More Of The Story

Southern California will be going after its third consecutive national championship this year, and the Trojans are overwhelming favorites to win the title. Ordinarily a team that goes undefeated and untied and plays in the SEC will win the national championship. But not always.

As USC goes for three in a row and Auburn continues to whine about not having an opportunity to win a national championship with an undefeated team in 2004, it is natural to look to Alabama experiences with national championships. After all, Bama is among the most successful in winning titles.

But the Crimson Tide wasn't just an occasional champion. It is remarkable that Alabama has six Associated Press national championships. But the Tide also finished second twice, in the top five 18 times, and in the top ten 31 times, and top 20 43 times.

Dennis Dodds of recently had a commentary regarding USC going for three in a row this year and Auburn being denied last year. The story included Alabama's 1966 denial of a third national championship despite having gone undefeated.

There's a little more to the story than Dodds would have had reason to know.

In 1964, the Associated Press and United Press International both made their national championship determinations based on regular season play only.

Alabama won the 1964 national championship with a 10-0 regular season record. The Crimson Tide then went to the Orange Bowl., where Bama lost a controversial game to Texas, 21-17. A late Joe Namath sneak for the winning touchdown was ruled short of the goalline.

Because the national champion had lost the bowl game to number five Texas, the AP decided to fix things the next year. The AP announced it would wait until after the bowl games to decide the national champion.

Had Namath's touchdown against Texas been allowed, there would have been no controversy. And it is likely that Alabama would not have repeated as national champion in 1965.

The 1965 Crimson Tide had a couple of bumps in the road. Bama started off the season by losing to Georgia in Athens, 18-17, the Bulldogs getting the winning touchdown when the officials blew a call on a Georgia trick play. Later in the year, Ken Stabler had his infamous mistake, throwing the ball out of bounds to stop the clock when Bama was at the goalline in the final moments against Tennessee. The problem was, it was fourth down, and so Alabama didn't kick the winning field goal, allowing the Vols a 7-7 tie in Birmingham's Legion Field.

And so Alabama limped into the Orange Bowl with an 8-1-1 record to play third-ranked Nebraska in a night game.

Two things had to happen in the afternoon bowl games for Alabama to have a chance to play for the national championship. And those things happened. UCLA upset Michigan State and LSU upset Arkansas.

And so that night's Orange Bowl was ballyhooed as the National Championship Game. Coach Paul Bryant's Crimson Tide had an almost perfect game plan with Steve Sloan passing to the likes of Dennis Homan and Ray Perkins and "tackle eligible" Jerry Duncan, Les Kelley and Steve Bowman having excellent nights running the ball, and the Tide recovering a couple of onsides kicks.

The result was a 39-28 Alabama victory in a game that wasn't as close as the final score, and Alabama repeating as national champion.

But the Associated Press wasn't finished with trying to keep Alabama from winning its trophies, or so it seemed.

In 1966 when Notre Dame (the coward in this particular instance) and Michigan State played to a 10-10 tie, neither would go to a bowl game. It was Notre Dame's policy at that time to not play in bowl games. And a Rose Bowl rule prevented Michigan State from returning to Pasadena, and Big Ten teams at that time played in no bowls other than the Rose.

And so this year the AP announced it would name its national champion before the bowl games! It was a one-year hiatus from its policy, just enough to make sure Notre Dame won the national championship.

So Alabama went 11-0, including a 34-7 win over Nebraska in the Sugar Bowl.

The Crimson Tide did not have a parade.

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