UCF celebrates perfect season with Disney World parade
Knights roll through Main Street, USA, at Magic Kingdom
ORLANDO, Fla. – If you ask the undefeated UCF Knights what they're doing to celebrate their perfect season, any player on the football team would likely respond with the phrase commonly known to be said by Super Bowl MVPs after their team's big win: "I'm going to Disney World!"
The Knights, of course, did not win the Super Bowl, but the team is dubbing itself the winner of the 2017 national championship after its New Year's Day win against the Auburn Tigers in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl.
So, as champions do, the football team, along with the UCF marching band and cheerleaders, made its way down Main Street, USA, Sunday afternoon in a parade hosted by Disney World's Magic Kingdom.
How did this history of celebrating big wins at Disney World come about?
It all began at a dinner in 1987 with the former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, his wife Jane and the first people to fly around the world without stopping, Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager.
Michael Eisner asked Rutan and Yeager, "Well, now that you've accomplished the pinnacle of your aspirations, what could you possibly do next?"
To which Rutan jokingly replied, "I'm going to Disneyland!"
Jane Eisner paused and said, "You know, that's a good slogan."
An idea was born. A strategy was put into place, and Disney targeted both quarterbacks of each Super Bowl team. They informed them they would give the winning quarterback $75,000 to say "I'm going to Disneyland" as he walked off the field after the game.
Phil Simms, the winning quarterback for the New York Giants, said the phrase "I'm going to Disney World!" after his 1987 Super Bowl victory. The rest is history.
Every Super Bowl MVP since that day has said the phrase after their big wins, and each get treated to a celebratory parade at the Disney park of their choice.
It only makes sense that Orlando's hometown team would celebrate its big win at no place other than its favorite hometown park.
But that's not the only celebrations scheduled to take place for Orlando's beloved Knights.
UCF athletic director Danny White told Orlando radio station 96.9 The Game about plans to hang a banner in Spectrum Stadium in honor of the Knights finishing the season as the only undefeated team in college football and, in his eyes, earning the title of the "2017 National Champions," which the team changed its Twitter display name to reflect earlier this week.
The Knights entered the bowl game ranked No. 12 by the College Football Playoff selection committee and were not given an opportunity to play for the national title. The top four teams were Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia and Alabama. Georgia and Alabama, both SEC teams, will play for the championship.
White told ESPN that other universities have claimed national championships without even having as successful a season as UCF.
"If you take the long view of the history of college football, there's an awful lot of national championships being claimed by universities that didn't accomplish what we accomplished this year in those respective seasons, so we feel we're more than justified to claim our first national championship, and we think it'll be the first of many," White told ESPN.
Alabama recognizes 1973 as a championship year even though the Crimson Tide lost to Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.
The athletic director also said on Twitter that UCF would give its football coaches the bonuses associated with national championships. White said coaches were told Monday that they would be receiving bonuses.
Also in celebration of the team's perfect season, the lights on the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye will shine in black and gold on Sunday, officials wth the attraction said.
Sunday won't be the end of the team's celebrations.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said the city, the Downtown Development Board and UCF will host a free National Championship Celebration block party on Church Street on Monday evening.
“We are proud of Orlando’s hometown team and hope fans from across Central Florida will come out to celebrate this memorable season,” Dyer said.
Dyer said he also plans to present the Knights with a key to the city during a celebration program Monday evening after the block party.
The parade at Magic Kingdom Sunday will kick off at 4:30 p.m. Watch News 6 and continue checking ClickOrlando.com for live updates on the celebration.
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