Alabama Crimson Tide UCF Knights national championship timeline

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So who is the real national champion?

Four months after Alabama won the championship on the field, the debate still rages.

Is UCF crazy to claim a national championship while mostly playing a Group of 5 schedule? Is Alabama just being petty? Well, it depends on whom you ask.

How did this whole beef begin? Here’s a quick look back:


Jan. 1: UCF beats Auburn 34-27 in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl to cap a perfect 13-0 season, finishing as the only undefeated team in college football. After the game, UCF athletic director Danny White declared UCF, “National champs! Undefeated.”

Jan. 2: UCF unveils a national championship logo.

Jan. 3: During a series of interviews, White announces UCF will raise a championship banner and have a parade to celebrate the Knights’ undefeated season. White also said UCF coaches will be paid national championship bonuses included in their contracts.

“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.”

Jan. 6: Even before Alabama beat Georgia to win the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Atlanta, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban didn’t give UCF’s title claim much credence. He was fine with it, he said, but threw in the caveat that it “doesn’t mean anything to anybody but them.” He added that they should be proud of the season they had, recognizing how hard it is to go undefeated. “We’ve only had one undefeated season, I think, in all the time I’ve been around,” he said. “It’s a difficult accomplishment. I think when players accomplish that, they should feel good about what they’ve accomplished.”

Jan. 7: UCF holds a championship parade at Walt Disney World, as thousands of black-and-gold UCF fans cheered on McKenzie Milton, Shaquem Griffin and the rest of the football team.

“We’ve been asked a lot about would we beat Alabama? Would we beat Georgia? And my response to that is: I don’t think that’s a fair question because nobody’s asking them, ‘Would they beat us, or would they beat each other?'” White said. “Our kids shouldn’t have to stick their neck out like that making these proclamations. At the end of the day, we had a perfect season. We’re going to celebrate it. Our celebrations are about us. It’s no disrespect to those programs and those student-athletes. They obviously deserve the accolades they’re getting as well.”

Jan. 8: Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued an official proclamation declaring UCF “this season’s best college football team and will be recognized as the 2017 College Football National Champions in Florida.” UCF holds a celebration in Downtown Orlando honoring the team — just hours before kickoff between Alabama and Georgia in the national championship game.

Jan. 10: Less than 48 hours after Alabama won the College Football Playoff National Championship, a billboard said to be “Created & Paid For By UCF Fans” pops up near campus in Tuscaloosa.

Jan. 22: UCF installs national champions banner to its football practice field.

Jan. 28: Some of Alabama’s players weren’t amused with UCF’s title celebration. Starting running back Damien Harris chimes in on Twitter.

March 15: UCF says its undefeated season was worth more than $200 million to the university in equivalent advertising exposure, according to a report the school commissioned from media evaluation firm Joyce Julius & Associates.

March 18: Not even athletic directors are above social media trolling, it seems. When Alabama beat UCF in women’s basketball, Alabama A.D. Greg Byrne noted that, “We’re not ready to make it more than it was and schedule a Disney Parade…but we’ll definitely take it.” In his clap back 13 minutes later, UCF AD Danny White tweeted, in part, “If y’all wanna have a parade for WNIT wins – more power to ya!”

April 21: UCF unveils a 2017 national champions sign inside Spectrum Stadium before UCF’s spring game. Afterward, UCF players were presented with national championship rings.

April 23: The Twitter trolling continues as Alabama wideout Mac Hereford lets UCF know that the Tide have received their national championship rings.

April 25: It must have taken a while to put together, but popular Tuscaloosa bar Gallettes unveils a trophy honoring UCF’s season.

May 4: Scott Frost suddenly backtracks on his support of UCF declaring itself national champions, telling USA Today: “All I’ll say is if we had stayed there, I would have had a hard time getting behind it. 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.'”

May 15: Four months after the national championship, Saban still couldn’t escape questions about UCF. “I guess anybody has the prerogative to claim anything,” he told USA Today. “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.”

Frost fires back at Saban, telling Nebraska TV station KETV: “Alabama probably has one or two national championships they claim that weren’t necessarily recognized by everybody.”

May 16: Clearly, the Twitter back-and-forth between Byrne and White in March was all in good fun. After all, the two got along well enough to schedule the second game in a home-and-home series … in basketball. The Knights will host the Tide on Nov. 29. If they don’t have a championship presentation at halftime of the game, it will be a badly missed opportunity to continue the long-running beef between the two schools.





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