At some point in the Great UCF Debate of 2017-18, the burden switched from the exclusioners to the excluded. Actually, saying “at some point” doesn’t accurately tell the story, because we all know what the point was that made the worm turn.
When UCF (smartly) declared itself the 2017 national champion, feathers were ruffled across the country, but mostly in the SEC — home of the actual 2017 national champions. Most seemed to recognize it as something of a publicity stunt, but those in the South reacted to the move somewhere on the scale from annoyed to offended.
(There’s a sociology study to be had here about how fans across every sport root for Cinderella except college football fans, who seem to resent their sport’s underdogs, but that’s a blog post for another day.)
Florida head coach Dan Mullen told reporters earlier this month that Florida would be open to a 2-for-1 with UCF, prompting UCF AD Andy Seeley to tweet that no concrete offer was ever made.
However, on Monday the Orlando Sentinel published emails between UCF AD Danny White and Florida AD Scott Stricklin, where the two hash out the prospect of future games between the Knights and Gators.
In the emails, White requests a home-and-home or a neutral site game with Florida, but Stricklin says any games would have to be a 2-for-1 series.
“UF isn’t in the market for home-and-home or a neutral site games against non-Autonomy 5 opponents,” Stricklin wrote. “However, we would be open to a series similar to what we’ve agreed to with USF … two games in Gainesville and one in Orlando. We are in need of a home opener for the 2022 season, so the 9/3/2022 date you mention would be a perfect date to begin the series, and we can fill in the remaining games from there.”
White, who seemed to be writing for an audience other than Stricklin, replied in part:
… Requiring non-autonomy 5 schools to have to settle for inequitable scheduling seems like an unfair business practice and something we should all address at a high level,” White wrote. “If this type of scheduling is what is required for teams like UCF to make the final 4 of the CFP (College Football Playoff), we must consider expansion of the playoff to include non-autonomy 5 schools so we avoid the system operating like a monopoly. I am open to playing anyone in the country, but shouldn’t have to put my team at a severe disadvantage by being forced to play two for ones or guarantee games.
“The system should be such that we can schedule home and homes. As someone who sits on the CFP Committee, I am asking for your help in fixing a broken model by expanding the playoff and putting an end to unfair scheduling practices.”
Much like Batman, White has instituted a blanket “No 2-for-1s” policy in the face of common sense. Perhaps it wouldn’t make sense for UCF to play a 2-for-1 with, say, Iowa, but a 2-for-1 with their state’s flagship school would be beneficial for the Knights. Their fans would see their team play in an SEC stadium twice and then drive home afterward, while also getting Florida in Orlando.
It may not be strictly fair, but as a wise man once said: “It’s called, ‘The way it is.'”
UCF has played Florida twice all-time, not since 2006 and never in Orlando.
If the ultimate goal is to make the Playoff, getting Florida on their schedule three times would unquestionably help toward that end.
And yeah, it’s not a written offer and it’s not a level playing field, but it’s still a good offer for UCF. White and company should hop on it or hear any future complaints fall on deaf ears.