Central Florida received an inquiry from officials with Florida Citrus Sports that floated the idea of playing Alabama in the 2018 Camping World Kickoff, The Tuscaloosa News has learned. UCF would have replaced Louisville in the Crimson Tide’s opener.
No official proposal to change the game was ever made. UCF indicated that it would be interested if it became a real possibility, but never heard back after receiving the initial phone call. The idea was raised after UCF defeated Auburn in the Peach Bowl on Jan. 1 and before Alabama won the national championship on Jan. 8.
Alabama was never contacted by Florida Citrus Sports, the organizer of the Camping World Kickoff game; the idea never proceeded that far.
“We weren’t approached about changing our game against Louisville, and the first I heard of it was when The Tuscaloosa News asked me a couple of days ago,” UA athletics director Greg Byrne said.
The matchup would have been enticing. The Knights claimed a national championship after finishing the 2017 season as the only undefeated Football Bowl Subdivision team. They currently own the nation’s longest winning streak at 22 games. Alabama won the College Football Playoff national title.
The game could have had benefits to all involved, though significant challenges would have had to be overcome to schedule the game. Alabama and Louisville had a contract and ESPN had agreed to televise the game. Alabama received a $4.5 million payday for the game, while Louisville received $2.75 million.
Alabama, Louisville and ABC, which televised UA’s opener would have had to agree to the change. Louisville would have had to find a new opponent for its opener in short order. UCF was also scheduled to face UConn in a conference game on Aug. 30 for its opener. That game would have had to be rescheduled.
UCF is 9-0 entering this weekend but remains ranked 11th by the College Football Playoff committee as it faces questions about its strength of schedule. Questions were also raised about Alabama’s schedule and its non-conference competition earlier this year, though those have diminished after the Crimson Tide posted back-to-back shutouts against ranked LSU and Mississippi State teams in November. Louisville, the only major-conference opponent on Alabama’s out-of-conference schedule, has fallen to 2-8 this season and fired head coach Bobby Petrino.
Alabama defeated Louisville 51-14 in a romp in the Camping World Kickoff, held less than 20 miles from UCF’s campus. An alum from UCF chartered a plane to fly over the stadium before the game with a banner claiming the Knights’ championship.
UCF defeated Alabama 40-38 in Tuscaloosa in their lone meeting in 2000.