An Evaluation of National Championships 1936-2013

selmaborntidefan

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This will delve both into HISTORY as well as into THEORY.

Years ago, I made it one of my missions in (sports) life to be informed on this subject because I noticed what seemed to be an unusually large number of folks authoring online pieces (blogs maybe in some cases) that trashed Alabama's national championships and necessarily "reduced" what they deemed to be "legitimate championships." I also noticed a tendency of fanbases to recite "facts" almost as mantras to make their cases.

Oklahoma fans unanimously only wanted to count national championships since 1936, at least when that meant they had the most.

Auburn fans had a near consensus (most of them prior to 2010) that "until there's a playoff, there's no such thing as a national champion" (YES, there were exceptions). An easy way to reduce your main rival's demonstrated on-the-field accomplishments.

Here's an argument I am NOT willing to have with anyone - the NUMBER of Alabama (or for that matter any team) national championships. And my reasoning has as much to do with the insane "logic" of some ALABAMA fans as it does the opposition. Alabama has more CLAIMS to national titles than they actually do "titles recognized" as do most schools. So let me lay the groundwork for what follows here, and we'll touch on some problems. What's truly amazing is that in almost every single case, these problems existed long before Alabama's controversial 1964 AP title led to a post-bowl title in 1965, a controversial UPI title in 1973 led to including bowls in the final tally, a series of split national championships (1990, 1991) led to the formation of the Bowl Coalition and so forth right up to the formation of the CFP thanks to Alabama's rematch with LSU. This last is in blue because it is utter nonsense, and nobody needs to be repeating it.

So let's admit a few things up front that will color the discussion as I proceed.

1) I only consider AP titles since 1936, UP/UPI titles since 1950, BCS titles, and CFP titles to be legitimate national titles.

Now this is for the purpose of the analysis only. Yeah, you can go ahead and convince yourself, "But I read in the newspaper that Alabama beating Washington in 1926 won the national championship." I'm sure you did. I'm also sure you don't even know what those words actually mean if you're using that argument because back in that day the winner of the Rose Bowl was often referred to as "the mythical national champion." That's because at that time there was only one bowl game, the Rose Bowl (the Sun Bowl didn't come along for another nine years and yes - it's the second-oldest still existing bowl), and the winner almost always had an unbeaten or nearly so record, and the Rose Bowl thus had prestige.

But it was no more AT THE TIME considered a "national championship" than the newspapers who would say when a baseball player had crossed a certain historical threshold in either a season or career that "the player entered the hall of fame." You can find articles saying this prior to the very notion of a Baseball Hall of Fame. Just because someone used a word in that time doesn't mean that it means what it does today.

2) I start with 1936 because you have to start SOMEWHERE - and what actual debate even existed prior to then?


It's not that I think "well nothing before 1936 is important" because that's not true. After all, Alabama has played football since 1892 and the SEC was formed in 1933, so that's important. But when you look at those lists of national championships for Ivy League schools early in the history of college football, those were in some cases recognized ALMOST A FULL CENTURY after the fact. The Billingsley Report that is the source of many of those titles was started by AN EIGHTEEN-YEAR OLD boy named Richard Billingsley in 1969 to retroactively select national champions. I mean no disrespect to Mr. Billingsley, whom I have zero doubt I could have a great conversation with regarding football. But really? I have a very difficult time wrapping my mind around the notion of claiming titles that the very players who supposedly earned them didn't even know they won. I'm not saying it's a BAD idea, I just question the level of emphasis folks want to put on it.

That's the problem - almost all "national titles" prior to the first AP poll in 1936 were RETROACTIVE researchers saying, "This team was the best." Bear in mind that there's not even video of hardly any of this, so how would these guys know?

3) Alabama's number of national championships got a steroid shot in the mid-80s by a guy named Wayne Atcheson, and we may as well be honest enough to admit it.

The man has admitted his own bias, and okay, he did used recognized selectors. But choosing to acknowledge 1941 as a national title is such a sick joke that it undercuts the rest of his argument. I'm not saying there's anything inherently wrong with what he did as far as recognition - and what's important is that it did shine the spotlight on some good Alabama teams from long ago - but his entire purpose (which he admitted) was little more than, "How can I come up with a way to put Alabama with the most national championships and ahead of Notre Dame?" But once he did that, he created a problem - NOW Alabama has to win 27 national titles to be the top dog because how can you count some of the "iffy" ones and not acknowledge those old teams?

And that leads to another important point...

4) The most important thing you can ever do when discussing "number of Alabama national titles" is to lay out the criteria BEFORE the discussion occurs.

