The UCF Critics are Missing the Point

There has been a lot of debate surrounding UCF’s claim of a National Championship, following their defeat of Auburn in Monday’s Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. One side is claiming it to be ridiculous, looking at their proclamation as illogical by mocking their bold statement. This group is primarily made up of SEC elitists that have discredited UCF’s 13-0 season by citing their weak schedule and diminishing their win over Auburn by questioning the Tigers’ motivation in the game following an SEC Championship Game loss that knocked them out of the Playoff.

In the other corner, there is the group that has mostly defended UCF all season, claiming they should have had a fair shot at the National Championship, despite the schedule that was perceived as very weak in the eyes of the College Football Playoff Committee. This is a committee that ranked teams with two and three losses ahead of UCF with the argument that those teams played a much tougher schedule.

UCF’s victory over Auburn served as vindication that they did, in fact, deserve to be in the National Championship conversation. This belief was backed up by the fact that Auburn defeated both teams in Monday’s Championship Game earlier in the season. If we applied the transitive property, the logic is very sound.

But despite the arguments, nothing will magically insert UCF into Monday’s game, nor pit them against the winner the following week. So, UCF Athletic Director, Danny White took matters into his own hands by proclaiming UCF as National Champions. He has gone as far to commit to putting up a banner in Spectrum Stadium and honoring the bonuses built into the contract of the coaching staff for winning a National Championship.

But if you think these actions are only about an unofficial proclamation of a championship that the biggest critics think is delusional, you might be missing the point. That is just the tip of the iceberg. This action by UCF has forced the football program into the national sports conversation this whole week. This is completely foreign territory for the Knights. Sure, they had their fifteen minutes of fame following a Fiesta Bowl win over Baylor four years ago. But while that 2013 season helped put the UCF Knights on the map, they essentially became lost and forgotten from the national perspective of the college football landscape the following season.

The program calling itself National Champs is an attempt to prevent that from happening again. It’s a message to the rest of college football that UCF is a nationally relevant program and is here to stay. So far, it is working. This week, several prominent current and former college football coaches and analysts have weighed in on UCF’s accomplishments and the merits behind the idea of them being National Champions.

Just yesterday, former long-time FSU Head Coach Bobby Bowden voiced his support for UCF calling themselves National Champions. 

“I’ll be honest with you, they deserve [the national title], in my opinion,” the retired coach said in an interview with The World-Herald.

“But they won’t win it because they’re not in the Power Five, you know? But you take Auburn in November, probably the hottest team in the country, Auburn beat No. 1 and No. 2, then Central Florida beats them. And so I think they got a right to claim it. But the NCAA won’t recognize it.”

The full story on Knight News can be found here.

His detailed quote leads right to the other issue at play and more importantly the next component of UCF’s motivation behind their championship claim. It is an indirect protest of the current system that makes it virtually impossible for a Group of 5 team to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. If the 12-0 UCF Knights can only rise to as high as #12 in the rankings, how can any other Group of 5 program have any hope in future years?

The only exception may be if one of those programs is lucky enough to secure an out-of-conference schedule that includes Alabama, Clemson, and Oklahoma. The problem? Those schools and others at that level will never schedule games against those top Group of 5 programs. Why? Because they have nothing to gain and everything to lose by doing so. There isn’t any incentive.

The current system we have in place is a corrupt and biased one. We have a committee that has shown the evidence of making a conscious effort to block Group of 5 from ever sniffing the playoff. UCF is exposing that problem and for now, they are getting exactly what they want – a national conversation about it.

I have written previously about the need to expand the playoff, and this has been a season to support it. But this time it has been for different reasons. Every year an argument can be made for the teams just outside the playoff field to get a spot. That will always be an issue regardless of how big the playoff field gets. Just look at the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, which has a field of 68 teams. There is always an argument put up for the 69th and 70th team.

But what the basketball tournament has is a way for teams of the Mid-Major conferences (the basketball equivalent of the Group of 5) to earn a spot. For them it’s simple. Win your conference and you’re automatically in the tournament. There isn’t a biased and elitist committee that can exercise their power to block those teams from proving their worth in a real game because they weren’t impressed with their regular season schedule. It all gets settled on the floor, as it should be settled on the football field.

Thanks to UCF, this is something that is now getting further examined and their proclamation of a National Championship is only the first domino to fall. It may be naive to suggest anything significant will change next season. But whether the playoff field expands and guarantees a spot or more to Group of 5 teams, or the selection criteria changes, I can safely say this was the first significant step for college football to become a more fair and even-level playing field. It may not fix the revenue gap between the Power 5 and Group of 5, but I feel good about the potential for a more fair playoff system becoming a reality sooner than later.

