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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Greatest College Football Programs

Traveling over the holidays, I saw a magazine by Street & Smith on the newsstand called "50 Greatest College Football Programs of All Time." Their stated goal, as the title suggests, was to rank college football's top programs over the entire history of the sport.

The magazine's top ten were:

1. Notre Dame (no surprise)
2. USC (#2?)
3. Oklahoma
4. Alabama
5. Nebraska
6. Michigan
7. Yale (let me get to criteria below)
8. Ohio State
9. Texas
10. Princeton

Other notables:

12. Pennsylvania State University
15. Minnesota (remember, they count the ENTIRE history of a program...obviously)
24. Sparty (which is ahead of such schools as Florida, UCLA and Wisco)

Now, while the very reason for lists like these is to stir debate (I don't think Michigan should be #1, but I don't think 'SC or Okie should be ahead of us), I wondered how they figured out their rankings. According to the magazine, the criteria were as follows:

* National Championships (total multiplied by a ranking value of 7)
* Undefeated Seasons (total multiplied by ranking value of 4)
* Major Bowl Wins (defined as victories in a postseason game against a Division 1-A opponent, then multiplied by ranking value of 3)
* Major Bowl Appearances (same definition as above, obviously Michigan and the other Big 10 schools get hurt by the "Rose Bowl or No Bowl" rule until the mid-70s)
* Winning Percentage (multiplied by ranking value of 40)
* Graduation Rate (worst in the top 10? Surprisingly it was Texas)
* Consensus All-Americans
* Heisman Winners
* No. 1 Overall Draft Picks (personally, I think this is a bogus category for the stated aim of the rankings)
* Mascot Ferocity (uh...huh? Their reasoning was, "Because we wanted to spice up what would otherwise be a straight statistical analysis of each program's history." Mascots were ranked on a scale of -5 to +5. The Wolverine landed at +2, somehow the "ferocious" symbol of a "fighting Irishman" garnered +4 while the lowest in the top 10 was, you guessed it, the mighty poison nuts of Tosu at -4).

But the one that caught my attention was this final criterion:

* Major NCAA Infractions (stating that a "program was penalized for each major violation of NCAA rules, as reported by the NCAA.")

Under this category, Michigan was said to have had 3 (whereas Tosu was listed as having 2, while Alabama, Nebraska and Texas also had three, everybody trailing Oklahoma with 5).

Ok, maybe I'm wrong, but I don't recall -- past or present -- the Michigan football program (not bball) being penalized for ANY "major violation of NCAA rules." Am I incorrect? Help me out fellow Wolverine fans as I'd really like to know if I'm off base here.


Anonymous said...

According to this site, Michigan has no football infractions.


Yost said...

GREAT site, Anon. Might just have to drop the boys at Street and Smith an email.

Thanks for posting.

DBuck said...

Keep in mind that the team down south has had the highest win-loss percentage since 1950. If I'm wrong, please correct me.

BaggyPantsDevil said...

Interesting, winning percentages, undefeated seasons, national championships, and bowl games are all pretty common sense criteria for this. I also think the graduation rates and NCAA violations are a nice touch even though they seemed to have dropped the ball on fat checking.

The #1 overall draft pick is definitely irrelevant for this. First, it’s about a player’s potential in the NFL, not actual performance in college. Second, it’s just potential which is really just an educated guess and is sometimes really, really wrong. We should all be familiar with this one, Tom Brady picked #199 in 2000, Tim Couch picked #1 in 1999. Are they really suggesting that Kentucky provided the NFL with a better quarterback than Michigan did? Third, it’s a criteria that’s all about an individual’s performance, not the team’s performance and football is a team sport.

For that same reason, I think the All-Americans and Heisman winners shouldn’t really count either. Might as well add in the number of players shown on ESPN highlight reels. Supposedly, the Heisman Trophy is awarded to “the most outstanding college football player” while it’s become the most outstanding college quarterback or tailback. Hell, John Heisman himself couldn’t win his own trophy today, he was a lineman.

Now I think the mascot ferocity angle is kind of groovy—I like just this sort of frivolous debate—but they definitely dropped the ball on this. Let’s review.

Notre Dame—Fighting Irish: I’m kind of surprised the NCAA hasn’t cracked down on this. I mean if Fighting Illini is “offensive” doesn’t Fighting Irish perpetuate the stereotype of a drunken, brawling Irishman? It’s kind of relevant to the school, but does seem to exclude some Catholics. How do Catholic Italians feel about that? I’ve always wondered that. Belligerent, yes ferocious, no.

USC—Trojans: OK, I’m just going to say it. It’s a brand of condoms! Besides, the Trojans were the ones who got tricked by the Greeks and their city was plundered and destroyed. The fact that it was destroyed so thoroughly that no one really knows for sure where the city was or if it even exited is proof they weren’t too ferocious. Besides, what do Trojans have to do with southern California?

Oklahoma—Sooners: Let’s see, homeless people in wagons trying to throw up a shanty on some barren land before anybody else. Relevant to the state’s history, but hardly ferocious.

Alabama—Crimson Tide: Uh, is this teen slang for menstruation? Painful cramps, yes, ferocious, no. No relevance whatsoever to Alabama.

