David Housel’s Column

David House, Athletic Director Emeritus for Auburn University, wrote about Auburn’s Unclaimed National Championships in his column in the Auburn Football Illustrated for the game against the University of Georgia on November 10, 2012.  The text of his column is below:

Just how many national championships has Auburn won?

It may seem like a moot point given the direction our season has taken, but it is not a current events question and this is not a current events class. This is a history question and will thus be asked and considered.

In a forthcoming book, Auburn’s Unclaimed National Championships Michael Skotnicki, a Birmingham attorney, makes an interesting if not compelling argument that the Auburn has nine national  championships,  two, 1957 and 2010, widely recognized and acclaimed, and seven others not so widely recognized and acclaimed but every bit as worthy of  recognition.

Skotnicki has done extensive and impressive research in preparing his case.  In addition to 1957 and 2010, he contends that the 1910, 1913, 1914, 1958, 1983, 1993 and 2004 teams were proclaimed  national champions and should be so recognized by Auburn.

One chapter of the book is devoted to each of these teams, recapping its season and its accomplishments and comparing it to other outstanding teams of that year. Each chapter closes with a summation of Skotnicki’s case, a closing argument if you will.  For example: “ The undefeated 1913 Auburn team, SIAA Champion,  is deserving of the title National Champion and that championship should be claimed by Auburn’s Athletic Department with a banner in Jordan-Stadium.”

Being undefeated or winning a conference championship is not enough to be included on Skotnicki’s client list.  To make his list, a team has to be named or designated National Champion by at least one recognized selector, and there are many from which to choose.  One might argue too many, but that is another discussion for another day.  Suffice it to say each of these teams, as Skotnicki notes, was named National Champion by someone or by some entity. Recognition could come from an individual, mathematical formula or some other evaluation, but the designation was made.

What, if anything, should Auburn do about it?  That, too, is a question for another day.  It is not as if Auburn doesn’t already recognize some of these teams as national champions, four of the seven (1913, 1983, 1993 and 2004) are listed as national champions in the Year-By-Year Record section of the media guide. Three (1910, 1914 and 1958) are not but that, of course, could change with the publication of the book.

But banners in Jordan-Hare Stadium?  That would be a tough call. Auburn has chosen to celebrate only the two championships that were widely recognized, one from the Associated Press, a major news outlet, the other the BCS.  To add seven national championship banners in one year would seem to stretch credibility, but it is not without precedent.   According to Skotnicki several schools have claimed national championships after the fact, including Notre Dame in 1924 and 1925.

Skotnicki’s case rests on the fact that national polls did not exist until 1936 when the Associated Press established the first truly national college football poll. Prior to that time and even today there could be and are any numbers of ways to designate a national champion.  Some, obviously, more meaningful and respected than others.

Agree or disagree with the author’s premise, Auburn’s Unclaimed National Champions is a great read and offers up some of the best Auburn history you will find- well researched, well documented and well presented.  A quick look at the seven teams on Mr. Skotnicki’s client list is in order.

The 1910 team gave up only nine points in a seven-game season, all nine scored by Texas in Austin in the only loss of the season. The undefeated 1913 team gave up only 13 points, six to Vanderbilt and seven to Georgia in the last games of the season.  The 1914 team didn’t give up a single point—zero points in nine games. Only a disputed 0-0 tie with Georgia prevented Auburn from having two straight undefeated seasons and, some would say, two straight national championships.

Continuing the success of the 1957 national championship, the 1958 team finished 9-0-1 and was part of a 24-game unbeaten streak, then the longest in Auburn history.

The New York Times named the 1983 Tigers National Champions in one of college football’s first computer polls. The 1993 Tigers finished 11-0 and defeated both teams in the SEC championship game, and we all know that the undefeated 2004 Tigers should have been  in the BCS championship game instead of Oklahoma.  A chance was all that team ever asked. A chance was what it never got.

Good teams all, great teams all.  All named or proclaimed National Champions by someone, somebody or by mathematical formula.

But are those designations good enough and strong enough to celebrate?

Something to think about over what is shaping up to be a long, cold winter.

But remember this, joy cometh in the morning…. and hope springeth eternal…

As Mr. Skotnicki’s book indicates, we’ve been there before.

And we will be there again.

One thought on “David Housel’s Column

  1. watched the 1957 game between Auburn and U of Tennessee on ABC with Lyndsay Nelson as the broadcaster!
    I can’t remember the score of that game but Auburn ‘s defences was superb that day
    and Lloyd Nix’s side arm knuckles were on the money on Offence!
    But the guy who stood out on offence was a guard named Zeke Smith!
    I wonder what ever happened to Zeke????
    Anyone know?

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