Thursday, June 14, 2007

An NCAA Change of Heart?

Or, the death of any hope of a Divsion I-A Championship?

In our series regarding the “National Championship”, we showed in our second part (“There is no National Championship”) that what is commonly held to constitute a “National Title” by many college football fans simply does not exist.

In doing so, we relied in part on the NCAA website which states “Schools in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision do not participate in the NCAA Division I Football Championship”.

That webpage has since been updated to include Florida as the 2006 National Champion per the BCS. Notably absent, however, are a mention of any of the other selectors which chose a team other than Florida in 2006. (Harry DeVold chose Ohio State, Loren Maxwell and SWI-Tech Computer ratings took USC, and Annual Football predictions took Boise State).

In listing past “National Champions” on the very same page, DeVold is mentioned a number of times as a selector of note for past “National Champions”. Why the omission now?

Well it appear that, despite the continuing existence of the page in question, the NCAA is moving towards acceptance of the current system (such that is it) as a more “official” determination of a Division I-A “National Champion”. We know this by the existence of another, far newer, webpage on an NCAA site which lists past “Champions” of Division I-A football.

In looking at this new webpage, done in affiliation with CBS sports, absent is any conditional language about the NCAA “not participating” in the National Championship selection. Rather, the page appears to give the endorsement of the NCAA to past National Champions of several categories –

1. BCS title winners

2. Selections made between 1950 and the present by any of the following –
- The AP
- Football Writers Association
- National Football Foundation
- National Championship Foundation
- USA/ESPN (formerly USA/CNN)

3. AP selections made from 1936-1949

4. “Retroactive” selections made prior to 1936 by a number of organizations.

If this is the NCAA’s most current position on past National Champions, it is immediately contrary to the older webpage referenced in our article (many selectors are no longer deemed authorities, evidently). Plus it now codifies a bizarre historical list of national title holders, including the following -

- Although the BCS title holder appears to be the most renowned title (it is mentioned first and most prominently), the AP still carries some weight (see USC in 2003).

- Several past titles of a dubious nature are given renewed credibility (such as Alabama’s “split” 1973 title in which they lost their bowl game to co-title holder Notre Dame).

- Authority is bestowed on the ridiculous practice of “retroactive” title giving.

- And, perhaps the strangest of all, in relying in only the AP from 1936 to 1949, we have what is the longest single uninterrupted period of sole national title holders.

In other words, the NCAA seems to be saying that in the 14 year span from 1936 to 1949 the AP was the sole authority in determining who the national title holder was. If so, are not the 14 titles during that period more genuine that many of the “split” titles that have occurred since that point?

What I believe we are seeing from the NCAA in this new webpage is an evolution by the organization towards acceptance of the BCS title winner as an official national champion, and away from any prospect of a Division I-A playoff. Certainly, the page is presented that way – with the BCS winners listed first, USC’s “split” title of 2003 looks somewhat like an afterthought.

With the collapse of playoff talks among the major conferences, look for the evolution of the NCAA’s position towards the BCS to continue. Don’t be surprised if it becomes the league’s “official” position within the decade.

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