Nebraska—Cornhuskers: OK, relevant to the state, that’s for sure. And, they’re big and burly from hauling all those bushels of corn around the farm. But it’s a farmer. A farmer! Not a hunter or warrior or bandit or plunderer. A farmer. Not ferocious.

Texas—Longhorns: OK, this one is relevant to the state, has a cool looking logo on the side of the helmet and even comes with it’s own hand gesture that doubles as a devil-sign at a heavy metal concert. But, cattle are herbivores. Not ferocious. Beef, it’s what’s for dinner!

Ohio State—Buckeyes: Ay caramba! No comment is even necessary on this one. Relevant, sure, but they were obviously drunk at the time they thought this up.

Yale—Bulldogs: OK, dogs can be mean so I can buy that there’s some ferocity here. The problem is it’s too generic. Georgia has bulldogs and Fresno State has bulldogs. It’s just not very original. This is the Ivy League, they should have been able to come up with some sort of ferocious sounding beast in Latin. Even, Skulls & Bones sounds scarier.

Princeton—Tigers: Yep, they’re ferocious. What a tiger has to do with New Jersey, I’ll never know. Again, it’s too generic (Detroit Tigers). On a positive note, thanks for testing out the helmets guys.

Michigan—Wolverines: The only reason this didn’t get a +5 is because the sportswriters probably have no idea what a wolverine actually is. Anyone who knows anything about a wolverine knows it’s got to be the most aggressive and ill-tempered creature on the planet.

Here’s what Wikipedia said about wolverines: “The wolverine is both strong and ferocious and has been known to kill animals as large as moose.” A moose! That’s a 66 pound animal taking down an—at least—800 pound animal. Besides, they even used the word ferocious. Here’s more: “They have been known (and been filmed) to capture kills from other predators, such as polar bears or a wolf pack.” OK, wolverines take food away from apex predators. If that’s not ferocious, I don’t know what is. In fact, since wolves and polar bears are pretty ferocious themselves, that makes wolverines uber-ferocious.

Now on the down side, the wolverine is a member of the weasel family which does have an unsavory connotation. Also, there is that whole debate about whether or not wolverines ever really lived in Michigan, but that’s beside the point. Wolverines live in the north and Michigan is in the north, that’s close enough.

So we definitely have ferocity and even some geographical relevance and uniqueness, I can’t think of a better mascot. Also, I think I read somewhere that the school once tried to have an actual live wolverine mascot—a la Bevo—but the creature was way too aggressive and gnawed at its cage and lunged at passersby so it was sent back to wherever they got it from.

Also, here’s a link to the Wikipedia entry on Michigan athletics, it’s got a nice list of Michigan football accomplishments—I think through last season: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michigan_Wolverines

DanDierdorf said...

Yost ... that No. 1 Overall Draft Pick is a bunch of BS as you state for the aim of this poll. Mascot Ferocity ... At the Columbus Zoo in that lovely city they have a caged Wolverine. The damn thing is as mean as Satan. No caged almonds or buckeyes in site. As for the Infractions, I do not recall any in my lifetime. None, zero.

DanDierdorf said...

Yost ... No. 1 Overall Draft Pick is a bunch of BS. Mascot Ferocity ... that is funny. The only thing I have ever seen that is as mean as a Wolverine is Satan and I don't want to talk about it. The Irishman is ranked higher? What kind of BS is that. Makes me hate ND even more. I don't like being a hater, but I am. Major NCAA Infractions ... Can't remember any in my lifetime. I would like to know what they were.

Yost said...


Great post!

And D2, there are none according the site Anon posted at the top here.

BaggyPantsDevil said...

Yeah, there’s something a little off with their statistics on major NCAA rules infractions. Michigan doesn’t even have three major infractions listed. There’s just two, one for basketball and one for baseball. Based on the above listed website—which is the NCAA’s own database for infractions—this is the breakdown of the top ten football programs and football related infractions.

Southern Cal—5
Notre Dame—3
Ohio State—2

BaggyPantsDevil said...

OK, I just perused the link to Street & Smith’s “50 Greatest College Football Programs of All Time” and—again—I’m hung up on this mascot thing. How on earth is it possible that a wolverine gets a “2” while a badger gets a “4”? Have these folks never watched Animal Planet or the Discovery Channel? Oh, and a Golden Gopher gets a “3”.

And, that’s not all. The top score of “5” pretty much just goes to lions and tigers and bears. Oh my! Is this some sort of strange “Wizzard of Oz” fetish? I can understand those animals being considered ferocious with one exception, the Golden Bears of Cal. Have any of you ever seen Oski, the Cal mascot? He looks like a character out of a cartoon show called, Yogi & Boo Boo, the College Years. Not the least bit ferocious.

See Oski, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oski

OK, I think I’m done with the mascot thing.

Yost said...

"And, that’s not all. The top score of “5” pretty much just goes to lions and tigers and bears. Oh my! Is this some sort of strange “Wizzard of Oz” fetish?"

LOL!! And good research re: the violations thing. Hmmm. Me thinks we might need to put up a post so folks can write to S&S.