Pursuit of a national championship will eventually lead to Scott Frost's exit at UCF

 Paul Myerberg
  26th-Nov-2017

football

ORLANDO — If the College Football Playoff is a purely entertainment-driven exercise, book Central Florida’s ticket to a national semifinal and wait for the fireworks. For 60 minutes here Friday, the Knights went back and forth with their bitter rival, South Florida, and achieved the impossible: UCF made the eyes of college football turn to the Group of Five.

And there’s where it’ll end. It was an amazing afternoon that trickled into a memorable early evening, with the Knights’ 49-42 win destined to make its way into those end-of-season highlight packages, but it won’t move the needle. The deck was already stacked. The odds were already infinitesimal. UCF — nor any member of the Group of Five — was never going to crash the gate to the Playoff.

“I knew we could play with anybody in the country,” said sophomore quarterback McKenzie Milton. “We do play in the American (Athletic) Conference, so strength of schedule and stuff like that. But I’d put us up against anybody because I think we’d match up with teams very well. But it is what it is.”

Last week it was Mississippi State that eked ahead of UCF in the Playoff rankings, even as the Bulldogs amassed a résumé of eight meaningless wins and three somehow meaningful losses. Just because the Bulldogs lost again, this time in the Egg Bowl, doesn’t mean there isn’t another Power Five program ready to take their place. And UCF won’t budge from the mid-teens when the Playoff selection committee reconvenes on Tuesday. Such is life.

But success in football is relative. The state of Alabama would crash the Internet, burn down the capital and cart out the guillotine if the Crimson Tide maxed out in a New Year’s Six bowl. Here at UCF, Friday’s win moved the Knights to 11-0 and one step closer to a January bowl, and that alone is reason for raucous celebration.

“We stepped aside fromthe fact that it’s a great team and we start saying it’s a great family,” said senior linebacker Shaquem Griffin, an All-America contender. “Going 11-0, you can’t do it with a regular team. You’ve got to do it with a family that you’re going to fight with no matter what.”

It may even be enough to keep Scott Frost for another year — though it probably won’t.

“This place is really special,” said Frost. “I saw a glimpse tonight of what it could be.”

Take a moment to digest what Frost has been able to achieve since arriving from Oregon. UCF was winless in the year prior to his arrival, the program turning stale almost overnight as the George O’Leary era staggered to a miserable close. Last year’s team reached a bowl game, as just the eighth team in the past two decades to go from winless to the postseason in the span of a single season. And then the Knights took off.“This offense is ranked first in the nation in scoring. We’ve had about three close games,” said Frost. “All you can do is beat the teams that are on your schedule. This team has done all those things. We’re not going to talk too much about who we’ve beat and how dominant we are. We’ve got another game to play.”

Frost was already on radars before last season; now he’s the hottest coach in the Group of Five, wanted and desired at a rate rivaled in recent history only by Texas coach Tom Herman. Like Herman before him, Frost will have suitors: Florida has already declared its interest, along with his alma mater, Nebraska.To reports that his representatives has talked with those two programs, Frost replied, “I’m my representative.” As for dealing with the noise, Frost plans on deleting his accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, he joked, in an effort to remain focused on next weekend’s conference championship game against Memphis.

But there’s something important to know about Frost: Nothing matters more than a championship. Not the championship, but a championship — in anything, at any time, in football or elsewhere, the former Nebraska quarterback is driven by the chase. In early 1998, he had to stand before the masses and plead his case for giving Nebraska a share of the national title. He won’t ever do that again. Frost just wants to win, and to do so on his own terms.

“There’s nothing better than winning a championship,” he said. “We’re not done yet, but it was a pretty emotional feeling when you see your plan work and you win a championship.” So when he does leave UCF — and he is going to leave UCF, very likely soon, and if not this month then a year from now — it’ll be because he’s scaled one mountain, and it’s time to tackle the next summit. Because the American championship is one thing. The national championship is another. Frost wants that title. He can’t win it at UCF. Whether that’s fair or not, it’s the truth.

Nebraska will tug at the heartstrings. A few weeks ago, Frost and his quality-control administrator, former Nebraska linebacker Barrett Ruud, sat in Frost’s office and took a quiz: name the 300 most populous cities, towns and villages in Nebraska in 20 minutes. The pair got more than 200. His parents still reside in Wood River, Neb., and Tom Osborne still looms over the university and its football program. At some point, if he hasn’t already, Osborne will place a call: Are you ready to come home, he’ll ask. Frost would have to say no to his mentor and “hero in coaching,” as he called Osborne in a recent interview with USA TODAY Sports.

Florida will provide the better opportunity to scale the summit and cradle a crystal football. The Gators aren’t built to win it all today, but the road is smoother than in Lincoln, and the transition in recruiting from UCF to Gainesville will be seamless. But it’s not Nebraska. Each side has it positives and negatives. He’ll have to choose.

But he bought himself a week. For eight more days, Frost and UCF can ignore the noise and focus on the routine: Memphis is coming, in a rematch of a September meeting that went entirely the Knights’ way. Preparations will drown out the rumors and innuendo, if only temporarily.“We see it. Everybody sees it,” said freshman wide receiver Otis Anderson. “But we’ve got practice each day so we don’t dwell on it too long. I really don’t like to talk about him maybe leaving, because we’re having a great season right now and I don’t want anything bad to come out of this.”

What UCF players don’t know and couldn’t understand — not yet, at least — is that this is par for the course: Group of Five programs hire coaches such as Frost fully aware that it’s laying the groundwork for the next hire. The change is inevitable. Either he succeeds and goes or he fails and goes. Either way, the shelf life is limited.So UCF focuses on today, and Frost does the same. For now, the championship he chases is for the American, not the entire Football Bowl Subdivision. That comes next.

“This team kept its cool, kept its calm and kept plugging,” he said. “Usually, championship teams find a way to get it done. And this team is a championship team.”

Views: 283
Domain: Afterhours
Category: Sports
Semiconductor Analytics

Recent Presentations

Alissa Rumsey
14 December, 2017
...
13 December, 2017
...
12 December, 2017