Tuesday, January 9, 2018

National Champions

As you know, the national champion in college football was officially crowned last night in the game between Alabama and Georgia.

Unless you ask the people at Central Florida.

Alabama won 26-23 in overtime, though TigerBlog had long since turned it off by then.

Georgia and Alabama, by the way,  have a combined undergraduate enrollment of 62,500. Central Florida all by itself has an undergraduate enrollment of 56,000, or just short of those two massive state schools combined.

Central Florida, in fact, is the biggest school in the country in terms of undergraduate and total enrollment. It's located not that far from Disney World, which may explain the whole "fairy tales can come true" attitude that seems to be coming out of the school.

There is only one undefeated team in FBS football, and that's Central Florida, which went 13-0, including a win over Auburn in the Peach Bowl. If you want to see a great sports picture, then go to THIS story.

And what did the Knights do to celebrate?

They proclaimed themselves national champion. And had a parade. Even Florida governor Rick Scott got in the act with a proclamation to that effect.

So where does that leave Central Florida? Well, the national champion is the team that wins the College Football Playoff. That was what was at stake last night.

Should the Knights have been in that playoff? That's another story. But they weren't, and therefore the claim to being national champ, while interesting and certainly full of chutzpah, ultimately is flat.

Besides, what would Central Florida have thought had it won the playoff with one loss during the year and then had someone else be unbeaten and claim the title? Would that have been okay in Orlando?

Of course, the only way this works is to have a team that is unbeaten but snubbed for the postseason. That couldn't happen in any sport where every league in Division I has an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, unless an independent did so, but there are very few independents out there. 

In basketball, for instance, TigerBlog is pretty sure there are no independents.

Also, keep in mind that the College Football Playoff is not an NCAA event. Football on the FCS level is not an NCAA entity per se.

There is precedent that TB knows of a team that was unbeaten that didn't get a chance to go to the postseason tournament. Bucknell's 1996 men's lacrosse team was 12-0 and Patriot League champ but was not invited to the NCAA tournament.

The NCAA champion that year was Princeton, which won the first of its three straight titles that year. Those were the third, fourth and fifth championships for the Tigers, who won in 1992 and 1994 and then won for a sixth time in 2001.

The women's lacrosse team, by the way, has three of its own - 1994, 2002, 2003.

TB was trying to think of times when a Princeton team could make a claim to a national championship that someone else won. There's women's fencing, which, TB believes, more than once would have won the NCAA title had men's and women's fencing had their own team championships, rather than combining for one.

The only other thing he can think of is football, maybe in the 1800s or early 1900s.

There was a time in the late 1800s that the winner of the Princeton-Yale game each year won the national championship. In fact, Princeton lost 13 games between 1883 and 1900, and 10 of those 13 losses were against Yale, which means that there were a lot of years where Princeton went unbeaten through the final game and then lost to Yale.

As he went through the earliest days of year-by-year results, he also stumbled upon the 1910 season. This would be Hobey Baker's freshman year, by the way.

Anyway, that year, Princeton went 7-0 to start the year, shutting out all seven opponents, before a 5-3 loss to Yale in the season finale. That made TB wonder when the last time there was a 5-3 football game, by the way.

Also from that year, Princeton played eight games, only two of which were against current Ivy teams - Yale, and Dartmouth. The rest of the schedule was Stevens Tech, Villanova, NYU, Lafayette, Carlisle Indians and Holy Cross.

In fact, Jim Thorpe was at Carlisle then. A year later, he led the team to a win over Harvard. Did he play against Princeton in 1910?

TB isn't sure he has an easy way to look that up. He also decided it would be too much effort to look up all of the national football champions to see if there was a year that Princeton could have made a claim.

In the meantime, congrats to this year's national champions - the ones who won last night on the field in Atlanta and to those whacky Knight from UCF.

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