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March 12, 2014
Counting the titles
AUBURN | Auburn University presently claims college football national championships for only the 1957 and 2010 seasons. However, as explained in the Auburn's Unclaimed National Championships book, the Tigers have been named a national champion by various selectors in seven additional seasons.
If Auburn is to adopt the standard used by other college football programs regarding claiming championships awarded by selectors other than the Associated Press and Coaches Polls and BCS championship and - as USC, Texas A&M, and Minnesota have this decade - claim national championships awarded for past seasons, which seasons should Auburn claim?
In reviewing the issue for the book, I wanted to recognize only those seasons which could meet a strict standard where Auburn was not only ranked No. 1 by a national championship selector, but was also either undefeated, conference champion or both. These seven seasons can be divided in several groups.
The NCAA-Recognized National Champion Seasons
In its "Poll Champions" section of the NCAA's Official Records book, the NCAA lists a large number of national championship selectors and provides for each season the teams, usually more than one, that were named champions by one or more of those selectors. Based on that list, the NCAA recognizes Auburn as a national champion for the 1913, 1983 and 1993 seasons. Auburn's media guide notes that these teams have been named national champions. Here is a summary of those seasons:
Coach: Mike Donahue
Star Player: Kirk Newell
Record: 8-0 (8-0)
Accomplishments: Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association Champion, "Champion of the South." Outscored opponents 224-13, with only two games in Auburn. Key wins: 20-0 over Georgia Tech, 14-6 over Vanderbilt, 21-7 over Georgia. Ranked No. 1 by Billingsley Report (Richard Billingsley), a BCS computer poll, and at least five other retroactive selectors. This was perhaps Auburn's most dominant team. Harvard (9-0) and University of Chicago (7-0) also were recognized as National Champions.
Coach: Pat Dye
Star Player: Bo Jackson
Record: 11-1 (6-0)
Accomplishments: SEC Champion. Key wins include a 37-14 decision over Tennessee, 28-21 over Florida, 13-7 over Georgia and 9-7 victory against Michigan in the Sugar Bowl. Ranked No. 1 by Billingsley Report (who rated AU's schedule the fifth most difficult in college football history) and many other selectors. Miami (11-1) also was recognized as National Champion.
Coach: Terry Bowden
Star Player: James Bostic
Record: 11-0 (8-0)
Accomplishments: Key wins include a 34-10 decision over LSU, 38-35 over Florida, 22-14 over Alabama; thus, Auburn defeated both participants in SEC Championship game. Ranked No. 1 by National Championship Foundation and at least two other selectors. Florida State (11-1) and Notre Dame (11-1) also were recognized as National Champions.
A Group All By Itself
Coach: Tommy Tuberville
Star Player: Carnell Williams
Record: 13-0 (9-0)
Accomplishments: SEC Champion. Key wins include a 10-9 decision against LSU (9-3), 34-10 and 38-28 over Tennessee (10-3) and a 24-6 victory against Georgia (10-2). Ranked No. 1 by GBE College Football Rankings and other selectors; highest-rated team eligible for national championship after USC was stripped of its title by all but the Associated Press after NCAA probation for playing an ineligible player. Awarded "National Champion" rings by Auburn after 2004 season. USC (12-0) also was recognized as National Champion.
However, the Tigers played a more difficult schedule than USC. Auburn won five games against teams ranked in the final A.P. Top 20, while USC defeated only four of them.
The Auburn Athletic Department awarded "National Champion" rings to the players and coaches after 2004 season. Thus, Auburn has already recognized this team as national champions and merely needs to count it along with the others.
The Other Seasons
Coach: Shug Jordan
Star Player: Zeke Smith
Record: 9-0-1 (6-0-1)
Accomplishments: Outscored opponents 173-62 with nation's top-ranked defense for second straight year. Key wins included a 13-0 decision against Tennessee, 21-6 over Georgia and 14-8 over Alabama. Ranked No. 1 by Montgomery Full Season Championship (David Montgomery). LSU (11-0/6-0 SEC) and Iowa (8-1-1) also were recognized as National Champions.
Auburn, the defending national champion, played a more slightly more difficult conference and out-of-conference schedule than SEC champion LSU -- as well as one more conference game. Auburn's tie with Georgia Tech, then an SEC member school, kept Auburn from the SEC title and becoming the consensus national champion.
Coach: Mike Donahue
Star Player: "Red" Harris
Record: 8-0-1 (5-0-1)
Accomplishments: Outscored its opponents 193-0. Key wins included a 14-0 decision against Georgia Tech, 6-0 over Vanderbilt and 7-0 over Carlisle Indian School. Ranked No. 1 by James Howell's Power Ratings, a retroactive selector. Army (9-0) and Illinois (7-0) also were recognized as National Champions.
Auburn was the only team to shut out every opponent in 1914 with the only blemish being a scoreless tie against Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Auburn's SIAA conference record for the seven seasons from 1908 through 1914 was an incredible 42-4-3 while playing the strongest teams.
Coach: Mike Donahue
Star Player: Bradley Streit
Record: 6-1 (5-0)
Accomplishments: Shared the SIAA championship with Vanderbilt. Outscored opponents 176-9. Key wins included a 17-0 decision against Clemson, 16-0 over Georgia Tech and 26-0 over Georgia. Ranked No. 1 by retroactive selectors Maxwell Ratings and the College Football Rankings of Kyle Matschke. Harvard (9-0) and University of Chicago (7-0) also were recognized as National Champions.
Auburn was described by the Atlanta Constitution newspaper as: "the strongest team that has ever appeared on a southern gridiron." When the newspaper proposed a game between Auburn and Vanderbilt (both 5-0 in SIAA) to be played in Atlanta, Auburn accepted and Vanderbilt declined.
Skotnicki holds a pair of degrees from Auburn University and currently resides in Birmingham, where he practices law. His book may be purchased at Amazon.com, J&M Bookstore in Auburn, Little Professor Book Center in Homewood, Ala., or by visiting his site at www.auburnsunclaimed.com. His Twitter handle is @MSkotnicki