SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey: UCF Needs to Schedule Tougher Games to Make College Football Playoff

Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey believes that UCF should look "inward" after being excluded from the College Football Playoff despite going undefeated for the second consecutive season.

Last season, the Knights were the only undefeated team in college football and falsely claimed a national championship, despite not participating in the playoff. In 2018, UCF was one of four FBS teams with a perfect record -- along with No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Notre Dame -- but the only one excluded from a top-4 playoff seed after the final CFP poll.

UCF currently ranks No. 8 overall and is set to face LSU in the Fiesta Bowl next month, its second consecutive postseason matchup against an SEC school. The Knights defeated Auburn in the Peach Bowl last January, declaring that their undefeated record and the Tigers' previous victory against Alabama -- also in the SEC -- legitimately earned a national championship.

Sankey addressed UCF's exclusion from the playoff during the Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum on Thursday. The commissioner compared the Knights' dilemma to when the SEC only had three representatives in the NCAA men's basketball tournament in 2016.

"We weren't living up to our expectations. Rather than point to the selection committee, other people ... we looked inward and said: 'How do we adjust to the circumstances around us?'" Sankey said. "I would observe that's the challenge for everybody at the FBS level."

He added that the SEC encouraged teams to schedule more difficult non-conference basketball matchups in order to improve their RPI rankings.

"When it was us and when it was men's basketball, we knew we had two top-50 teams in 2015-16, which means you had virtually no top-50 wins in men's basketball," Sankey said. "How are you going to access those wins? You have to improve your nonconference schedule."

Non-conference football games are usually scheduled years in advance, meaning the last two seasons would have been planned out before UCF's surprising turnaround in 2017. Basketball non-conference matchups are typically scheduled months before the season.

UCF athletic director Danny White has criticized the selection committee's exclusion of the Knights and compared the college football postseason and scheduling process to March Madness.

White also acknowledged that three percent of FBS teams make the playoff while 19 percent of Division I schools qualify for the men's NCCA tournament, which includes 68 total teams.

"Basketball teams are rewarded for playing tough teams such as UCF through metrics like RPI or NET, while football teams avoid us because they're concerned about the 'eye test,'" White told AP in a text message.

UCF ranked 71st out of 130 FBS teams in terms of strength of schedule by simple winning percentage of opponents (.530) after the 2018 regular season. Excluding Ohio State (.515), that was a huge margin less than most CFP contenders.

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