Let them start whenever. Let them use THEIR chosen criteria because it's a Catch 22. If ANY and ALL count, Alabama wins. And by any method you use, Alabama STILL wins. Yes - and this might shock some folks - but despite not making the BCS title game until the TWELFTH year, Alabama has more BCS titles (3) than anybody, too.

5) I'm trying to actually serve a larger purpose here, too.

That purpose being both education as well as equipping for inevitable discussions.

My plea - and folks I'll admit my Crimson bias openly and without one iota of shame - is to engage discussion CONSISTENTLY and honorably. Not the old "I will defend the old crimson lady at all costs" because that's not necessary. What will likely surprise a number of you, though, is how many times the EXACT SAME THING happened in CFB and people only seem to mention it when it involves Alabama. Amazing how often that happens.

a) several teams won the AP title and lost their bowl games prior to 1964, but you never hear one word about it.
b) the very same people who say "Alabama lost to USC head to head in 1978" actually believe FSU won one in 1993
c) the very same people who say "Alabama had no business in the 2012 game against LSU" ignore the fact that was 100 times less egregious than Oklahoma in 2003 (amazingly enough, on that one we get "well that was just the rules at the time" - EXACTLY!)

So we're going to look at each one BEGINNING with 1936 and whether it was justified, potential meetings, etc. Hopefully, this will be enlightening for all of us.
 

J0eW

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I look forward to your coming write-up. I have studied this issue somewhat, but always enjoy another perception.

When someone trashes one of our NC claims, I like to point out the 1966 and 1977 UA teams. I was one bitter and disillusioned 13 year old after the polls in January 1967!
 

4Q Basket Case

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This will delve both into HISTORY as well as into THEORY.

Years ago, I made it one of my missions in (sports) life to be informed on this subject because I noticed what seemed to be an unusually large number of folks authoring online pieces (blogs maybe in some cases) that trashed Alabama's national championships and necessarily "reduced" what they deemed to be "legitimate championships." I also noticed a tendency of fanbases to recite "facts" almost as mantras to make their cases.

Oklahoma fans unanimously only wanted to count national championships since 1936, at least when that meant they had the most.

Auburn fans had a near consensus (most of them prior to 2010) that "until there's a playoff, there's no such thing as a national champion" (YES, there were exceptions). An easy way to reduce your main rival's demonstrated on-the-field accomplishments.

Here's an argument I am NOT willing to have with anyone - the NUMBER of Alabama (or for that matter any team) national championships. And my reasoning has as much to do with the insane "logic" of some ALABAMA fans as it does the opposition. Alabama has more CLAIMS to national titles than they actually do "titles recognized" as do most schools. So let me lay the groundwork for what follows here, and we'll touch on some problems. What's truly amazing is that in almost every single case, these problems existed long before Alabama's controversial 1964 AP title led to a post-bowl title in 1965, a controversial UPI title in 1973 led to including bowls in the final tally, a series of split national championships (1990, 1991) led to the formation of the Bowl Coalition and so forth right up to the formation of the CFP thanks to Alabama's rematch with LSU. This last is in blue because it is utter nonsense, and nobody needs to be repeating it.

So let's admit a few things up front that will color the discussion as I proceed.

1) I only consider AP titles since 1936, UP/UPI titles since 1950, BCS titles, and CFP titles to be legitimate national titles.

Now this is for the purpose of the analysis only. Yeah, you can go ahead and convince yourself, "But I read in the newspaper that Alabama beating Washington in 1926 won the national championship." I'm sure you did. I'm also sure you don't even know what those words actually mean if you're using that argument because back in that day the winner of the Rose Bowl was often referred to as "the mythical national champion." That's because at that time there was only one bowl game, the Rose Bowl (the Sun Bowl didn't come along for another nine years and yes - it's the second-oldest still existing bowl), and the winner almost always had an unbeaten or nearly so record, and the Rose Bowl thus had prestige.

But it was no more AT THE TIME considered a "national championship" than the newspapers who would say when a baseball player had crossed a certain historical threshold in either a season or career that "the player entered the hall of fame." You can find articles saying this prior to the very notion of a Baseball Hall of Fame. Just because someone used a word in that time doesn't mean that it means what it does today.

2) I start with 1936 because you have to start SOMEWHERE - and what actual debate even existed prior to then?


It's not that I think "well nothing before 1936 is important" because that's not true. After all, Alabama has played football since 1892 and the SEC was formed in 1933, so that's important. But when you look at those lists of national championships for Ivy League schools early in the history of college football, those were in some cases recognized ALMOST A FULL CENTURY after the fact. The Billingsley Report that is the source of many of those titles was started by AN EIGHTEEN-YEAR OLD boy named Richard Billingsley in 1969 to retroactively select national champions. I mean no disrespect to Mr. Billingsley, whom I have zero doubt I could have a great conversation with regarding football. But really? I have a very difficult time wrapping my mind around the notion of claiming titles that the very players who supposedly earned them didn't even know they won. I'm not saying it's a BAD idea, I just question the level of emphasis folks want to put on it.

