One of the more absurd stories in a pretty absurd week was the news out of the Loveliest Village on the Plains that Auburn is considering padding its football resume by recognizing as many as seven more teams from its past as “national champions.”
Up to now, the Tigers have only flown championship flags over Jordan-Hare Stadium for their 1957 and 2010 teams, which were pretty much consensus national champions. But, prompted by several other schools like Texas A&M, Minnesota and Ole Miss suddenly discovering previously unclaimed national championships, Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs announced he’s considering doing the same for the 1910, 1913, 1914, 1958, 1983, 1993 and 2004 teams.
While it’s true most of them were recognized as national champs by someone, they’re for the most part polls that don’t exist any more or retroactive rankings cooked up decades later by some revisionist football wonk.
Still, Jacobs said in a report by 247Sports’ Auburn Undercover blog, “If other schools are using these same polls to declare a national championship, we should at least consider it. I don’t think there’s a better time for the Auburn family to consider it than right here at the end of the BCS era. As we transition into another playoff format for the national champion, I just think we need to look hard at it.”
Well, perhaps they shouldn’t look too hard at a couple of those teams.
I guess it would be somewhat churlish to point out that the 1993 team was actually on probation and ineligible for postseason play, but Jacobs apparently is considering elevating its status because it was named national champion that year by the short-lived and now-defunct National Championship Foundation. (Actually, the NCF declared a four-way tie between FSU, Notre Dame, Auburn and Nebraska that season, not that many people noticed.)
And, of course, the 2004 Tigers team has been a particularly sore point for AU loyalists, since it finished undefeated with a 13-0 record but didn’t get to play for the BCS championship. Ultimately, Auburn finished No. 2 in the AP and coaches polls that year, which hardly supports a national championship claim, but somehow AU has dredged up that it was recognized as national champion by Darryl Perry and GBE College Football Ratings. Perry is a former radio station manager and unsuccessful mayoral candidate in Birmingham who, as a hobby, calculates college football rankings using his own system. The GBE ratings, created in 2003, are similarly obscure.
But since USC was stripped of that year’s BCS title after being hit by NCAA sanctions, Jacobs thinks Auburn ought to be able to stake a claim on the championship.
If you think Auburn and these other schools suddenly discovering previously unclaimed national championships is pretty lame, well, I agree with you. But it’s worth pointing out that UGA also has a few other football national championships in its pocket that might merit flags flying over Sanford Stadium if that’s the game everyone else is going to play.
Currently, Georgia claims only two national championships — the undefeated 1980 team and the 11-1 1942 team, which lost to Auburn but won the SEC championship and went on to beat UCLA in the Rose Bowl. The school declares those two teams as “consensus” national champions, meaning they were ranked No. 1 by at least half of the national polls recognized by the National College Football Hall of Fame and included in the official NCAA Football Record Book. The 1980 team was the choice of the vast majority of rankings. In 1942, AP declared Ohio State the champ, but Georgia was the pick of the Berryman, DeVold, Houlgate, Litkenhous, Poling, Williamson polls.
In addition, though, the UGA football media guide notes that three other teams were declared national champ at season’s end by at least one of those national polls. The 1927 team topped the Boand and Poling rankings, the 1946 team was declared champion by the Williamson poll, and the 1968 team was the Litkenhous poll’s national champ.
My son and I were discussing this and we concluded that the Georgia team with the strongest claim (in this newfound loose Auburn fashion) is the 1946 team, led by the great Charley Trippi, as that group of Bulldogs went undefeated and crushed everyone, including No. 7 Tech, and beat UNC and Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice 20-10 in one of the greatest Sugar Bowls ever played. Despite that team’s undefeated record, the majority of the polls chose Notre Dame, back in an era when the Fighting Irish were basically handed the title every year that they were any good at all.
The 1927 “dream and wonder team” of Coach George “Kid” Woodruff has something of a claim, since it won its first nine games, including over then powerhouse Yale, and ranked No. 1 in the nation before losing is season-ending game to Georgia Tech in Atlanta. But that loss is hard to overlook.
As for Vince Dooley’s 1968 team, which featured the likes of Bill Stanfill and Jake Scott, it did make it through the regular season undefeated (albeit with two ties) but lost dismally to Arkansas 16-2 in the Sugar Bowl. Although the Litkenhous poll, which used a difference-by-score formula, still ranked them No. 1, claiming that title would be pretty sketchy.
Still, if Auburn can base a national championship claim on what some guy in Birmingham said, maybe being the choice of the new King & King Retroactive Ranking should be good enough for the 1946 Bulldogs!
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