NCAA Division IA national football champions
Division I-A football is the only NCAA-sponsored sport without an organized tournament to determine its champion. Therefore, in any given year, there may be no undisputed champion in Division I-A collegiate football. Ironically, NCAA football is the most popular NCAA sport and the one in which public interest in the "championship" is highest. Criticisms lodged against the NCAA football division include the fact that the final ranking of NCAA football teams is decided by arbitrary and subjective standards, much like beauty pageants. Many believe that the “champion” of the largest and most popular collegiate sport should not be decided by fiat.
Over the years various polls and formulas have been used to determine a "mythical champion". For champions prior to 1936, retro polls and research were used to determine the champion of major college football. The method has evolved over the years, as have the polls being used.
The tradition, and the controversy, is carried on today with the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), created for the 1998 season, and its predecessors—the Bowl Coalition from seasons 1992 to 1994, and the Bowl Alliance from seasons 1995 to 1997. The AP and coaches' polls, computer rankings, strength of schedule and performance against other top teams were combined into a formula, and the top two teams played in a championship game.
In 2003, USC was not given the opportunity to play in the BCS title game, despite finishing the regular season as #1 in both the AP and coaches polls. LSU won the BCS title game, giving them the BCS title and #1 in the coaches poll, while the sportswriters voted USC #1 in their AP poll. Consequently, for the 2004 season, the BCS formula was once again tweaked. For more detail, see the Bowl Championship Series article.
The use of the bowl championship series poll, has fostered debate amongst college football fans who are proponents of a playoff system.
The term Division I-A was not used until 1978, and before that the term 'major college champion' was often used. Below are some of the selectors:
|National Championship Foundation||(NCF)||1869-1935|
|College Football Researchers Association||(CRFA)||1869-1935|
|Helms Athletic Foundation||(H)||1883-1935|
|The Dickinson System||(D)||1924-1940|
|The Associated Press||(AP)||1936-|
The Coaches' Poll, published by:
|United Press International||(UPI)||1958-1990|
- NCAA Division I-AA national football championship
- NCAA Division II national football championship
- NCAA Division III national football championship