That's the problem - almost all "national titles" prior to the first AP poll in 1936 were RETROACTIVE researchers saying, "This team was the best." Bear in mind that there's not even video of hardly any of this, so how would these guys know?

3) Alabama's number of national championships got a steroid shot in the mid-80s by a guy named Wayne Atcheson, and we may as well be honest enough to admit it.

The man has admitted his own bias, and okay, he did used recognized selectors. But choosing to acknowledge 1941 as a national title is such a sick joke that it undercuts the rest of his argument. I'm not saying there's anything inherently wrong with what he did as far as recognition - and what's important is that it did shine the spotlight on some good Alabama teams from long ago - but his entire purpose (which he admitted) was little more than, "How can I come up with a way to put Alabama with the most national championships and ahead of Notre Dame?" But once he did that, he created a problem - NOW Alabama has to win 27 national titles to be the top dog because how can you count some of the "iffy" ones and not acknowledge those old teams?

And that leads to another important point...

4) The most important thing you can ever do when discussing "number of Alabama national titles" is to lay out the criteria BEFORE the discussion occurs.

Let them start whenever. Let them use THEIR chosen criteria because it's a Catch 22. If ANY and ALL count, Alabama wins. And by any method you use, Alabama STILL wins. Yes - and this might shock some folks - but despite not making the BCS title game until the TWELFTH year, Alabama has more BCS titles (3) than anybody, too.

5) I'm trying to actually serve a larger purpose here, too.

That purpose being both education as well as equipping for inevitable discussions.

My plea - and folks I'll admit my Crimson bias openly and without one iota of shame - is to engage discussion CONSISTENTLY and honorably. Not the old "I will defend the old crimson lady at all costs" because that's not necessary. What will likely surprise a number of you, though, is how many times the EXACT SAME THING happened in CFB and people only seem to mention it when it involves Alabama. Amazing how often that happens.

a) several teams won the AP title and lost their bowl games prior to 1964, but you never hear one word about it.
b) the very same people who say "Alabama lost to USC head to head in 1978" actually believe FSU won one in 1993
c) the very same people who say "Alabama had no business in the 2012 game against LSU" ignore the fact that was 100 times less egregious than Oklahoma in 2003 (amazingly enough, on that one we get "well that was just the rules at the time" - EXACTLY!)

So we're going to look at each one BEGINNING with 1936 and whether it was justified, potential meetings, etc. Hopefully, this will be enlightening for all of us.
I look forward to what I know will be a thorough analysis based on historical fact.

One thing I would hope you might be able to confirm or refute: I seem to remember that in the final poll of the 1977 season (taking place in January of 1978), there were several voters who left us off the list altogether, thereby stacking the deck for Notre Dame’s leapfrogging.

For the non-OFC, here was the setup: Alabama was 10-1 going into the Sugar Bowl against tOSU. The one loss was to Nebraska, in Lincoln, where Jeff Rutledge threw 5 interceptions. Those were the only 5 he threw all year, and even then, we lost by only 7 (31-24).

On the morning of January 1, 1978, we were ranked #3 in both polls. That night, we drubbed tOSU badly. The score was 35-6, and tOSU had 10 fumbles, losing only two.

Earlier in the day, #1 (Texas, more on that in a minute) and #2 (I don’t remember) had already lost. So with Alabama being ranked #3, and beating tOSU convincingly, we all thought we’d be #1 at the end.

It was not to be...#5 Notre Dame stomped #1 Texas by 4 TDs in the Cotton Bowl, and vaulted from #5 to #1. Much controversy ensued.

Which brings me to my question for Selma: Did some voters really leave Alabama off their ballots altogether? Or alternatively, rank us unconscionably low in view of being 11-1?

I’m wondering if that really happened, or is an urban legend that’s been repeated so often for so long that it takes on the aura of truth.
 
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Isaiah 63:1

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...Which brings me to my question for Selma: Did some voters really leave Alabama off their ballots altogether? Or alternatively, rank us unconscionably low in view of being 11-1?

I’m wondering if that really happened, or is an urban legend that’s been repeated so often for so long that it takes on the aura of truth.
This claim is usually (if not always) leveled against the AP voters from Chicago (dang media bias!!!), but I've never believed it, primarily because (a) Notre Dame's margin in the AP poll was very similar to their margin in the Coaches' poll, so the coaches would have had to have been in on it too; (b) no one has ever offered me a shred of evidence to support the story, and I find it hard to believe that such evidence would not both exist and have been produced had the scam existed...
 