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Sports New Year’s Resolutions for 2017

The end of each year brings the opportunity to come up with New Year’s Resolutions for achieving self-improvement in the following year. While it’s a usually an individual exercise that involves meaningful resolutions, that doesn’t absolve those in the sports world to make their own resolutions. With that said, I am happy to present the first annual Eye off the Ball’s version of Sports New Year’s Resolutions.

nfl-kick-off-537x350NFL – Embrace the offseason

It’s no mystery that the NFL is the king of the sports world. Despite the early-season dip in the TV ratings, the NFL is America’s most popular professional sport by a mile. As great of a product it is, the offseason is not the exciting spectacle that the media outlets want us to think it is. Events like the NFL Combine, Draft, Preseason and round-the clock training camp coverage severely lack entertainment value and fall well short of the hype that will draw crazed football fans in, that will do whatever it takes for a springtime football fix. Hey NFL – Get over yourself, your offseason is not that interesting. If you want fans to get excited about Week 1 Kickoff, do us a favor and take a break. How can you miss something if you never go away?

NBA – Figure out a solution to the tanking problemtanking

NBA teams have been heavily maligned for tanking, or losing intentionally to improve their draft position. Tanking has been going on ever since the NBA instituted a lottery system back in the 1980’s. Due to the lack of NBA-ready prospects entering the draft each season, there is a much larger disparity between the value of a top-three pick and a mid-first round pick in the NBA compared to any of the other professional sports. Because of this, NBA teams that do not have a clear path to contention result to tanking for what they hope will lead to drafting a franchise player, as opposed to perpetual mediocrity as a 40-win team that sneaks in the playoffs each season before getting swept by a team that has eyes on the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Tanking is not a problem because teams do it. It is a problem because the NBA is a flawed system that incentivizes teams without a core of players that can compete for a championship to do it. Whether it is changing the lottery system, draft process or even the eligibility requirements for players entering the draft, its a problem the league has to finally solve.

Philadelphia Eagles – Get some weapons for Carson Wentz9597916-carson-wentz-nfl-philadelphia-eagles-detroit-lions-842x560

The Eagles got in right in the 2016 NFL Draft, trading up and drafting Carson Wentz. If you ignore the misleading individual statistics and observe Wentz, it is clear that he has makings of becoming an elite NFL Quarterback. But he will not get there very easily by himself. The Eagles are currently devoid of explosive offensive weapons. They arguably have the worst receiving core in the NFL. If you want to maximize his talent and cash in on the luxury of having a great, franchise QB, it serves you right to surround him with better talent.

Major League Baseball – Keep up the momentum created by an unforgettable World Series


As mentioned in a previous post, the incredible World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians did wonders for the game of baseball. It is no secret that baseball has significantly declined in popularity over the past couple of decades. With that said, the World Series, especially Game 7 captivated the country, even the admitted non-baseball fans. It was a game that has me counting the days until Opening Day in December, a feeling that I have not had in a very long time. The sport has a lot of momentum going into 2017, and there is not a specific formula for keeping that going. Agreeing to a new CBA and avoiding a lockout was a great start. But baseball is in a great spot, and I think I speak for all baseball fans by hoping for another great season with exciting story lines in 2017.

Arizona Cardinals – Invest a high draft pick on a quarterbackarizona-cardinals-quarterback-carson-palmer

Carson Palmer has had a very good NFL career. But he is a shot fighter at this point in his career. His arm strength has almost completely fallen off, and it’s not going to magically come back at this stage of his career. Career backup, Drew Stanton currently occupies second string, is obviously not the future. The Cardinals did not select a QB in any of the last two seasons. There were 15 quarterbacks taken in last year’s draft, and 22 over the past two years. Of those 22, 10 have started an NFL game. It’s time for the Cardinals to invest a high draft pick in a quarterback.

Sacramento Kings – Trade DeMarcus Cousins before he leaves after next season

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 2: DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Sacramento Kings handles the ball against DeAndre Jordan #6 of the Los Angeles Clippers during a game on November 2, 2014 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)The Kings are in NBA purgatory – not bad enough to draft a difference maker and not nearly good enough to be a title contender. Assuming Sacramento misses the postseason and even if they strike gold at the NBA Draft Lottery, the Philadelphia 76ers own the right to swap picks as part of a July 2015 trade. Point being that the Kings have little to be optimistic about, aside from having an elite player in DeMarcus Cousins. It is highly unlikely he re-signs with Sacramento after the 2017-2018 season. If he cares at all about competing for an NBA Championship, why would he? Sacramento should make it a priority over the next year to cash in on his value and find a trade with great return that springs a rebuild that hopefully propels the franchise into perennial contention.

