Not many teams can win national championships. That’s why they’re so special. They’re very hard to come by.
Even KU basketball in the Bill Self era, for all of its amazing and ongoing success, has found that winning it all is hard to do, even with some built-in advantages, such as getting to play games in the Sprint Center whenever the NCAA Tournament hosts games there.
In the men’s tournament, teams aren’t allowed to play on their home court. However, that doesn’t preclude teams from playing close to home, provided they are one of the top seeds in their region.
That’s why KU can play NCAA tournament games at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita this spring and the Sprint Center in Kansas City, even though it’s as good as a home game for the Jayhawks.
If Wichita State had been a higher seed, the Shockers wouldn’t be allowed to play a game at Intrust Bank Arena because it’s too close to its home court at Charles Koch Arena.
But I digress. An interesting thing happened on the way to the college football championship this year. UCF declared itself the national champion, even though the playoff winner and the recognized national champion was Alabama.
Personally, I don’t hold it against UCF for naming itself as national champion. Give them an A for creativity. Not only that, they made a reasonable case.
It reminds me a lot of how the Power 5 conferences dictate who is invited to the prom, so to speak, or who is allowed to play.
UCF had a perfect 12-0 record in the regular season and won the American Conference championship. All that did was earn them a No. 12 ranking. For all the talk about expanding the Division 1 football playoffs to eight teams, they would have still been on the outside looking in at a chance to compete for the national championship.
The fact is, UCF probably wouldn’t have been 12-0 if they had been in the SEC or Big 12, just like Wichita State wouldn’t have been unbeaten in men’s basketball a few years ago if they had been in the Big 12.
The difference is that WSU got an opportunity to compete in the 68-team NCAA basketball tournament, which it rightly deserved. UCF never had a prayer to get invited to the football playoffs because only four teams make the cut.
So what did UCF do? They beat Auburn 34-27 in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl to cap a 13-0 season, finishing as the only unbeaten team in college football.
UCF made the case that as the only undefeated team and having defeated Auburn, who defeated the two teams competing for the national championship, that they had a sound case to claim the crown.
A parade was planned for the team along with a championship banner inside Spectrum Stadium to recognize its undefeated season.
UCF athletic director Danny White said: “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.
“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,” said White.
Though UCF won’t get a trophy or official acknowledgement as a national champion, White believes it is important to hang a banner and recognize the efforts of all their players.
“Having an undefeated football season is unique and this is a moment in time we don’t want to forget, and it deserves to be memorialized with a national championship banner,” White said.
Hillsboro resident Joe Kleinsasser is director of news and media relations at Wichita State University. You can reached him at Joe.Kleinsasser@wichita.edu.