Unrivaled: College Football Has Always Had Arguments Over National Champions

Aug 30, 2020, 3:37 PM | Updated: 3:39 pm
College Football Playoff Announces The College Football Playoff Selection Committee - News Conferen...
A detail view of the College Football Playoff logo shown during a press conference on October 16, 2013 in Irving, Texas. Condoleezza Rice, Stanford University professor and former United States Secretary of State, was chosen to serve as one of the 13 members that will select four teams to compete in the first playoff at the end of the 2014 season. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – College football has never had a traditional or straight-forward way of claiming a national title since the NCAA has next to nothing to do with the sport. The current four-team playoff is a better way compared to years past, but in reality is an invitational and not a playoff as there is no way to automatically qualify, but instead, it is a committee that picks the four teams.

The current way to crown a champion is far superior to years past with the BCS, Bowl Coalition, Bowl Alliance, and even further back the voters chose national champions before bowl games were even played which led to some odd champions.

Picking a title has always been weird and never uniformed, BYU’s national title back in 1984 sparked a lot of change in how a college football national title would be chosen, so in other words, how to keep out teams from power leagues from winning it all.

Teams have also claimed national titles without holding the traditional crystal ball trophy. Alabama claims to have 17 national titles but some in the early 20th century are disputed due to the methodology and also going back to retroactively claim national championships.

The Crimson Tide are not the only school to go back in time to award a national title, Utah did this a decade after its 2008 undefeated season which culminated in a win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. The Utes were ranked first by the Anderson-Hester computer rankings and that model is an NCAA-recognized “major selector,” and that is how Utah football can claim a national title.

This all leads to the 2020 college football season that will be one of the most bizarre seasons ever with four conferences not playing this fall, and contenders on the sideline wondering, ‘what if?’

College Football Playoff Will Go On As Planned

Even though the Pac-12 and Big Ten are not playing this fall, the College Football Playoff committee is going forward with its plan to host the four-team tournament in January. The committee did adjust its schedule for picking its teams by not starting the rankings until Nov. 17 and then the selection on Sunday, Dec. 20.

The big question is if there will be a footnote or asterisk of winning a national title when a pair of Power 5 teams are not playing, and specifically when three teams that are not playing are in the Associated Press preseason top 25 in Ohio State at No. 2, Penn State ranked seventh, and Oregon at No. 9.

This asterisk was recently brought up by ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit and he is right but KSL Sports’ Alex Kirry said it doesn’t matter.

“To my reply, I don’t care, because every college football national championship has had an asterisk next to it,” Kirry said. “I mean, the reality is this, there is no playoff at the FBS level of college football. I think we can all agree.”

The playoff is a four-team invitational and usually the best team ends up winning it all or being in the title game like Alabama, Clemson, or LSU over the past few years. However, the four-team set up is not the best way to pick a champion but it is best thing that college football currently offers.

“I come to the conclusion that according to our garbage system, our small playoff system that we accept is the best option for picking a national champion,” Kirry said. “The College Football Playoff committee has gotten lucky in some of these seasons where they make the pick on some and there are no upsets. Herbstreit saying there’s an asterisk next to it, I’m not that interested in that because guess what? There’s going to be at least a game played that we can say is a national championship game and I’ll take it.”

Do Fans Really Care?

Kirry’s sentiment is probably what fans of the teams playing, plus coaches, players and family are feeling. If they play a season it will count as normal and if the College Football Playoff goes off with two SEC teams, a Big 12 and ACC team, that will feel legitimate even without the Big Ten or Pac-12.

The other half of KSL’s Unrivaled is Scott Mitchell and is in agreement and not caring about who is on the field or if there is some footnote

“I don’t care and I’ll take the college football playoffs. It will be salt in the wound [for leagues not playing],” Mitchell said “If there’s an asterisk, or isn’t one. People are going to go, ‘We don’t care. We don’t care about anything and will take it.’ I guarantee you any program, any coach, any fan base, they would take it. They would take an asterisk. They would take anything.”

Mitchell goes on to say how the Pac-12 and Big Ten will look really silly if college football goes off as planned while those two leagues are left twiddling their thumbs.

“This just further cements in my mind if you can have the College Football Playoff if that’s really going to go on,” Mitchell said. “How in the world how in the world can these coaches and can these administrators, these people in the Pac-12 and the Big Ten say, ‘yep, we shouldn’t have this season?’ All this does is makes me more infuriated as to why they’re not having the season.”

There is plenty of debate over whether or not the Big Ten and Pac-12 should have waited and surveyed the surroundings and slow play a return to college football instead of just shutting the door to the season in early August. With or without the other four leagues that are sitting out, college football always has a debate over who is better than who because of the poor way the playoff is set up.

Tune into KSL Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 7-9 p.m., or download the KSL NewsRadio app to subscribe to the podcast

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