Tip Top 25 in helmets, smaller

National Championship Foundation

The National Championship Foundation was founded by Mike Riter of Germantown, New York. They retroactively selected national championships by member vote for every season through 1980, then named national champions every year thereafter through the year 2000.

One problem with the NCF is that some of their modern day choices are so obviously silly. Such as 1993, when they share the title amongst Florida State, Notre Dame, Auburn, and Nebraska. The first three make sense, but Nebraska lost to Florida State in the Orange Bowl, and has no argument at all for sharing the title.

Then there's 1981, when everyone picks Clemson except the NCF, who shares the title amongst five teams: Clemson, Pittsburgh, Nebraska, Southern Methodist, and Texas. Clemson was 12-0, and defeated 9-3 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. I have no idea what the rationale is there. UPDATE! I had no idea what the rationale was. Now I do. Mike Riter has written me an email and explained this issue: "I included other teams under the stipulation 'If you consider Clemson ineligible because of known violations.' In that case Nebraska would only have two losses etc."

So it's good to have that reasoning. Clemson was alleged to have committed recruiting violations at the time, and the NCAA would punish them a year later. However, they were not on probation in 1981 (eligible for a bowl, and for the coaches poll), so I find this strange. If we were to disregard teams because we know they have committed recruiting violations, then a great many teams would have to have their MNCs stripped. Oklahoma would likely lose all but one of theirs. Furthermore, SMU actually was on probation in 1981 (no bowl, no coaches poll), so why list them? And even with "just" 2 losses, Nebraska makes for a very poor MNC contender for 1981.

Still, for all that, the NCF has its merits. They are often better than the AP poll (though the above choices are not at all examples of that). After all, they correctly tab Tennessee for 1950, when the AP's team, Oklahoma, lost their bowl game.

As you may have noticed, they hand out a lot of ties, which I generally applaud (though not in the above examples). Their 1973 tie amongst Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Michigan makes perfect sense. They recognize Penn State along with Nebraska in 1994, when no one else does. It seems unfair and arbitrary that Michigan shares the 1997 title with Nebraska, but PSU '94 does not.

And yet, for all those ties, they make the same mystifying error that Helms does in 1906, when they name 9-0-1 Princeton alone as national champion, and not 9-0-1 Yale, who tied them. As I said in my review of Helms, if you're going to choose only one of the two, rather than share it between them, Yale is the only logical choice. They beat 10-1 Harvard in what was considered the national championship game that year. They also beat 8-1-1 Penn State, and that makes two opponents better than anyone Princeton defeated. And the tie between them occurred on Princeton's home field.

It seems strange to me that two organizations who frequently handed out shared titles could actually look at Princeton and Yale in 1906 and choose Princeton alone. Which makes me wonder if the NCF saw Helms' choice, looked at Princeton, said "Good enough," and didn't bother to look at Yale or anyone else.

More bothersome is the fact that for the 1901-1910 seasons, the NCF is easily the worst selector listed in the NCAA Records Book. They frequently select teams that have no business sharing the title, while dismissing truly powerful teams (such as Harvard 1901) completely. Their research for this time appears to be very shoddy, and probably in fact nonexistent.

Conclusion: Not considered an authoritative selector. They do a good job for most seasons, but the bad choices are really bad. I have to think that 9-3 Nebraska in 1981 is the worst choice by any selector for any year.