LARRY GUEST: Self-Serving College Football Elite Got What They Wanted With UCF 1-Point Loss
By Larry Guest // September 23, 2019
For more than two years, the UCF Knight Juggernaut has been a burr in the Power Five saddles
The self-serving college football elite got what they wanted: An end to the UCF Cinderella Knights’ remarkable 25-game regular-season winning streak.
It ended Saturday in Pittsburgh with a one-point, 35-34, last-minute escape by the Pitt Panthers, a certified member of one of the so-called Power Five conferences.
For more than two years, the Knights have been a burr in the Power Five saddles, threatening to horn in on the elites’ rich playoff pot of gold.
The big boys became outspoken critics of the Knights’ alleged soft schedule – a result of numerous Power Five schools refusing to schedule the Knights after they began knocking off traditional powers like Auburn, Baylor, et al, and having a game against Georgia Tech canceled by a hurricane last year.
The big boys sneered at UCF for playing non-conference foes the likes of Florida A&M and Florida Atlantic, all the while failing to point out that even schools in the Power Five SEC and ACC softened their own 2019 schedules with off-Broadway cupcakes such as Samford, New Mexico State, Murray State, Western Kentucky, Lamar, Portland State, UT Martin, Towson, William & Mary, Old Dominion, Richmond, The Citadel and Bethune-Cookman
Those big boys and their sycophant media are now celebrating that the UCF streak ended with a 1-point loss on the road at Pitt despite an undersized freshman quarterback filling in for the magical but injured McKenzie Milton.
One Ohio columnist claimed UCF never deserved a spot in the final four playoff because of its schedule and the “fact” that it was a small school “somewhere in Florida.”
Memo to that lazy journalist: Had you done your homework, you would have found that UCF is the largest university in the nation by enrollment, having recently passed your beloved Ohio State.
Today, that guy is doubtless celebrating as if the Knights had been waxed in Pittsburgh by several touchdowns.
In fact, UCF has been doing the waxing, dispatching its first three opponents this season by lop-sided, embarrassing scores, including Power Five headliner Stanford just last week.
Another critic, a college football rating service, now snidely puts UCF’s chances of gaining a berth in the playoffs at a demeaning one-tenth of one percent, even if the Knights run the table on its remaining schedule.
But finishing with that 1-point loss to Pitt as the sole blemish on this season, will be tough because most remaining games are against the rapidly rising American Athletic Conference. Several fellow AAC members have begun knocking off Power Five teams.
In addition to UCF’s romp over Stanford, Memphis beat Ole Miss, SMU upset TCU and Cincinnati upset UCLA just in the first month of this season.
You can’t tell the red faces for all the red faces.
No doubt the Power Five Ranking Committee will censure those athletic directors for being so foolish to put some AAC teams on their schedule, thinking when those contracts were made several years earlier the unwashed opponents would provide guaranteed wins (and bowl bids) for the big boys.
When the current college football playoffs were adopted a few years ago, the Committee claimed their goal was to identify a true No. 1.
No, they were instead looking out for No. 1. Themselves.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Larry Guest is among America’s most respected and well-known sports columnists and book authors. He was a long-time editor and lead columnist at the Orlando Sentinel, a three-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year and best-selling author of “ARNIE: Inside the Legend,” “The Payne Stewart Story,” and several other sports-related books.
As a true journalist, he never steered away from controversy, for he always thought he owed his readers the truth.
Guest now lives in Cape Canaveral, Florida, with his wife Mary and was inducted into the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame last May for his distinguished journalism career.
Below, you can enjoy Guest’s Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame tribute profile and video:
SPACE COAST DAILY TV: A three-time winner of the Florida Sports Writer of the Year award, Larry Guest for almost three decades served as the voice of sports for the Orlando Sentinel, where he was the newspaper’s syndicated lead sports columnist.
SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME – There are plenty of sportswriters, but only a few true sports journalists who can go beyond the statistics to the heart of the athletes. Larry Guest is one the latter.
A three-time winner of the Florida Sports Writer of the Year award, Guest for almost three decades served as the voice of sports for the Orlando Sentinel, where he was the newspaper’s syndicated lead sports columnist.
The Washington Journalism Review listed Guest among the top 25 sportswriters in the nation.
During his tenure with the Sentinel, Guest covered 25 Masters’ Tournaments, a dozen U.S. and British Opens and half a dozen Olympics, plus many Super Bowls, Kentucky Derbies and Final Fours.
He didn’t just write about sports, he embedded himself in them, making personal friends with legends such as Payne Stewart, Arnold Palmer and coach Bobby Bowden.
“I always felt it was my responsibility not just to cover the story, but to connect with the athletes,” said Guest.
Nicknamed “Scoop” by the late Payne Stewart, Guest loved nothing more than to break local and national sports stories, a penchant made possible by the close professional and personal relationships he formed through years of unbiased coverage of sports headliners.
He learned from reading the very best, the work of the late Los Angeles Times Pulitzer-winning sportswriter Jim Murray.
“He was the king of sports columnists,” said Guest, who, like Murray, peppered his writing with humor about the idiosyncrasies of the players and their sports.
Just like Murray, Guest expanded beyond the boundaries of the newspaper page to books, seven of them.
His best-selling biographies include “Arnie: Inside the Legend” and “The Payne Stewart Story.” With sports executive Pat Williams, he wrote “Making Magic: How Orlando Won an NBA Team.”
In “Sports Icons “R Funny!” Guest reveals the humorous inside stories of sports superstars.
Guest began writing on sports at the then twice-weekly Brookhaven Leader Advertiser in Mississippi, where he grew up.
He developed as a writer as the paper expanded into a daily, allowing him the opportunity to cover stories such as the New Orleans Saints in their infancy.
The executive editor of the largest paper in the state, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, saw his work and liked Guest’s lighthearted but heartfelt coverage of sports and offered him a job as sports editor.
The Orlando Sentinel later scooped him for their own and there Guest remained until his retirement in 2000.
As a true journalist, he never steered away from controversy, for he always thought he owed his readers the truth. If he could put a smile on his readers’ faces while reporting on sports news, so much the better.
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