle Saban’s team won for itself.

With these remarks, Saban’s aligning himself more with Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne, who got into a petty Twitter fight with UCF’s AD after Bama won a WNIT game between the two universities.

Scott Frost, who coached UCF in 2017 before leaving for Nebraska, said recently (also in a USA Today report) that he wasn’t all that down with the Knights’ continual title claim.

“All I’ll say is if we had stayed there, I would have had a hard time getting behind it,” he says. “I think it was smart by them, because it has kept UCF in the media and in the conversation. But you know, like our rings, I kind of wish my ring just said ‘Undefeated Season’ and ‘Peach Bowl Champion.’ ”

None of this is going to stop UCF from calling itself the champ, though.

The school continues to act exactly how teams act after winning titles.