Apparently, Alabama State Sen. Tom Whatley isn’t too worried about Louisiana transplants living in his voting district.
Whatley is reportedly working on a resolution to get Auburn to recognize seven football national championships other than the two it is generally recognized having won in 1957 and 2010. That includes a national title in 1958, the year another team named the Tigers claimed the national championship.
Auburn’s claim to a crown in 1958 (there is no evidence the school will actually try to roll Toomer’s Corner in celebration of a long-ago crown) would be flimsy at best. Auburn had a 7-7 tie that year against a Georgia Tech team that would finish a mediocre 5-4-1. The tie left Auburn 6-0-1 in the Southeastern Conference (Georgia Tech was an SEC member then) while LSU was 6-0 in the SEC en route to its 11-0 record.
The resolution by Whatley — who shockingly enough went to Auburn and lives in Auburn — gives new meaning to the term “silly season. The state of Alabama is fortunate indeed to have no more pressing issues requiring legislative action than this.
Yet Whatley’s proposal does raise an interesting point. Until last year, all major college football championships were a matter of opinion. You could still make the argument that opinion still counts above all, as it’s the opinion of the College Football Playoff committee to arbitrarily determine which four teams will go into the playoff.
Most of us think only of The Associated Press Top 25 and the USA Today coaches’ poll. But the NCAA FBS record book recognizes no less than 30 “selectors of national champions using polls, historical research and mathematical rating systems.”
This brings us to LSU’s title haul.
LSU claims three widely recognized national championships: 1958, 2003 and 2007. But LSU’s media guide also lists the fact that four other teams have been recognized as national champs.
There’s LSU’s first great team in 1908, which went 10-0 and was regarded as the Champions of the South. The Tigers earned a co-champ nod with Penn from something called the National Championship Foundation, which retroactively awarded titles to teams from 1869-1979.
There’s LSU’s 9-2 team in 1935, which won the SEC title and lost in the Sugar Bowl to TCU, the Tigers’ first bowl appearance. That team, as well as the 9-1-1 squad in 1936, got the now somewhat dubious nod from Paul Williamson, a New Orleans native and former member of the Sugar Bowl Committee who ran a power rating system from 1933-63. The 1936 team, which finished No. 2 to Minnesota in the first AP poll, also got a retroactive No. 1 from Jeff Sagarin’s power rating system.
Then there’s the 1962 team which went 9-1-1 and was considered the champion by Clyde Berryman, who ran another obscure mathematical rating system until 2011.
LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette said over the years LSU officials have bandied about the idea of claiming other national titles, but said the feeling has always been that 1958, 2003 and 2007 are the most legitimate.
“The 1908 team in particular was a great team and certainly deserving,” Bonnette said Tuesday. “But the three we recognize are the ones we view as our true national champions.
“There’s a standard set that we feel good about.”
With the focus now on the all-out pursuit of No. 1, it’s hard for modern college football fans to relate to how titles were once awarded. Before the mid 1960s, the AP and coaches poll (then conducted by the wire service UPI) were awarded before the bowls. The night before LSU beat Clemson 7-0 in the 1959 Sugar Bowl to finish 11-0, Paul Dietzel accepted the AP trophy at a banquet in New Orleans.
Personally, I wouldn’t quibble with LSU claiming the 1908 title as a fourth “legitimate” national championship.
But that’s just my opinion. And outside the CFP committee, my opinion, Tom Whatley’s and yours carry the same weight.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.