Mark Edwards: Declaring past national titles for Auburn? Why not?
by Mark Edwards
medwards@annistonstar.com
Feb 01, 2014 | 4385 views |  0 comments | 38 38 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jay Jacobs has said he would like to recognize more national champions than just the school's poll champions on 1957 and 2010. (Photo by Todd Van Emst)
Jay Jacobs has said he would like to recognize more national champions than just the school's poll champions on 1957 and 2010. (Photo by Todd Van Emst)
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Auburn’s Jay Jacobs announced plans recently to recognize as many as seven of his school’s football teams as “national champions.”

The reaction from here: What took you so long?

Auburn wouldn’t be the first school to do this, and, no, this isn’t a shot at Alabama’s claim of 15 national championships.

Tennessee claims six national championships (1938, ’40, ’50, ’51, ’67 and ’98), although only two (1951 and ’98) finished first in a national poll during the poll era, which began in 1936.

Ole Miss claims three – 1959, ’60 and ’62. None finished first in a poll. Minnesota claims seven titles, although only four were first in a poll.

Two years ago, Texas A&M magically discovered two national champions from 1919 and 1927. Michigan, has two poll championships to its credit but claims 11 national titles.

So, why shouldn’t Auburn claim more than its two poll champions of 1957 and 2010? If anything, the Tigers are lagging behind. Get with it, guys.

Alabama popularized the trend of “discovered” championships, and with the exception of one major misstep, the school didn’t do anything wrong.

Then-sports information director Wayne Atcheson combed the records and found what he believed were five non-poll champions in Alabama’s history that deserved to be called national champions: 1925, ’26, ’30, ’34 and ’41.

If he had stopped with those first four, Alabama might’ve gotten away without anyone making a huge fuss. The 1925, ’30 and ’34 won the Rose Bowl in the pre-poll era. The 1926 team tied Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

Back then, the Rose Bowl paired the two best teams it could find, and it’s not unreasonable for the winner to declare itself national championship, especially with the first national poll not beginning until 1936 when The Associated Press started one.

But about that 1941 “championship” … it’s not a reasonable claim. Alabama went 9-2 and finished No. 20 in The Associated Press poll that year. Hardly championship material.

The Crimson Tide was declared champion by Houlgate, but if it’s a legitimate championship, then Alabama also should claimed titles for the 1945, ’62, ’66, ’75 and ’77, too. All five of those squads are recognized by some organization as a national champion as well.

If Auburn fans find those “Got 15?” crimson shirts obnoxious, imagine what it would be like if they said, “Got 20?”

Realistically, however, it should say, “Got 14?”

Even the NCAA is little help in trying to decide how many national titles a school should claim. The NCAA record book lists 39 different selectors of national champions. It’s according to that list that Alabama has 20 national championships and that Auburn should add banners for its 1913, 1983 and 1993 teams.

The NCAA website cuts down the list considerably in its “history” section and honors a much more select group. That list names only 13 Alabama national champions, cutting out the Tide’s claim to titles in 1930 and 1941. The only Auburn teams listed are the poll champions from 1957 and 2010.

That list has one minor problem – it recognizes BCS champions since 1998. But there’s no actual BCS champion. There’s a BCS National Championship Game, but the BCS doesn’t crown a champion.

That crystal football trophy? It isn’t a BCS trophy – it’s the coaches’ poll trophy. When the Bowl Championship Series began in 1998, the American Football Coaches Association agreed to list the BCS Championship Game winner first in the coaches’ poll. With this agreement, the BCS organizers could be assured their game would crown an actual champion and they would have a trophy to award at the end of the game.

It’s just more confusion in the national championship game.

It seems as if the coming four-team football tournament should solve all of this for the future. But as for the past, claim who you want, Auburn. It’s a popular thing to do.

Contact Anniston Star Sports Editor Mark Edwards at medwards@annistonstar.com. Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.
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