J0eW

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I look forward to what I know will be a thorough analysis based on historical fact.

One thing I would hope you might be able to confirm or refute: I seem to remember that in the final poll of the 1977 season (taking place in January of 1978), there were several voters who left us off the list altogether, thereby stacking the deck for Notre Dame’s leapfrogging.

For the non-OFC, here was the setup: Alabama was 10-1 going into the Sugar Bowl against tOSU. The one loss was to Nebraska, in Lincoln, where Jeff Rutledge threw 5 interceptions. Those were the only 5 he threw all year, and even then, we lost by only 7 (31-24).

On the morning of January 1, 1978, we were ranked #3 in both polls. That night, we drubbed tOSU badly. The score was 35-6, and tOSU had 10 fumbles, losing only two.

Earlier in the day, #1 (Texas, more on that in a minute) and #2 (I don’t remember) had already lost. So with Alabama being ranked #3, and beating tOSU convincingly, we all thought we’d be #1 at the end.

It was not to be...#5 Notre Dame stomped #1 Texas by 4 TDs in the Cotton Bowl, and vaulted from #5 to #1. Much controversy ensued.

Which brings me to my question for Selma: Did some voters really leave Alabama off their ballots altogether? Or alternatively, rank us unconscionably low in view of being 11-1?

I’m wondering if that really happened, or is an urban legend that’s been repeated so often for so long that it takes on the aura of truth.
I remember the story of the final 1977 season vote going like this: a number of midwest voters voted UA at 5 or below,
 

STONECOLDSABAN

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The 1941 thing irritates me because why not just claim 1945??? in 1945 bama went undefeated and stomped usc in the rose bowl. It also gives lazy haters ammunition to says dumb stuff like “half of your titles are made up” no, 1941 is a bad claim. 1925, 26, 1930, 1934, where Alabama went a combined 39-0-1. (Only tie was with Stanford in the 27 rose bowl who also claims a national title that year) aren’t bad claims.
 
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4Q Basket Case

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The 1941 thing irritates me because why not just claim 1945??? in 1945 bama went undefeated and stomped usc in the rose bowl. It also gives lazy haters ammunition to says dumb stuff like “half of your titles are made up” no, 1941 is a bad claim. 1925, 26, 1930, 1934, where Alabama went a combined 39-0-1. (Only tie was with Stanford in the 27 rose bowl with Stanford who also claims a national title that year) aren’t bad claims.
I agree. 1941 shouldn’t have been on the list in the first place. I remember Acheson being asked about it several times, and he showed some impatience and exasperation with having to defend it.

Trouble now is there’s so much merch out there with the current count that eliminating it would mess up a lot of collections.
 

selmaborntidefan

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1936 AP FINAL POLL
National champion: Minnesota, 7-1
Unbeaten/Untied teams: Santa Clara, 7-0
Unbeaten teams with ties: LSU, 9-0-1; Alabama 8-0-1


College football poll national champions began in controversy, which folks around long enough to remember this (insert Lee Corso joke here) should remember. The sport was born in controversy, polls were born in controversy, and it seems like controversy has been the midwife of every single change in the sport's history (including such things as outlawing the flying wedge, face masks and, God forbid, integration). 1936 even featured the Yellow Shirts of Nebraska demanding a team be dropped from their football schedule for being, well, too good. It's red shirts for those of you without Internet.

The first AP poll was published on October 19, 1936 and Minnesota was on top. The Gophers wound up winning the title, but should they have?

Here's a laugher for you: you know how everyone was raging left and right in 2011 about how "but Alabama didn't even win their own conference"? What if I told you the first college football national champion didn't win theirs, either? Yeah, so there went any appeals to "it's always been understood you have to win your conference." I like Joel Klatt, but he needs to go nail some Jello to a wall when this subject arises.

Minnesota was ranked #1 and played #4 Northwestern on the road, and the Wildcats won, 6-0. Northwestern then rose to number one and lost their finale TO #11 Notre Dame, 26-6. When Minnesota lost, they only dropped to #2, so you can probably guess what happened next: when Notre Dame drilled the Wildcats, their win over Minnesota suddenly didn't count anymore, and the Gophers rose back to #1 the week they beat Wisconsin, 24-0. They held on and won the championship despite the fact Northwestern was the Big Ten champion and had a head-to-head win over Minnesota. On top of that, because this was long before the Big Ten/PCC contract with the Rose Bowl, NONE of the Big Ten teams went to any bowl game which, of course, led to yet another huge controversy. Two of them, in fact, though one was admittedly a bit of a joke.

