The national championship celebration before the title game

From ESPN - January 9, 2018

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The chants rang out between Fantasyland and Main Street, U.S.A., then carried into downtown Orlando later the next day.

"U-C-F! U-C-F!"

"We want Bama!"

"Danny! Danny!"

"Heisman! Heisman!"

UCF opened an alternate college football universe Sunday afternoon and into Monday evening, celebrating a self-proclaimed national championship as fervently as one that came with the official trophy Alabama won after downing Georgia in Atlanta.

Left outside the College Football Playoff party, UCF athletic director Danny White decided to throw the parties himself, because, really, why not? Nobody could stop him. Other programs had claimed mythical championships, including (cough, cough) Alabama.

White went all in and thousands came along on the journey: little boys wearing helmets and jerseys, little girls dressed as cheerleaders and grown-ups wearing newly printed national championship shirts. Orlando, filled with natives and transplants from all over the world, unified in black and gold, if only to send a message to a staid system that they would not sit back and take their place behind schools with bigger names and more losses.

Just listen to those lyrics now ...

"A dream is a wish your heart makes, and a championship is a title your AD takes."

It all began last week, after UCF beat Auburn 34-27 in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta. White proclaimed his 13-0 UCF team national champions. From there, the party planning began: a parade at Disney's Magic Kingdom on Sunday afternoon, then a block party on Church Street in downtown Orlando on Monday evening -- only a few hours before the actual national championship game (in Atlanta no less).

The first clue Sunday would be unlike any normal Disney World day were the UCF chants on the trams in the vast parking lot that shuttles guests from their cars to the park. Nearly everybody who boarded had traded in their Star Wars shirts and princess gowns for black-and-gold UCF gear.

Once inside the park, black-and-gold balloons dotted lampposts and fans lined up four- and five-deep along the sidewalks, universal in their praise for what White had done.

"He's brilliant," said Ryan Francis, who had a spot close to the Magic Kingdom entrance. "Here we are still talking about it."

His friend, Mark Crowe, chimed in: "All the SEC mouthpiece people, that's all they could talk about all week."

"Now we are buying national championship gear," Francis said. "It's been a surreal week. Who knows if this will ever happen again?"

Further down Main Street, Kris Nighswonger wore a Disney button that proclaimed, "I am celebrating UCF national champions!" Her son is in the UCF marching band, and she attended the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta.

"It was awesome," she said. "Greatest experience ever."

And the Knights proclaiming themselves national champions?

"I think it's perfect," she said. "I love it. It was the right thing to do."

A few steps away, Glenn Schneck held a mini version of UCF's mascot, Knightro, named #LilKnightro. His friend, Kristy Allison, designed what resembled a Miami turnover chain for LilKnightro's neck.

"No, it's a win chain," Schneck explained.

Allison had printed out tickets from each UCF game this season, complete with the final score, and had them laminated. As Schneck walked around with LilKnightro, fellow UCF fans asked for pictures.

"It's been the best season ever," said Schneck, who has two degrees from UCF. "It's been a dream."

Schneck also attended the Peach Bowl and said he and his friends started screaming "national champions!" in the stands when the game ended.

"We beat everybody we played," he said. "We played everybody they let us play. If they let us play more people, we will play more people."


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