Gators AD Scott Stricklin: UF didn't duck UCF in the Peach Bowl

Wyatt Miller on Fiesta Bowl.

University of Florida athletics director Scott Stricklin wants to make one thing perfectly clear to those UCF fans who keep blowing up his Twitter account:

The Gators did not duck the Knights in the Peach Bowl.


“We would have loved to have played UCF in a bowl game,” Stricklin told me Monday. “I think it would have been an exciting matchup and created a lot of interest, but we also think our game with Michigan is an exciting matchup, too.”

The reason many conspiracy theorists believe the Gators vetoed a potential Peach Bowl game with UCF is because Stricklin is one of the 13 members of the College Football Playoff selection committee, which sets the match-ups for the major New Year’s Six Access Bowls.

Not only that, but it sure seems fishy that the committee would pit Michigan against Florida in the Peach Bowl even though this will be the third time those two programs have met in last four years. UCF, meanwhile, is playing LSU in the Fiesta Bowl.

Question: Why wouldn’t the committee put UF-UCF in the Peach Bowl in a highly anticipated State of Florida showdown at a venue that is a relatively short drive for both fan bases? And maybe an even better question: Why not Michigan vs. LSU in the Fiesta Bowl in a battle between two storied college football programs who have never played each other?


Stricklin says he did not lobby for or against any bowl opponent with fellow committee members and followed proper protocol by leaving the room when the committee began discussing the Gators’ bowl fate. Stricklin went on to say he did not take part in any back-room politicking to keep UCF out of the Peach Bowl.

I can personally vouch for the fact that I asked Stricklin last week — following UF’s regular-season-ending victory over FSU — about the possibility of Gators playing UCF in a bowl game and he strongly endorsed the idea.

“That would be a lot of fun,” he said then. “We’d be all for it.”

I’m certainly going to take Stricklin at his word because I would hate to think the alternative is true. After all, Stricklin talks endlessly about enhancing the experience of Gators fans who financially support his program. Well, what better way to enhance the bowl experience of your fans than by giving them an exciting bowl match-up they would love to see.

I refuse to believe the UF administration and coaching staff would rob fans of a great bowl matchup based on the notion that losing to UCF would somehow be embarrassing for the Gators. First of all, it’s ridiculous to think that losing to one of the best teams in the country is embarrassing. And, secondly, that is a coward’s way of thinking, and I certainly don’t think Stricklin and UF coach Dan Mullen are cowards.

Besides, you’d think Stricklin — being in the business of raising money for his athletic department — would want to sell as many bowl tickets as possible.

Question: Do you really think Florida fans are going to be ultra-excited about seeing the Gators play Michigan yet again? I don’t. However, I think UF and UCF fans would have gobbled up their allotment of tickets to see the two teams take part in a Sunshine State sizzler in Hot ’Lanta.

If you’re looking for someone to blame for the UF-UCF matchup not coming to fruition, blame the playoff committee. You’d think the committee, after completing ignoring undefeated UCF as a playoff contender for the last two seasons, would at least throw the Knights a small bone and give them a bowl match-up with the Gators in nearby Atlanta.

Not that UCF’s Fiesta Bowl match-up with LSU isn’t an attractive game, but it certainly won’t create the passion and fervor that a game against the Gators would have created.


When asked by ESPN’s Rece Davis if any consideration was given to matching up UF-UCF in a bowl game, playoff committee chairman Rob Mullens said, “Michigan being ranked No. 7 obviously deserved to stay closest to home so that’s what placed them in Atlanta. And UCF had played in Atlanta last year so that sort of set them in the Fiesta Bowl.”

The fact that a two-loss Michigan was ranked ahead of UCF in the first place is bad enough, but for Mullens to use that as an excuse for four different fan bases — Florida, Michigan, UCF and LSU — not being given the most attractive bowl matchups humanly possible is absolutely pathetic.

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