While Alabama football Coach Nick Saban said he respected Central Florida's undefeated season, he disagreed with the notion it could declare itself "national champions."
“If you honor and respect the system that we have, (despite) some of the imperfections that you understand that the system has, then you wouldn’t do something out of respect for the system that we have,” Saban said in an interview published by USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. “I guess anybody has the prerogative to claim anything. 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.”
Alabama, of course, earned the 2018 College Football Playoff national championship in a 28-23 win over Georgia on Jan. 8.
Despite its undefeated record last season UCF had not garnered enough FBS recognition to gain entry into the College Football Playoff. Instead, UCF accepted a Peach Bowl bid where it defeated No. 7 Auburn on Jan. 1 to finish 13-0. Auburn had the distinction of having beaten both of the teams that were in the national title game, which only fueled the argument that UCF belonged in that company.
UCF even held a national championship parade for the Knights and has hung a "2017 National Champions" banner in its stadium since.
“We’ve only had one undefeated team, and that is really hard to do,” Saban told USA TODAY Sports. “So I have a tremendous amount of respect for their team and what they were able to accomplish. … And they can make every claim that they should have been in the Playoff. I get that. But we have a system, and it’s not fair to the people who went through the system and earned their way playing really, really good teams — I mean really good teams — and really tough games. It’s not quite fair to them for somebody else just to decide to (claim a national championship).”