Huge gamble pays off for UCF Knights

When UCF decided to appeal its one-year postseason ban in football, the Knights took a major gamble.

Programs rarely win their appeals with the NCAA. UCF had a better chance of spotting a unicorn dancing with a mermaid in Bright House Networks Stadium than actually winning.

And if UCF lost, well, it would be giving up any shot at winning an automatic berth into the BCS in its new conference home. The last year, by the way, that its new conference home has a guaranteed spot in one of the elite-level games.

The Knights made the move to the soon-to-be-called American Athletic Conference for better access; but rolling the dice on this appeal meant they may very well be throwing away the access they worked so hard to gain.

Well, the gamble clearly paid off. UCF won its appeal and is bowl eligible in 2013, giving the Knights a huge opportunity and extra motivation as they move forward as a program. Athletic director Todd Stansbury related just how rare it is to win an appeal when he told local reporters Monday afternoon how he found out.

"Literally I got an email and I just came back from a summit on the West Coast, so in between breaks I was just looking through my email," Stansbury said. "And I read it again. And I read it again. And I read it again. And I called our general counsel because I saw that he had been copied on the email just to make sure I was reading it correctly. He hadn’t seen it yet, so I called someone else, and I forwarded it to them and I had them read it just to make sure I was reading it correctly. And then I called Coach [George O'Leary] and said, ‘We won the appeal.’ And then I started making phone calls."

O'Leary has taken plenty of heat during his tenure with the Knights, but he deserves the credit for this one, as he spearheaded the move to appeal. He believed the NCAA had lumped basketball and football together without judging each separately.

"I’m always going to fight for the athletes if I feel it’s justified," O'Leary said during a news conference Monday afternoon. "I thought it was justified. Reading past history of the same situations regarding postseason bans, I thought we had a heck of a case. I’m just glad the university thought so, too, and appealed it because it came out to be a great decision. It’s something that you don’t win very often, and I’m very happy that we won."

Especially with the move to the AAC ahead.