Marc Daniels: Change In Scheduling Or Peak Behind Playoff Curtain?


Central Florida v South Florida

When new UCF Athletic Director Terry Mohajir said he would consider a two-for-one football series with Florida, Knight fans were buzzing and trying to draw conclusions that Danny White's philosophy of the past is indeed in the past. For years, White was adamant that he believed his football program was on equal footing with anyone and would only play home-and-home series with opponents.

That position by White was a national topic often. There were plenty of critics barking at White that his team was acting like a major program but not really being one. There were many that understood what White was doing. He was promoting the UCF brand and also bragging that his football stadium was selling out and he didn't need to take money games because UCF makes a lot more money playing home games as opposed to taking a payday to play at a Power 5 school, especially if there was not a return game.,

So when Mohajir answered a question about a potential series with Florida some thought White's position was no longer that of UCF. But Mohajir didn't just say he would be open to a two-for-one with the Gators. He added "if the situation was right."

Only Mohajir knows what situation that is. For now, Mohajir deserves time to get to know his staff, facilities, operations around the UCF campus and athletic village, donors, players and where to buy groceries and get gas. After he looks at budgets and studies current contracts with future opponents, then he can define a scheduling plan for years to come. He may see what UCF home games generate in revenue now and decide it would need to be a very special situation to take a one game payday or play a two-for-one. 

For now, UCF's future non-conference deals include home and home with: Boise State, Louisville, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and BYU. 

In case you are wondering, UCF and Florida have holes on their non-conference schedules in 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2026.

But perhaps Mohajir was telling everyone about something else when he was asked at both his press conference and in additional interviews with myself and Mike Bianchi. When asked for his position about expanding the college football playoffs, where he is a sitting member, Mohajir said his role is to work with other committee members to find the four best teams for the existing format. He added that if the format expands with additional teams then his role is to find the best six, eight or whatever the number teams is. But when asked for his thoughts by both Bianchi and myself about previous UCF teams who ran the table or Cincinnati this season and the committee's view of those teams, he talked about the need for teams to win and also "beat the teams you are not expected to beat." Anyone listening to that one? You hearing what he is saying?

Mohajir was taking you behind the curtain of the playoff committee, in my opinion. He was telling you a little about what those discussions the committee has when it comes to G5 teams and maybe even some P5s that are not named Alabama, Clemson or Ohio State. It sounds like any G5 team will need to "wow" the committee by doing more than winning 13 games. It sounds like you need to bring at least one and preferably two wins against P5 teams, and one likely needs to be a road win.

That is the challenge for a program like UCF that has made a few extra millions by a scheduling model based on seven home games and trying to get one P5 at home and one on the road. The committee is not obligated to care about an athletic department's budget and how playing a low level G5 or FCS team helps that budget. The playoff committee looks at resumes, stats, press clippings and that doesn't show up in a spreadsheet or P&L file. It sounds like the committee is waiting for that team that runs the table and beat a pair of ranked P5s. 

Yet that is hard to plan for. We are still scheduling future series between teams six, eight, 10 or 12 years down the road. That makes scheduling a gamble where you hope a team will be good. It is why I have called for teams to leave 1-2 dates open for non-conference games every season. That allows you starting in January of a season kicking off eight months later to look and try to schedule non-conference games that fit your needs. Maybe you are looking for wins for a new staff trying to build a program. Maybe you are looking for a resume building win and therefore schedule a game with someone else looking for the same thing. That is not easy, but it might become the norm in coming years if the playoff expands.

I admit I might be overreading Mohajir's brief comment about scheduling and what the playoff committee thinks. But in 2017, UCF's biggest non-conference win in the regular season was over a Maryland team that ended up 4-8. In 2018, UCF rolled Pitt in a season the Panthers finished 7-7. In 2020, Cincinnati's best non-conference win was against a good Army team 24-10. But that was it. So the case can be made that the playoff committee has not yet been "wowed" by an unbeaten G5 team with impressive wins against P5 teams.

That may be the reason Terry Mohajir carries a different view than Danny White. It's not that White doesn't know the playoff world we live in. But Mohajir has been part of those discussions and hears what other committee members are saying about G5 teams and why they don't get a more realistic opportunity to make the playoffs and that is why the idea of a two-for-one with Florida or others might be in the future schedules of UCF football.

Final thought: The fastest speed on Space Mountain is just 28 MPH. Before settling on the name, engineers tossed around "Space Port" and "Space Voyage"

Photo Credit: Getty Images


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