Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Florida’s First “National Title"

First in a series about the “National Championship”

Question: When was the University of Florida’s first “National Championship” in college football?

1996, right?

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 Champions


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
Nebraska: Litkenhous
Washington: Berryman, FB News, National Championship Foundation
That’s right – on the NCAA website Florida is listed as one “National Champions”, with as many or more selectors than any other contender.

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.”

Next: There is no “National Championship”


Henry Louis Gomez said...

Billingsley is also a BCS component. So two of the computers used in the BCS had the 84 Gators as National Champs.

Mergz said...

Actually, it is 3 - Billingsley, Sagarin and Massey.

So, if the current BCS was in place, we would have likely ranked 1st in computer polls, and the AP had us 3rd that year. Which means, if they had a BCS, UF might have got to play Utah for the BCS title game.

Henry Louis Gomez said...

There's some disagreement. The NCAA site says the 84 Billingsley champ was Florida but the CFDW site and the billingsley site itself say BYU.

Mergz said...

Disagreement and confusion in college football?

You're kidding me!

Anonymous said...

First of all, BYU was undefeated in 1984 unlike Floria. Also, the AP poll has always had infinitely more weight and importance than the Billingsley poll, so why even consider it?!?

BYU was the national champion. Deal with it.

Henry Louis Gomez said...

Well anonymous, that's a really well thought out analysis. /sarcasm

Boise State is undefeated this year and Florida has a loss, why isn't Boise State playing OSU in the National Championship then? Obviously because W-L record is not the only thing taken into consideration by the pollsters, the teams against which you achieve those Wins and Losses are factored in by at least some of the selectors.

And perhaps the AP poll has more weight in your book, but that doesn't make it so. And that's the problem with this whole system that's based on polls and claims.

If you actually took the time to READ the entire series of posts on this subject you would see that the purpose is not to claim championships for the Gators but to shed light on the stupidy of major college football's attempts to crown a champion without some kind of actual competition to settle it on the field. /scolding

Anonymous said...

Let me toss in FSU's two cents, albeit a little late.

1999: AP, BCS, Berryman, Billingsley, DeVold, Dunkel, Eck, FACT, FB News, FW, Massey, Matthews, National Championship Foundation, NFF, NY Times, Sagarin, Seattle Times, Sporting News, USA/ESPN

1996: Alderson

1994: Dunkel

1993: AP, Berryman, Billingsley, DeVold, Dunkel, Eck, FACT, FB News, FW, National Championship Foundation*, NY Times, Sagarin, Sporting News, UPI, USA/CNN ,USA/NFF

1992: Sagarin

1987: Berryman, Sagarin

1980: FACT (I have no idea what this is)

So I guess we have 6?

Henry Louis Gomez said...


Congratulations on your newfound success! It's fun ain't it? I mean why have 1 national champion when you can have many?

Anonymous said...

By Florida Gator logic, Alabama has 17 National Championships. Don't believe me? Go to the NCAA website and count if your using Gator logic.

Henry Louis Gomez said...

Anonymous, you are an idiot. If you can't detect sarcasm it's on you. The whole point of the series is to illustrate that the system in college football is based on claims rather than winning a tournament like every othe sport. It's a joke, dipshit. Alabama already claims 12 championships and many of them are more shaky than the UF claim for 1984.


Anonymous said...

The problem with your 1984 argument, of course, is that the 1984 Gators were placed on probation after week one by the NCAA and then after they had finished conference play and won the school's first SEC Championship on a cold day in Lexington, were banned the following Tuesday from playing in the Sugar Bowl (thanks Doug Dickey, you vindictive coot) as SEC Champion and from all bowl appearances. So any claim that UF would have advanced under a BCS formula ignores those unfortunate circumstances (the conference was counting on Georgia and Auburn to do its work for it).

But the NYT did deliver its trophy on an incomplete sample (no bowl game) to Gainesville and UF used it form many years in its promotional materials as 1984 NYT National Champion.

Henry Louis Gomez said...

Nobody is claiming that UF would have advanced based on a BCS formula. By the way not playing in (or not winning) a bowl game does not prevent Alabama from claiming several National Titles. Read the rest of the series. We're not arguing for Florida's 1984 team. We're arguing against a system in which Championships are claimed rather than won.

Anonymous said...

I see the point vis a vis Alabama. I for one am glad Florida's never gone down the path Bama and others have. For a while, UF was claiming "1st in the SEC" for probation teams of 1984 and 1990, but I see that was no longer painted in the Swamp this fall (it may have been gone for a few years now).

Obviously national champions has been bogus for a long time. One day we'll have a real playoff system; in the interim, the championship games will have to suffice to narrow the field. One funny aspect of all this is that playoffs are in their own way random; many times the hot team, not the best team all season, wins the championship. A playoff would entirely change the way a football season is conducted, mostly positive, but sometimes in a negative way.

Anonymous said...

If you hadn't lost to Miami in the first game you might have a better argument. And if you didn't go on probation you might have a better argument. That bing said, Gators had a good team back then.

Henry Louis Gomez said...

Again, we're not arguing for Florida's 1984 team. We're arguing against a system in which Championships are claimed rather than won.

Sigma Derby Fan said...

Context, people, context.