Chip Kelly – Make some changes, or just accept you’re a college coach 

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 20: Head coach Chip Kelly of the San Francisco 49ers looks on from the sideline a preseason NFL game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on August 20, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Has anyone over the past few years in the NFL had a bigger rise and fall than Chip Kelly? He took over the Eagles in 2013 with an offense that initially took the NFL by storm. But as expected, the defenses adjusted. However the coach who was lauded for his brilliance and forward-thinking approach to football, never made a next move or adjustment once defensive coordinators figured out how to defend his offense. Chip Kelly may be brilliant, but he is also very stubborn. He also jettisoned talented offensive playmakers in Philadelphia with a mindset that every player was expendable. In the NFL, superior talent is not nearly as easy to acquire as it is as a head coach of a major college football program with a fun offense and cool looking uniforms. In addition to needing to evolve his offense, Chip Kelly will need to better appreciate elite NFL talent if he wants to make it long-term in the pros. Otherwise, he should return to college where he ultimately belongs.

PGA Tour- More Driveable Par 4’s (By Derek Hirsch)


You know who other than chicks ‘dig the long ball’? Everyone, that’s who. There is nothing like seeing a golf ball travel 320 plus yards and land softly on a tiny little green surrounded by hazards. The casual fan does not comprehend how much strategy goes into a round of golf, but short par 4’s draw the casual fan in with the excitement of the risk/reward decision from a player. Either you have a putt for eagle, or you are staring double bogey in the face, both consequences will move your position on the leaderboard. We need more holes on the PGA Tour that give the players the opportunity for a boom or bust play.

Andrew “Beef” Johnston – Play as many PGA Tour Events as possible. (By Derek Hirsch)


Golf fans are yearning for a character like Beef. His look, personality and beard are all elements that will be eaten up by American fans. Did I mention he is from Jamaican descent? All Beef needs is more exposure in the USA combined with good play and then he will certainly become a house-hold name.

Tampa Bay Rays – Seriously explore a stadium move. (By Chris Himes)


The Tampa Bay Rays need to move their stadium closer to Central Tampa; most of their fans live in that area and it would be close to the other hometown team, the Buccaneers. Crossing the bridge is a hassle for a lot of people, and not many fans live in St Pete. Ideally, moving the stadium would lead to more revenue which would bring in more money for the team to progress and possibly win a championship. Most times a good player or coach goes away due to salaries and the Rays start back at square one; this would help them move in the right direction.

Cam Newton – Revamp wardrobe shenanigans. (By Chris Himes)


Football teams need to invent themselves each year to succeed, and Cam Newton’s team is a prime example of why they didn’t succeed. Thinking outside of his game, Cam should switch up his wardrobe. I think he wears ridiculous clothes; others would disagree and say he has style. I propose that if he continues to wear outrageous clothes, he auction off his outfits for charity. Or he could start doing impersonations, like making fun of Russell Westbrook’s clothes, or Von Miller’s shoes. Although Von would get the final say…

College Basketball – Make players stay longer. (By Chris Himes)


The NCAA should make basketball players stay for an extra year. They made it mandatory to complete one year of college, or turn 19, in 2007, and should keep the trend going for at least one more grade level. The NBA has become top heavy (cough*East*cough) and the talent is not well spread out as a result. I believe having players stay in college longer will not only make them better professional players, but will also give them a better education in case basketball don’t work out for him. When and if this rule takes effect, all current players will be “grandfathered” in, and this will apply to incoming freshmen. Eventually it can be increased to Juniors (similar to football) if that seems to be the next best course.

rutgersThe Big Ten – Kick out Rutgers (By Chris Himes)

Let’s be brutally honest, Rutgers doesn’t belong in Big Ten football. They were recently invited and they look like a high school team trying to impress a junior college division. Additionally, they do nothing to improve the New York and New Jersey markets as those are basketball/hockey heavy and are settled on their professional football teams. They are 17-51 against Big Ten teams, and have two wins in the last three seasons (vs Michigan 2014; vs Indiana 2015). They lost every division game this year, including four shutouts. If they don’t improve next season, the Big Ten needs to reconsider this lousy excuse of a team.

NHL – Figure out a way to partner up with ESPN. (By Chris Himes)maxresdefault

Hockey is the least popular sport of the big four, mostly due to the lack of TV coverage. ESPN has monopolized the sports entertainment industry, and did not renew their NHL contract due to the 2004 lockout which has hurt the sport’s popularity and fan base. Hockey may be the most exciting of the four sports as they allow fighting, display constant action with minimal breaks during periods, and boast the toughest athletes in the US and Canada. I don’t blame the league for having hard feelings against the sports giant network, but they might want to bury the hatchet to get back in the thick of the sports world.

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