1) Who Should Have Won The National Championship?

So let's go back to 1936 and see what was being said at the time. In fact, it sounds A LOT like what you hear nowadays. Opinions largely were along regional lines - and then defending the region by taking the team that beat yours as the champs so you maintained how good you thought you were.

Alabama head coach Frank Thomas said he thought LSU was the best team in the country in 1936. The two teams did not play, so this actually says a lot in favor of Thomas. Unfortunately, LSU laid an egg in the Sugar Bowl, which was practically an LSU home game in Tulane Stadium, losing to the nation's only unbeaten team at the end of the poll period (Santa Clara), 21-14. When LSU lost, the national media mocked Thomas.

The very first poll had Minnesota at #1 for one reason only - the Gophers hadn't lost a football game since 1932, compiling a 23-0-4 record prior to the first poll submission by AP. So given that every single team not named Santa Clara had an imperfection, how did Minnesota's loss to Northwestern miraculously get forgotten?

It didn't. The voters of 1936 chose to put it in a particular context not overly different from when evaluating teams now. What happened was this: Minnesota's Ed Widseth tackled a Northwestern ball carrier along the sidelines. The referee called a penalty for "slugging," and there wasn't exactly instant replay in those days. There also wasn't "half the distance" so the official marked the penalty down to the Gophers' one-yard line, which is how Northwestern scored their only points of the game. Granted, it was more than Minnesota, but the writers viewed it (how could they, there was not TV)...okay, they spun it, told it as "Minnesota got jobbed," and the rest was history. That leaves us with the other teams because you have to remember that back then there were few bowl games, and they didn't count in the final rankings.

Santa Clara was undefeated prior to the final poll, but they lost to TCU in their last regular season game. The controversy devolved into a couple of regional fluffs:

a) Alabama and LSU were unbeaten, but both had ties and neither played the other.

b) Pittsburgh was thought to be the powerhouse from the East, but had a loss to #14 Duquesne and a tie with #15 Fordham; but they also blew out #8 Notre Dame and #9 Nebraska and then went to Pasadena and blew out #5 Washington. Pitt beat three teams in the final top ten, Minnesota lost their only game against a ranked foe (Northwestern)

The real stink was a three-way kerfuffle between Minnesota, Pitt, and LSU. Alabama played what was generally considered the easiest schedule. LSU was hurt by the fact Santa Clara was as good against Auburn as LSU was. So the point of controversy comes down to a contest between one-loss Minnesota and one-loss and one tie with the much tougher schedule Pitt. The final AP vote wasn't really close, the Gophers getting 25 of 35 votes while LSU got nine and unbeaten Santa Clara got one, a defensible one.

What may have been the final arbiter is that just by chance in 1936, Minnesota and Ohio State did not play each other. Why was this important? Because Ohio St was a good team, they lost to Northwestern closer than Minnesota did, and Pitt beat Ohio St in Columbus, 6-0. If Ohio State beats Minnesota, Pitt is the national champion; if Minnesota beats Ohio St by more than six points, there's not much argument.

2) Slippery Rock - the school that inspired Central Florida to act like a bunch of morons

In the "you kind had to be there" department, Slippery Rock - yes, that's a real school - was rather famous back in the day, particularly before the Internet and fans who have attended a game at the Big House (Michigan, not prison folks - if you can tell the difference) know that just before halftime the PA announcer is going to give the score if Slippery Rock is playing. That tradition was borne thanks to Slippery Rock - or more precisely a sportswriter - pulling a UCF.

When the controversy erupted in the papers over whether Pitt or Minnestoa was number one, comparisons were made. One erudite sportswriter ended the entire discussion with an early version of the transivite property argument: Slippery Rock beat Westminster who beat WVA Wesleyan who beat Duquesne who beat Pitt who beat Notre Dame who beat Northwestern who beat Minnesota. THEREFORE....Sliippery Rock was the number one team in the nation. (Some people laughing at this would be the same folks who accepted this when it was UCF).

Ever since then, Michigan has given the Slippery Rock score.

3) Quotes From the Just Last Year, Er, 84 Years Ago

In the December 31, 1936 El Paso Herald Post, Bob Ingram quoted some coaches of teams not good enough to go to bowl games whining about.....the bowl games. Chet Wynne, who went 9-0-1 at Auburn in 1932 before a 5-5 year in 1933 made him decide he'd leave the Plains for the Blue Grass of Kentucky, said, "The bowl situation is becoming a joke," presumably because the only sugar bowl he ever saw was on his grandmother's dinner table. Then there was Dick Hanley (what a name!), the former Northwestern coach who said - in the "boy is this sounding familiar" department - "the multiplicity of bowl games may kill football."

