ALABAMA’S 12 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS DEBUNKED
A friend of mine recently e-mailed me this article about Alabama’s so-called 12 national championships. Anybody that grows up in Alabama hears this load of bullshit about 12 national championships all the time. It’s even more nauseating when you are an Auburn fan. If anyone happens to know who the author of this is please let me know so I can give credit to them.
12 National Championships? … The Real Story
I just wanted to clear up a few misconceptions about Alabama’s claim to 12 national championships based on fact rather than bias. Credit is given where credit is due.
To clear up confusion, the word retroactive means they went back in time to award the championship.
‘TWELVE’ national championships is fraudulent, nothing but pure bunk ginned up by the SID Department. Here’s a rundown:
• 1925 National Championship: Alabama claims they share this one with Dartmouth. Who awarded the NC? Houlgate and Helms. Houlgate started his system in 1927. So Bama won their 1925 NC using a formula that didn’t exist until 1927? Helms Athletic Foundation started in 1941. Another incredible retroactive NC.
The Associated Press Poll has been active since 1936. The AP took their final poll prior to bowl games from 1936 — 1964 and in 1966 and 1967. They took their final poll after the bowl games in 1965 and from 1968 — Current.
• 1926 National Championship: Alabama claims they share this one with 3 other teams with equal or better records! Once again it is the Helms Athletic Foundation in 1941 that awards it!
• 1930 National Championship: The Davis poll says that Bama tied Notre Dame for NC this year. This was the only one to award it to Bama. Notre Dame was named NC in six polls! Parke Davis is another retroactive system! He (an individual, not an organization) did his in 1933!
• 1934 National Championship: Alabama says they share this with two other teams. The awarders are Dunkel, Williamson and Football Thesaurus. Dunkel was an individual who came up with his own system. Williamson was a geologist who came up with his own system. Football Thesaurus first appeared in 1946!
• 1941 National Championship: This is a complete joke. The AP ranked Alabama 20th in the nation with 14 teams with better records in the top 20. Once again it is the Football Thesaurus that retroactively awards it. Alabama finished 3rd in the SEC that year. Mississippi State won the SEC title..yet Bama claims a National title!
• 1961 National Championship: Finally a legitimate NC.
• 1964 National Championship: While the AP did award the NC to Bama (10-1-0), Arkansas had the better record, 11-0. Alabama played Texas in their bowl and LOST. The AP final poll was before the bowl.
• 1965 National Championship: The AP gave this to Bama. That year there were three teams with better records than Bama. Bama 9-1-1, Michigan St 10-1-0, Arkansas 10-1-0, Nebraska 10-1-0.
• 1973 National Championship: AP puts Bama 4th after their bowl game loss. Bama claims a NC from the UPI poll that was taken before they met Notre Dame in the bowl game and lost. There were 3 teams with better records than Bama that year. The embarrassment of naming Alabama number one caused the UPI to name champions after bowl games. Yet Bammer has no shame in claiming it, of course.
• 1978 National Championship: AP gives this to Alabama(11-1-0) even though USC (12-1-0) had the better record Guess who Alabama lost to that year? USC!!!!!!!!!. UPI gave the NC to USC.
• 1979 National Championship: Their second legitimate NC. Their first Unanimous NC.
•1992 National Championship: Their third legitimate NC. Their second Unanimous NC.
You can see why people ridicule Bama fans when they talk about 12 NCs. The early ones were awarded by individuals years after the games were played. These weren’t consensus polls but NCs awarded by people that had their own formula for determining champions. Some NCs were given before bowl games that Bama lost. Using Alabama logic, Auburn could claim four national championships. But when Bammers brag they like to say they have twelve and Auburn has one. How silly. The NCAA recognizes 6 NCs for Bama and there are only two NCs that Bama has won unanimously. You can’t find an Auburn site claiming four national championships but there are plenty Bama sites claiming 12.
Bama… legends in their own minds!
Dear Unknown (Presumably) Auburn Fan:
You can tell the friend that mailed this to you and the person who wrote it — if you ever find out who that is — that they know less about college football than the average Auburn fan.
First of all, Alabama can legitimately claim 12 national championships with every bit as much right as any other school claims theirs. The official national championship of college football did not begin until the BCS; prior to that, there were numerous organizations that awarded championships, none more legitimate than any other. Virtually everything the unknown writer says in this piece is nonsense — he may as well go back to the 1890s and tell Walter Camp, the father of modern college football (and the first man to “rank” national teams) that he had no authority to do so.
