One of the stories of the college football offseason has been the legitimacy of Alabama’s national title, at least in the eyes of UCF and its fans. The Knights went unbeaten and beat the only team that beat the Tide last season, Auburn. UCF’s fans and its athletic director have been quite vocal about the Knights being national champs. But now, Alabama coach Nick Saban has weighed in on the matter.
In speaking with USA Today’s George Schroeder, Saban admitted that there were some “imperfections” in the College Football Playoff system. And he did recognize the significance of going undefeated. But saying UCF is a national champion is a bit much, he added.
“I guess anybody has the prerogative to claim anything,” Saban told Schroeder. “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.”
Former UCF coach Scott Frost also previously told Schroeder that, “the playoff system is that the national champion is the team that wins the playoff.”
Frost also wasn’t thrilled that the rings the team got for beating Auburn in the Peach Bowl said national champions and not Peach Bowl champs. Frost took a job at Nebraska after UCF’s unbeaten season. He was replaced by former Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Heupel.
And while some fans might point out that Alabama does claim championships in much the same way that UCF is doing, Saban made a strong counterpoint.
“That’s not how it’s done anymore,” Saban said. “All the national championships that we won, we had to play somebody to win them. And we got in the game because of the season we had.”
This story has drawn out long enough and Saban’s opinion is probably the correct one. Yes, what UCF did is impressive, and if things were different, the Knights would’ve had the chance to play for a national championship. The system that determines which teams can play for a title isn’t perfect. In the current system, though, Alabama proved that it was the best team in the country and thus the deserved national champion.