Complaints were heard from both Alabama and LSU about the fact neither team was selected to play Washington in the Rose Bowl, with suspicion centering on the fact the 1936 SEC teams (the South) were 4-1-1 against the West Coast representatives.

Bob Neyland, the coach at Tennessee, sounded a contrarian voice to those blabbing about the bowls killing the sport, noting that the only reason the number of bowl games is increasing is because people actually want to see them.
Curley Lambeau - yeah, the guy for whom a bunch of frozen Yankees named the field - declared Minnesota was the best team in college football.

I'd love someone to call into one of these radio shows when one of the Clueless Clique gets to going about conference titles and what have you and point out that this occurred forever ago.

(In an amusing anecdote, the January 6, 1937 copy of the Panama City Herald runs a story about boxer Max Maxwell, who is disqualified in his match with Gene Bonin after Maxwell bit Bonin on the arm. Folks, just because there was no TV to show these things doesn't mean that almost every single insane sports story you've ever heard hasn't already happened).


SUMMARY
Given the circumstances, the selection of Minnesota makes perfect sense. However, it should be noted the entire case for them was based on them STARTING as the perceived best team and then using the EYE TEST to use they "got robbed, and we all know they were really better than Northwestern." But if you're a "conference championships matter" moron, Minnesota's title is more illegitimate than Alabama's 2011 title is.
 

selmaborntidefan

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This claim is usually (if not always) leveled against the AP voters from Chicago (dang media bias!!!), but I've never believed it, primarily because (a) Notre Dame's margin in the AP poll was very similar to their margin in the Coaches' poll, so the coaches would have had to have been in on it too; (b) no one has ever offered me a shred of evidence to support the story, and I find it hard to believe that such evidence would not both exist and have been produced had the scam existed...
This one of those yarns that has grown through the years.

1977 AP FINAL REGULAR SEASON POLL
1) Texas (49)
2) Oklahoma (5)
3) Alabama (1)
4) Michigan
5) Notre Dame (1)
6) Arkansas
7) Kentucky (1)

1977 AP FINAL POST-BOWL POLL
1) Notre Dame 37 1/3
2) Alabama 19 1/3
3) Arkansas 5 1/3
4) Texas 2

So let's see......

1) We need to flog the two voters who actually chose Texas for number one after a 28-point blowout loss in Dallas.

2) Alabama picked up 18 1/13 votes

3) Notre Dame picked up 36 1/3 votes

4) Kentucky was on probation with no bowl, their vote went somewhere else.

5) Arkansas picked up 5 1/3 votes

A voter could JUSTIFIABLY argued:
a) Texas >>> Alabama because Texas played a tougher schedule
b) Notre Dame >>>> Alabama (yes, Ole Miss.....but you might want to go look at the rest of the schedule. Notre Dame crushed USC, Alabama survived them; Irish did have the "worst loss" but they also had the better win, the tougher schedule, and better performance against the same teams no named Ole Miss
c) Oklahoma >>> Alabama - and Arkansas beat Oklahoma
d) Kentucky >>>> Alabama - yes, a stretch, but the two teams didn't play each other.

A pollster COULD have justifiably ranked Alabama as low as SIXTH in the final poll, although given they were third and moved up to second, the notion this happened is next-level ludicrous. Alabama was ranked third with 895 points in the final regular season poll. The Tide JUMPED to 1132 points and number two in the final poll, 48 points behind Notre Dame. Even if the 7 voters who picked Arky and Texas (probably all residing in that region) and the 1 voter who voted all 3 number one given Alabama their votes, the Tide STILL would not have won the poll.

Remember - the polls were done on a points system where number 1 got 20 points, number 2 got 19, etc down to the team voted 20th got ONE point. So we know for sure that Alabama got 386.7 points from the first-place votes of 19 1/3 (technically 20) of the 64 voters. That leaves 44 voters. If all 44 voters put Alabama at 2 then that's 836 points plus 386.7 is 1,222 points. So we know FOR SURE that not all 44 voters put the Tide at number two.

The 44 voters totaling that many points means we AVERAGED 16.95 points, or averaged a 4th place ranking among them. Problem is that the top was so close but only 1-2-3. So we HAD to have had the most 2nd place votes if not by much.

