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Why UCF's National Championship Claim Is Perfectly Legitimate

The NCAA Says So

UCF QB McKenzie Milton accepts the award for Peach Bowl Offensive MVP. (Photo: Derek Warden)
UCF QB McKenzie Milton accepts the award for Peach Bowl Offensive MVP. (Photo: Derek Warden)

Laugh all you want, America, but UCF is perfectly within its right to claim a national championship following its 13-0 season. Paul Finebaum and his ilk can troll all they want, but the facts are that UCF did everything they were supposed to do to get consideration for a spot in the College Football Playoff, and still got left out - not because of what they did, but because of who they are.

Danny White has announced that UCF will not only have a parade at the Magic Kingdom (a Disney-owned property, just like ESPN itself), but will also hang a national championship banner at Spectrum Stadium AND pay Scott Frost's coaching staff national championship bonuses even as they're walking out the door to Nebraska. Why?

I've said before that I love it when UCF embraces its inner David. Now we're seeing it actually play out for all the world to see and it's glorious.

But on Monday night, after Georgia and Alabama battle it out for the CFP National Championship, UCF can still have a legitimate claim to the national title, and the NCAA themselves say so.

Because FBS Football is the only sport the NCAA does not award a national championship in, it resorts to what it calls selectors. Here's the list of them, from the NCAA Record Book:

A list of totally legitimate, NCAA-approved FBS Football National Championship Selectors (NCAA Record Book).
A list of totally legitimate, NCAA-approved FBS Football National Championship Selectors (NCAA Record Book).

So you can have multiple national championships handed out each year, even now in the era of the College Football Playoff.

Now, whether a school claims a title awarded to them by one of the selectors is one thing - some do, some don't. But that doesn't mean they didn't win an NCAA-sanctioned national title.

If you don't think you should be able to declare yourself National Champion, no worries - I have some news for you. UCF is currently ranked #1 in the Peter Wolfe rankings and can finish #1 in the Colley Matrix if Alabama wins. Should that hold up, then yes, UCF can claim an NCAA National Championship in football from a sanctioned NCAA championship selector.

Voila - There you go.

Why does this matter? Because they're two of the NCAA-approved FBS National Champion selectors, as shown above.

That's kind of our point here: It's ridiculous, but the NCAA and CFP made it ridiculous, and that's not UCF's fault. Of course, some may say this opens up the Overton window for UCF's title claim so wide that virtually anyone can make a claim. But that's not true.

Everybody else does it.

Take a look back at the historical national championship claims in college football. There are some shenanigans going on here:

1869: Princeton and Rutgers claim shares of the first-ever national title even though they were the only two teams actually playing college football and beat each other once.

1935: Five teams - LSU, Minnesota, SMU, TCU and Princeton - all claim a national championship.

1936: Duke claims a national championship from Clyde Berryman's QPRS. That's right. Duke.

1941: Alabama claims - again, retroactively, in the 1980s - a national championship from something called the Houlgate System even though they finished 9-2 and 20th in the final Associated Press poll.

1945: Oklahoma State wins a national championship from the American Football Coaches Association. According to CBS Sports, here's how that happened:

"The AFCA put together a committee of coaches to retroactively select schools who deserve the Coaches Trophy between the seasons of 1922 and 1949. Schools who felt they had a legitimate bid for the title submitted their reasons why, and the committee would then hear their case and decide."

They hung the signage for this title in T. Boone Pickens Stadium 71 years after the fact, in 2016.

"That's all back in the dark ages of college football!"

Oh yeah?

1981: Don't tell Clemson this, but five other teams (Nebraska, Penn State, Pitt, SMU and Texas) claim to have won the National Championship in 1981.

And there's some other funny business from some familiar schools:

Florida: Back-to-back national titles in 1984 (seven selectors) and 1985 (one). Someone tell Galen Hall. And Steve Spurrier.

Miami: Did you know they won national titles in six consecutive years from 1986-1991?

Florida State: Did you know Bobby Bowden won his first national title in 1980? Me neither. He also won one in 1987, 1992, 1994 (three-peat!) and 1996.

Auburn: They won the national title from the National Coaches' Foundation in 1993, even though they were banned from the postseason due to probation. Oh, and 1983 and 1913, too. And don't tell me they don't claim them. They would if Alabama claimed them instead. Speaking of which...

Alabama: The Tide can claim 20 national titles, including last year when they lost to Clemson in the CFP Championship, according to Congrove Computer Rankings, the Colley Matrix and the Dunkel System.

By the way, who has the most NCAA FBS national titles? You guessed it: Princeton, with 28.

So I don't want to hear it about how UCF's national title is not legitimate when there are plenty of NCAA-sanctioned FBS National Championships that other schools have no problem claiming. UCF is just having the nerve to chirp about it, unlike, say, Alabama or Texas A&M or Oklahoma State: