First in a series about the “National Championship”
Question: When was the University of Florida’s first “National Championship” in college football?
Wrong. Try 1984.
Before you think I am crazy, listen to the evidence supporting my claim.
It is very well established that college football’s governing body, the NCAA, does not conduct nor sponsor a “National Championship” for the sport. Into this void have stepped a number of entities over the years that have, through whatever means, established themselves as the “deciders” of what team is the college football “National Champion”. Currently, the best known among these would be the AP and Coaches Polls.
However, there are presently at least 36 entities that make determinations as to who the “National Champion” is. Some are computer polls, like Sagarin and the Colley Matrix (two of the six computer polls making up the BCS). Some are news organizations, like the Sporting News and the Football Writers Association of America. And some, well, who knows what some of them are. The current list can be found here: National Championship Selectors
Historically, the AP has seemed to carry much weight. The AP began its efforts in 1936. Interestingly, until the mid 1960’s, the AP voted on the “National Champion” before the bowl games were even played.
Now, Alabama and Notre Dame both famously claim a great number of “National Championships”. However, prior to 1936, how credible are those claims? Many of the pre-1936 claims title claims rely on an organization (now dissolved) called the Helms Athletic Foundation, which was founded in 1936. For championships prior to 1936, Helms “researched records” dating back to 1901 and decided, in retrospect, who the “National Champion” was. Thus, how “solid” can Notre Dame’s 1924, 1929, and 1930’s championship claims be, or Alabama’s of 1925, 1926, 1930 (a split?) and 1934.
When you see all those “National Titles” for these schools, you might want to consider that.
Recent practice has been for whoever was AP number one and/or Coaches Poll number one to call themselves the “National Champions”. This has led to a series of absurd results, such as an abundance of “National Championship” gear for the year 2003 with both LSU and USC as claimants.
College fans seem to accept this absurdity with little complaint. If so, then, why only stop with two entities?
Currently, the BCS itself puts a lot of credibility into the aforementioned computer polls, with Sagarin seeming to have the most weight. Among college football fans, and the sports media, Sagarin seems to be highly recognized. How often has it been heard, in recent sports media discussions, about the “strength of schedule” of various college teams according to Jeff Sagarin’s ratings? (It was usually an argument in favor of USC).
Apparently Jeff Sagarin’s ratings carry real weight with the media, college football fans, and the BCS.
Who was Jeff Sagarin’s 1984 “National Champion”?
The Florida Gators, that is who.
And it wasn’t only Jeff Sagarin. In 1984, the 9-1-1 Gator team was deemed to be “National Champions” by 21 of the 47 rating entities, more than any other college, and one more, in fact, than the “recognized” champion, BYU.
Besides Sagarin, the Massy Ratings (also currently used by the BCS), the New York Times, the Sporting News, and 17 other entities put the Gators number 1.
BYU was recognized by 20, including the AP and USA Today.
But “nobody” important recognizes the Gators as the 1984 “National Champions”?
Well, the NCAA does!
From the official NCAA website - Past National Champions
Past Division I-A Football National ChampionsThat’s right – on the NCAA website Florida is listed as one “National Champions”, with as many or more selectors than any other contender.
Brigham Young: AP, Football Research, FW, National Championship Foundation*, NFF, Poling, UPI, USA/CNN
Florida: Billingsley, DeVold, Dunkel, FACT, Matthews, NY Times, Sagarin, Sporting News
Washington: Berryman, FB News, National Championship Foundation*
So, print up the shirts, hang the banners, and call for a long overdue parade.
The Florida Gators are the 1984 National Champions.
However, every team listed on the “Past National Champions” page of the NCAA website might want to temper their enthusiasm. Because, if you look at the top of the NCAA website, you see the following:
“The NCAA does not conduct a national championship in Division I-A football and is not involved in the selection process.”Uh-Oh.
Next: There is no “National Championship”