College Sports

AAC commissioner defends conference, UCF in College Football Playoff debate

Saban dismisses claim that UCF shares national title with Alabama

Alabama coach Nick Saban insists that his team is the true NCAA football champion, and not UCF, who went undefeated last season. Saban added that the College Football Playoff system is "not broken."
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Alabama coach Nick Saban insists that his team is the true NCAA football champion, and not UCF, who went undefeated last season. Saban added that the College Football Playoff system is "not broken."

American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco didn’t hold back in defending his conference’s football teams, notably unbeaten UCF, during his participation in a panel discussion titled, “College Sports Business Upfront: Issues, Trends and Opinions That Matter,” as part of the 2018 Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum at New York City’s Crowne Plaza Square Manhattan on Wednesday.

The two-day symposium kicked off Wednesday, and Aresco told the Sports Business Journal, who was moderating the event, that he wasn’t there to attack the College Football Playoff committee.

However, he had a couple issues.

“When you do what [UCF] has done,” Aresco said. “You win 25 straight games ... and unfortunately there’s this perception of our conference that is just flat-out wrong like somehow we play JV football, which is ridiculous.”

Aresco used the example that AAC teams tallied seven wins over Power 5 conference teams this season and 33 over the past four years.

“Temple went down and beat Maryland by three touchdowns,” Aresco said. “... The point is what I think is a big concern is [UCF] weren’t really seriously considered for (the playoff). At least, it doesn’t appear they were. And that’s the problem.”

Aresco said if you do what UCF has done over the last two seasons, racking up 25 straight wins — the longest active FBS streak — and beat Pittsburgh, a Power 5 team that played in the ACC title game, decisively, and other games the Knights have won, what do they have to do?

“Is half of college football precluded from playing in this playoff,” Aresco rhetorically asked.

The CFP is set with No. 1-seeded Alabama playing No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 2 Clemson playing No. 3 Notre Dame. The top three seeds are undefeated, with the Sooners as a one-loss Power 5 conference champion.

UCF finished No. 8 in the CFP rankings, behind two-loss Georgia, one-loss Big Ten champion Ohio State and two-loss Michigan.

On the eve of the ACC title game last Friday, Pitt football coach Pat Narduzzi mentioned how he’d rather play No. 3 Notre Dame than No. 8 UCF.

“You look at Central Florida, I don’t know if anyone would want to play them in the country. I’ve said that to several people,” Narduzzi told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I think I’d rather go play Notre Dame than Central Florida.”

Both Notre Dame and UCF played Pitt. The Irish eked out a 19-14 victory at home with a fourth-quarter touchdown. The Knights hammered the Panthers at home, 45-14, two weeks prior to Pitt playing Notre Dame.

UCF’s exclusion from the CFP for a second straight season prompted UCF athletic director Danny White to call it an invitational and not a playoff.

Aresco called for an eight-team playoff at Wednesday’s forum, according to CBS Sports.

Access is the “American way,” Aresco said, according to CBS Sports.

The outlet also reported Aresco said Ohio State would be in the playoff if the Buckeyes played in the AAC and went undefeated like UCF did.

UCF plays LSU in the Fiesta Bowl. It’s the second straight season the Knights are playing in a New Year’s Six Bowl.

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