I suspect that we probably had some 5th place votes but from the SWC area voters. Two dolts put Texas at one and 5 more put Arky there. I can envision a scenario where the voters from that area put Texas and Arky and OU at 1-2-3 OR put Notre Dame in those spots and put us 5th. Of course, there’s a caveat.....how many of those voters had us 5th or lower in the next to last poll? The issue is NOT “where did they rank is in the final poll” as much as it’s “where did they rank us in the prior one as well.”

Remember - they could justify OU ahead of us because OU beat the only team that beat us, Nebraska.

Is it true someone voted us fifth? Probably. Was it to rig the vote for Notre Dame? No.
 

TideEngineer08

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The 1941 thing irritates me because why not just claim 1945??? in 1945 bama went undefeated and stomped usc in the rose bowl. It also gives lazy haters ammunition to says dumb stuff like “half of your titles are made up” no, 1941 is a bad claim. 1925, 26, 1930, 1934, where Alabama went a combined 39-0-1. (Only tie was with Stanford in the 27 rose bowl who also claims a national title that year) aren’t bad claims.
1945 was omitted because of Army, I think. You're just not going to claim an NC, legit of a claim as it is, when the US Army just got through saving the world and went undefeated in football.

I have no idea who was truly the better team in 1945. I do know that Alabama team was very good.

I agree with the frustration over 1941.
 
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selmaborntidefan

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I remember the story of the final 1977 season vote going like this: a number of midwest voters voted UA at 5 or below,
Respectfully, I think you're conflating what actually DID happen in 1979.

In 1979, Alabama was the pre-season #1 and was there for every single poll until the last regular season one. What happened then was next-level insane - EIGHT voters (who remained anonymous, the little snits) had us at third or below: five had us at 3, two at 4, and one as low as 5. That one fifth-place vote moved Ohio St into the number one spot and set up a nightmare scenario for us - unbeaten Ohio St versus unbeaten and once tied USC in a winner-take-all (potentially) for the national title.

It was Frank Broyles of all people who unloaded on the voters on ABC, saying that the AP voters had taken it upon themselves to "Create their own national championship title game," and rhetorically pointing out "what did Alabama do wrong?" Broyles didn't stop there - he said that anyone who didn't think Alabama was AT A MINIMUM in the top 3 "has no business ranking teams in the first place."

In that same UPI vote - 13 coaches abstained from voting.
 

selmaborntidefan

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I’m wondering if that really happened, or is an urban legend that’s been repeated so often for so long that it takes on the aura of truth.
I don't think THAT would have been humanly possible. In the remaining non-first place votes that year, we averaged a position of 17 points, which means we AVERAGED a fourth-place ranking in the grand scheme of things. But remember - we also got enough points to finish SECOND, which means MOST of those votes had to be 2nd place votes, too.

I'm still researching this one for a "final answer" to hopefully satisfy. It's amazing we weren't allowed to know the voters in the AP poll in 1977 but ESPN took it upon themselves to tell the whole world, "Corky Simpson is a moron who rated Alabama on top last spring."
 

selmaborntidefan

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1937 AP FINAL POLL
National champion: Pittsburgh, 9-0-1
Unbeaten/Untied teams:#4 Alabama 9-0, #9 Santa Clara 8-0, #17 Colorado 8-0
Unbeaten teams with ties: #2 Cal 9-0-1, #3 Fordham 7-0-1, #6 Villanova 8-0-1, #7 Dartmouth 7-0-2, #14 Holy Cross 8-0-2


Unbelievable. You have no less than NINE teams without a defeat, and you have three without a tie, and how does Pitt win the national championshp? Welcome to yet another in the long line of college football national title traditions, this one known as, "the team who we feel might have gotten robbed last year gets an advantage the next season" because that's exactly what happened.

Reminder - technically, the first AP poll was in 1934 when a man named Alan Gould published his opinion under the AP banner. He did it again in 1935 and some folks pointed out that he'd get a better sense of all teams if OTHER folks were permitted to vote. Gould agreed, and the AP was born. Keep in mind they did not publish a pre-season poll until 1950, but you're going to notice a subtle "let's make it up to the team that might have gotten screwed" tradition that began with the very second year.

To understand how Pitt became a football power, you have to go back in time. Pitt was once coached by the legendary Glenn "Pop"Warner, prior to the mid-20s. Warner left for Stanford and was replaced by a man named Jock Sutherland, who took Warner's then infant concepts and built a football program. Bear this in mind - when Sutherland arrived as coach, the Univ of Pittsburgh was on the verge of foreclosure. During the 1920s - a prospeorus time in American history before the Depression - Sutherland devised a (then) legal way to subsidize his players (e.g. pay them money) and was able to build some powerful teams. Pitt won a few Rose Bowls, which was okay until the economy crashed in 1929. Players had been paid on the basis of their abilities, but resentment set in once money was tight all over, and the subsidies were drastically reduced - albeit not lowered enough to harm the football team. It was about as profitable for a guy to play football for a school as to work 60 hours a week in a blast furnace nearby.....which one would you choose? But facing foreclosure, the school hired a new President named John Bowman. He immediately ran into a problem - alumni wanted a new football stadium as a money-maker. Bowman, a shrewd politician, went along with it enough to build a large stadium way over cost that opened and then used that to pressure for a new soaring on campus cathedral, which he got in 1937, delayed as it was by the Depression.

