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).
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:
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.
- 3-0-2 Yale shares the title with 4-0-1 Princeton
- 10-1 Yale selected over 11-0 Princeton, who beat them in
- 13-0-2 Yale shares the title with 14-0 Penn in 1895.
- 9-0-2 Yale shares the title with 15-0 Penn in 1897.
- 11-1-1 Yale selected over 12-0 Harvard, who beat them in
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 SelectorsCollege 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.
ConclusionParke 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.
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.
even one selection like Yale 1901 should disqualify any selector from
being taken seriously at all, let alone published as an authority by