Suppose the fan of another college football team asked you how many national championships Alabama had won: how many would you answer? Probably 16. When the Crimson Tide celebrates its latest national championship with a parade beginning at 11 a.m. CST Saturday and ending with a program just outside the North end of Bryant-Denny Stadium, it will be honoring No. 16.
There has never been any hue and cry from Alabama to claim more than those 16, even though the official NCAA Fotball Bowl Subdivision Records show that Bama has been named No. 1 by “selectors deemed to be major” in 20 seasons. They also have Princeton with 28, Yale 27, Notre Dame 22, , Oklahoma and USC 17 each, and Michigan and Ohio State 16 each.
Now, those are YEARS.
The YEARS that Alabama claims are: 1925, 1926, 1930, 1934, 1941, 1961, 1964, 1965, 1973, 1977, 1978, 1992, 2009, 2011, 2012, and 2015.
The additional YEARS as recognized by one or more selectors but not claimed by Alabama are: 1945 (10-0, Rose Bowl champion), 1966 (11-0, Sugar Bowl champion), 1975 (11-1 Sugar Bowl champion), and 1977 (11-1 Sugar Bowl champion).
But, Alabama has far more national championship TROPHIES than it has years because over the years there have been no fewer than 40 selectors – deemed “major selectors” by the NCAA and afforded that recognition on the basis of being “national in scope.” Some are no longer in existence.
For instance, the 2015 Crimson Tide has been awarded the national championship by all 13 selectors currently recognized by the NCAA following Bama’s College Football Playoff championship win over Clemson. There are another half dozen or so selectors not recognized as national in scope.
Have you heard of the Billingsley Report? It has named a national champion almost every year since 1869. Along with such as Sagarin, Houlgate, and New York Times, these are among the two dozen or so based on mathematical systems, now usually computer systems.
More familiar are the polls, particularly the Associated Press, United Press International (and its successors of the Coaches Poll, notably USA Today), Football Writers Association of America, National Football Foundation, and College Football Researchers Association.
Now, of course, the College Football Playoff names a national champion after the completion of the season, and others fall in line with that decision. When Alabama celebrates its 2015 championship Saturday, it will be celebrating not only the College Football Playoff, but also the Associated Press, Coaches Poll by USA Today and Amway, Anderson & Hester, Billingsley, Congrove Computer, Researchrs, Colley Matrix, Dunkel, Massey, National Football Foundation, Sagarin, Wolfe, and probably some others.
A number of years ago we had an article noting that Alabama had something like 98 national championships; and those were the number of selectors that had named the Crimson Tide. Some people (the Alabama haters) couldn’t grasp that concept. They are the same ones who point to Bama’s 1941 national championship and call it “typical” of Alabama’s national championships.
That would be like a Bama fan saying that both of Auburn’s national championship teams had been achieved with purchased players, when in truth that was proved of only half of their national championship teams.
A lot of Alabama followers would be happy with letting the 1941 title go. That team, coached by Frank Thomas (who had coached the 1934 team that went 10-0 and won the Rose Bowl and was named by four selectors as national champion), was named only by Houlgate. The ’41 Tide team went 9-2 (losses to Mississippi State and Vanderbilt) and defeated Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. In today’s climate it seems like an undeserved national championship. Minnesota (8-0) was named 1941 national champion by nine selectors and Texas (8-1-1) was picked by two selectors.
The number of selectors for Alabama’s claimed national championships is 145.
In 1925 it was 9 for Alabama (1 for Michigan and 1 for Dartmouth), in 1926 it was 6 for Alabama (4 for Stanford, 2 for Navy, 1 for Michigan, 1 for Lafayette), in 1930 it was 4 for Alabama (9 for Notre Dame), in 1934 it was 5 for Alabama (8 for Minnesota), 1941 it was 1 for Alabama (9 for Minnesota, 2 for Texas), in 1961 it was 14 for Alabama (2 for Ohio State, 1 for LSU), in 1964 it was 4 for Alabama, including both wire service polls (7 for Arkansas, 3 for Notre Dame, 1 for Michigan), in 1965 it was 4 for Alabama, including AP (12 for Michigan State), in 1973 it was 2 for Alabama including Coaches (7 for Notre Dame, 4 for Ohio State, 4 for Oklahoma, 2 for Michigan), in 1978 it was 7 for Alabama including AP (9 for USC, 8 for Oklahoma), in 1979 it was 17 for Alabama including both wire services (1 for USC, 1 for Florida State), in 1992 it was 19 for Alabama (1 for Florida State), in 2009 it was unanimous for Alabama with 15, in 2011 it was 12 for Alabama (2 for LSU, 1 for Oklahoma State), in 2012 it was 13 for Alabama (1 for Notre Dame), and in 2015 unanimous for Alabama with 13.
Throw in those selectors in championships recognized by the NCAA, but not claimed by Alabama, and it is 5 more, 150.
So there are any number of answers that can be given.
Feel free to use the one we do. If someone asks about the number of national championships claimed by Alabama, we say, “You just figure the number you think it should be and that will be good enough.”