Ruthenberg: The sad and lonely death of Cinderella

Central Florida defensive back Tre Neal (23) celebrates after intercepting a Memphis pass to end the American Athletic Conference championship game Saturday in Orlando, Fla. Central Florida won in overtime 62-55. (AP Photo)

We’ve now had a few days to digest the anointed Final Four as determined by the College Football Playoff Committee. As it has every year since its unfortunate inception, the committee lived down to expectations.

When thinking of committees, comedian Fred Allen’s quote comes to mind: “A committee is a group of people who, individually, can do nothing, but who, as a group, can meet and decide that nothing can be done.”

But in this case, they finally finished off what was started with the inception of the ill-fated Bowl Championship Series and continued with their ham-fisted efforts. 

Yes, Cinderella was finally offed once and for all. 

Sure, she was in peril as there were barely detectable signs of life as she clung desperately to hang on, hoping somebody would look past their shiny, sleek, million-dollar hotties and see she still had plenty to offer, something sports fans found exciting, appealing and enticing. But to no avail. She never had a chance.

The last couple of years she even dressed herself up as an undefeated member of the FBS, but the deck was stacked against her. 

In 2016 she was Western Michigan, a team that went 13-0 and yet had no chance to sniff a national title. She wasn’t part of the in-crowd, relegated to the Group of Five ghetto. She never got to dance in the big event, her fate decided by the CFP committee’s cruelly enticing so-called “Access Bowl,” an ironic nom-de-plume given to the bowl game that is set aside to throw a bone to the top G5 team that really, in all actuality, ensures Cinderella has no access to college football’s regal title.

Oh sure, last year she put on a good show, determined to show she belonged, before falling 24-16 to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl. But heartbreak soon followed as her primary support, head coach PJ Fleck, left her to row the boat for a Power 5 harlot.

Amazingly resilient, this year, she gathered herself, picked up the pieces and reemerged as Central Florida, or more fetchingly, UCF. She even had a new beau, Scott Frost. Together they navigated their way to a 13-0 season, playing some of the most exciting football, not just this side of the G5, but in all of college football. UCF’s double overtime 62-55 win over Memphis to secure the American Athletic Conference championship even topped its thrilling 49-42 win over USF the week before.

Surely, such eye candy performances over a pair of ranked teams would entice the CFP power brokers.

But her fate was sealed. The Access Bowl awaited.

Sure, everybody knew Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia were in the Final Four, but when the committee chose Alabama, a team that didn’t even play for its conference championship, the last vestiges of hope, however slim, were dashed.

Sorry, UCF, you’re kinda hot, but not well-heeled. Don’t worry though they have the Peach Bowl just for you, safely tucked away from the Final Four, but close enough to the big-time to make you feel almost worthy. And you get to play Auburn.

This time, Cinderella’s beau didn’t even wait for her final dance of the season before securing another companion, as head coach Scott Frost accepted Nebraska’s proposal. Oh, he will escort UCF to the Peach Bowl, but how attentive will he be? He will be gone as soon as the final gun sounds.

It’s sad. Cinderella’s presence in other events, such as the NCAA basketball tournament, is what keeps the event fresh and intriguing. Look at Butler.

True, in football, it’s more difficult, but the current setup is so skewed there simply is no opportunity for an underdog to emerge, forget about succeeding. Even when a team outside the P5 cabal goes undefeated, it is relegated to second class bowl status.

Yes, it’s not likely, for instance, in an honest, inclusive college football playoff, that a team such as Mountain West champion Boise State could go and knock off Oklahoma ... oh, wait. 

And that’s the point, it can happen and should be allowed to potentially happen. The current caste system is a failure. Anything short of a 16-team field that includes all 10 FBS conference members is a sham.

But that is not likely to change with millions of dollars being generated. 

It brings to mind a quote from political consultant Roger Stone:  “Nobody ever built a statue to a committee.” 

Indeed, the committee’s efforts are hardly worth celebrating or commemorating.

Cinderella has breathed her last in college football.  

Ruthenberg is sports editor of the News & Eagle. Contact him at

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Ruthenberg is sports editor for the Enid News & Eagle. He can be reached at

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