But Pitt was mired in scandal, too. It got out that most of their players were married - no big deal today but next-level scandal in 1937 - and were the equivalent of a semipro football team. In retaliation, a number of schools refused to play Pitt, which led to their schedules being largely occupied by small-time colleges looking for a fun Saturday afternoon and - maybe - some radio broadcasts and exposure for their schools. Pitt de-emphasized football beginning in WW2 and didn't really rise from the ashes again until Johnny Majors arrived and recruited Tony Dorsett in the early 1970s. Partly due to watching Pitt field their teams, the Southeastern Conference angered the rest of CFB (sound familiar?) by approving athletic scholarships for football players beginning in 1935. As was almost always the case, schools elsewhere condemned the action while never mentioning their own players were (largely) financed by booster money and donors. The NCAA of 1935 had no clout to do anything about it and after a few years of screaming, they relented. By this time, Pitt was entrenched as football power. (Side note: a guy by the name of Huey P. Long had his hands in the LSU football program while he was in office. I'm serious when I say this - LSU's ascent as a college football program began immediately after Long was assassinated and no longer had his hands in everything. Cruel - but correct).

1) Remember the 1966 controversy? It sort of happened in 1937.

Pitt and Fordham played one of the most unusual trilogies in CFB history. In both 1935 and 1936, Pitt and Fordham not only played to a tie, neither team scored in either game. (One of the lesser known - at the time - players for Fordham was some dude named Lombardi). As LA Times sportswriter Gordon Edes once mused, "It was the Great Depression. Maybe touchdowns were like everything else, hard to come by." And so in 1937, they met at the Polo Grounds in New York, home of the baseball AND football Giants. And for the third year in a row, nobody scored.

Actually, that's not completely correct. Pitt DID score a touchdown, but it was called back on a penalty far away from the play (most likely by referee Thomas Aloysius Ritterski Polanski III, who later Anglicized his name to protect his offspring). A block that was thrown all the time was suddenly wrong, and Pitt sort of became like Minnesota in 1936, "well, the only reason Fordham tied them was because of the officials." And because the game was in New York, the media got on board with how great both teams were, which could only help Pitt since they played two additional games.

Of course, the problem was that California (aka CAL) was number one in the first poll of the season because it came out right after this tie game. And Cal blew everyone off the field, too....except Washington, who they tied, and it cost them the title.

2) Did the right team win the national championship?

In an era when bowl games weren't played by everyone, it's hard to argue against Pitt. OK, you CAN argue in favor of Alabama or Santa Clara, but they weren't "screwed" in 1936, they didn't have a high profile or high profile tie, the bias was in the East, and Pitt WAS a good team. Cal lost the title because they couldn't beat an unranked Washington team that lost to (wait for it) Oregon State. In the poll era, the selection of Pitt is justified, although in the pre-BCS, Cal's win over unbeaten/untied Alabama by 13-0 probably would have gotten them the vote, too.

3) LSU has been flopping for a long time.

For the second straight year, LSU drew Santa Clara in a bowl game.
For the second straight year, it was the Tulane Stadium based Sugar Bowl.
For the second straight year, Santa Clara won by a touchdown.

to be fair, Santa Clara was a VERY good team back then. They only gave up 9 total points in 9 games, throwing seven shutouts. But they were on the West Coast, and there was no television. The end.

So far, we have teams winning titles based on previous reputation. Too bad modern football can't be like football long ago when teams NEVER won titles based on, er reputation.........

Also - neither of these champions won their "conference championship", either.
 

TideEngineer08

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Wow I didn’t realize how good Alabama was in 30’s. I know about 30 and 34. But they were definitely a force for most of the decade.
As well as the 20s and 40s. I laugh at all the trash Auburn fans used to talk about the series record being basically even after Coach Bryant retired, and how they had a winning record vs Alabama outside of the Coach Bryant tenure. Well, yeah. They also dodged us during a very successful 30 year run in which they were also quite mediocre, 1920-1947. I realize the series was dormant from 1906-1948. I’d estimate, however, that we probably would have had something like a 28-14 record vs them during that era. And that’s probably conservative.