Taking some of these points in the order they were mentioned:
— Regarding 1925, it was not Alabama (and Dartmouth, for that matter) who “retroactively” claimed anything. It was Houlgate and Helms, who used a rather primitive schedule-ranking system to award Alabama and Dartmouth the title for 1925. But however primitive their system was, it was equally primitive as applied to very other team in the nation.
— 1926. No, there was no other team in the national with a “better record” than Alabama that year – not at least according to the pollsters who matched the schedules.
— 1930. Yes, Notre Dame was voted number one in six polls compared to one for Alabama. But that was in a period when no team in the South was seriously considered by most pollsters. W.E. “Pudge” Hefflefinger, in his great book This Was Football (1953), noted how unfair this was and stated his opinion that Alabama would have whipped anyone in the country that year, including Notre Dame.
— 1934. This will be remembered as the team that Dixie Howell, Don Hutson and Bear Bryant played on. Everyone acknowledged the fact that the national polls didn’t do justice to Southern teams, but the Rose Bowl committee, who did look at the records of the various teams, thought Alabama was the best and invited them to the Rose Bowl – which they won.
— 1964. It is disingenuous to claim that Arkansas had a “better record” than Alabama. In truth, they had the same record as Alabama – 10-0 – over the span that the AP considered for their voting. And no one, before the season ended, thought Arkansas was in Alabama’s class. The fact that Alabama lost to Texas in the Cotton Bowl is irrelevant. Since the polls were closed, Alabama was playing for nothing in that game. In any event, analysts/historians such as the College Football Research Association, still ranked Alabama ahead of Notre Dame for that season.
— 1965. Again, it is silly to claim that Michigan State, Arkansas and Nebraska had “better” records that Alabama, particularly since none of them played anywhere near Alabama’s schedule toughness — especially Michigan State, which beat only one team with a winning record al season. Besides, Alabama not only defeated Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, they beat them by 11 points.
— 1973. The championship claim for this year is perfectly legitimate. Alabama was ranked number one for nearly all the season, and the UPI, which was the coach’s poll, still claimed Alabama was the best after the bowl game. The information presented by this writer is wrong: the UPI didn’t choose to name champions after the bowl games, they decided in advance not in include the bowl games. Again, most historical researchers still place Alabama number one for that season.
— 1978. This is perhaps the biggest bit of nonsense in this anonymous report. Simply because USC beat Alabama during the regular season provides no reason for saying they should have been the only national champion. The week after beating Alabama, USC got clobbered 22-7 by a 5-6 Arizona State team. Does that mean Arizona State should have finished number one ahead of Southern Cal? Alabama played a tougher schedule than USC and finished the season by beating number one undefeated Penn State in the Sugar Bowl. Southern Cal scraped by in the Rose Bowl with a controversial win (Charles White fumbled at about the two-yard line late in the game but was awarded a touchdown) over an undistinguished Michigan team.
I’m not surprised that whoever wrote this didn’t sign their name. They seem to know nothing about the history of the voting for college football’s national championships. They don’t seem to understand that before the late 1920s scarcely any team in the South was even considered. The criteria on which Alabama claims 12 national championships is at least as legitimate as anyone else’s and possibly more so considering the years Alabama could have been awarded a championship and wasn’t — 1977, for instance, when Alabama finished the season with the same record as Notre Dame, who went from number five to number one with their Cotton Bowl victory over Texas on New Year’s Day. A co-championship that year would have been perfectly fair. So might it have been in 1966 when Alabama was 11-0 compared to 9-0-1 for Notre Dame and Michigan State. A co-championship for that year with Notre Dame would certainly have been, at the very least, logical.
I might also add that by the anonymous author’s criteria, Auburn has never won a national championship since Ohio State lead in more polls after the 1957 season than did Auburn.
Sincerely, Allen Barra
Wall Street Journal columnist, author of The Last Coach – A Life of Paul “Bear” Bryant and contributor to the book Twelve and Counting, The National Championships of Alabama.
Birmingham native Allen Barra writes about sports and culture for numerous publications, including American Heritage, Salon.com and Birmingham Weekly.
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