Tip Top 25 in helmets, smaller

Parke Davis

Parke Davis was a college football historian who retroactively selected mythical national champions (MNC) for every season through 1933. Not long afterward, his magnum opus complete, he passed away into eternal rest in 1934.

Davis played at Princeton, then coached at Wisconsin, Amherst, and Lafayette in the 19th century. He remained in Easton, Pennsylvania (where Lafayette is located) the rest of his life.

Not surprisingly, Davis' selections show a heavy Eastern bias. He also appears to have had little regard for the South, and none at all for the West Coast. His selections therefore seem less like "national championships" than regional awards for the best teams in the East (and sometimes the Midwest).

But the oddest thing about his selections, considering the fact that he was a Princeton graduate, is the unwavering love affair he had with Yale. There are 11 seasons for which he selects Yale and no one else does, including the following head-scratchers:
You have to wonder if some of these, such as Yale over Harvard (who beat them 22-0!) in 1901, were merely clerical or transcription errors. Since he died not long after the list was published, maybe he just didn't have enough time to realize and correct such errors. Regardless, I don't know why the NCAA Records Book continues to publish these selections every year. They are just downright bad.

Comparing Parke Davis to Other Selectors

At the end of each of my national championship articles, which I am writing for each season 1901-present, I give a grade for each national championship selection made by the MNC selectors listed in the NCAA Records Book. The grades run on a scale from 0 to 5. Using their grade point averages, I can compare Parke Davis to all the other selectors of the same time period. For this purpose, I am only using the seasons he selected in common with each selector he is compared to. Parke Davis did not select champions for the 1910, 1917, and 1918 seasons.

Davis vs. Other Human Selectors

College Football Researchers Association: 4.11     Davis: 2.77     1919-1933
Helms Athletic Foundation:                             4.08     Davis: 3.49     1901-1909, 1911-1916, 1919-1933

National Championship Foundation:             3.71     Davis: 3.49     1901-1909, 1911-1916, 1919-1933

As you can see, Parke Davis was the worst human selector. You might also note that his selections were much better before WWI than they were after. He was particularly strong 1902-1914, with a 4.62 grade point average over those years. Basically, with his heavy Eastern bias, when the East was strong, his picks were strong, and as the East degraded, so did his selections. But even his Eastern bias doesn't explain some of his senseless choices, such as Yale over Harvard in 1901 or Detroit over anyone in 1928.

Davis vs. Math Formulas

Williamson:                  3.33     Davis: 2.90     1931-1933
Dunkel:                         4.00     Davis: 2.74     1929-1933
Poling:                          4.01     Davis: 2.60     1924-1933
Dickinson:                    3.68     Davis: 2.60     1924-1933
Sagarin:                       3.37     Davis: 2.77     1919-1933
Sagarin ELO-Chess: 4.27     Davis: 2.77     1919-1933
Boand:                         4.16     Davis: 2.77     1919-1933
Billingsley:                   3.26     Davis: 3.49     1901-1909, 1911-1916, 1919-1933
Houlgate:                     3.91     Davis: 3.44     1901-1905, 1907-1909, 1911-1916, 1919-1933 (Houlgate did not select a champion for 1906)

Parke Davis beat out just one of the computer/math systems, Billingsley. That makes Billingsley the very worst MNC selector of the 1901-1933 period. Not a surprise. Parke Davis will have to settle for 2nd worst, at least until Billingsley changes his formula again.


Parke Davis was a contrarian, continually deviating from the consensus choices, but not all his selections were poor. There were quite a few teams who were, in my opinion, legitimate mythical national champions that only he selected, and if he hadn't, those teams would not be recognized in the NCAA Records Book at all. These include Yale in 1902, 1905, and 1906 (he always had Yale's back), Chicago 1913, Illinois 1914, Iowa 1921, Dartmouth 1925, Lafayette 1926, and Princeton 1933.

But some of the teams that only he selected were so baffling as to defy any explanation, and he offered none (that I can find). I've mentioned Yale 1901 twice now-- it is as stupid a non-computer MNC pick as you will ever see, so much so that I have long been convinced that this one was an error. He wrote down the wrong team, then he died, so it can never be revised. In the 1920s he repeatedly declined to select otherwise unanimous MNC teams, choosing Notre Dame and Princeton over California for 1920, Penn over Notre Dame's famed Four Horsemen team for 1924, Pittsburgh over Notre Dame for 1929, and Pittsburgh and Purdue over Southern Cal for 1931. All of those choices were poor.

But even one selection like Yale 1901 should disqualify any selector from being taken seriously at all, let alone published as an authority by the NCAA.