Recognizing the Champions

by Bryan Matthews

AUBURN, Ala. -- Flags representing Auburn’s National Championships in 1957 and 2010 have flown over Jordan-Hare Stadium for the past three seasons.

Auburn came up just seconds short of winning the 2013 BCS National Championship, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be new National Championship banners raised for the Tigers’ home-opener against Arkansas Aug. 30.

Auburn athletic officials are considering recognizing as many as seven more national championship teams.

“If other schools are using these same polls to declare a national championship, we should at least consider it,” Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs said. “I don’t think there’s a better time for the Auburn family to consider it than right here at the end of the BCS era.

“As we transition into another playoff format for the national champion, I just think we need to look hard at it.”

The 1910, 1913, 1914, 1958, 1983, 1993 and 2004 teams are all under consideration. Each finished undefeated or won the conference championship, or both. All were recognized as national champions by at least one national selector, which are used by other schools to recognize National Championships.

The facts are laid out quite thoroughly by Michael Skotnicki in his book, Auburn’s Unclaimed National Championships, which was published in 2012.

“Texas A&M decided upon entering the SEC that they would add the 1919 and 1927 titles,” Skotnicki said. “Minnesota added the 1904 title last summer. USC added the 1939 title in 2004. Ole Miss claims three national titles and not one is AP, Coaches’ Poll or BCS.

“Why should Auburn be any different? In this day and age, why should Auburn be so stuffy about it?”

For Jacobs, the teams with the strongest cases are 1913, 1983 and 1993. He was a starting offensive linemen for the 1983 team, that finished 11-1 including a Sugar Bowl win over Michigan.

“Those three teams are listed in the NCAA record book as champions. It’s hard to dispute the NCAA record book,” Jacobs said. “The former players that have been on those teams, they all support it as I do from playing in ’83.”

Jacobs also feels strongly about the 2004 team, which finished 13-0 but was denied a chance to play in the BCS Championship game after both USC and Oklahoma finished undefeated.

USC won the game handily, but was stripped of the title after being hit with NCAA sanctions.

“The 2004 team are national champions,” Jacobs said. “I just find it hard for us to not recognize teams in the same manner that sister institutions have given the same criteria.”

“There is no national champion in 2004, and I think there should be,” said Skotnicki, who holds two degrees from Auburn and is currently a practicing lawyer in Birmingham.

Texas A&M used retroactive rankings by the National Championship Foundation, Billingsley Report and Sagarin to officially recognize the 1919 and 1927 national titles two years ago. In 2012, Minnesota used Billingsley to recognize the 1904 national title.

USC used the Dickinson system to recognize its 1939 title. Ole Miss cites Berryman, Dunkel and Sagarin for its 1959 title, five selectors including Billingsley for 1960, and Litkenhous for 1962.

Alabama also cites different selectors for many of its national championships before 1961 including Football Annual, Billingsley and Helms in 1925, Helms in 1926, the Davis Poll in 1930, Dunkel, Williamson and Football Thesaurus in 1934, and Houlgate in 1941. The 1941 Alabama team finished 9-2 overall, 3rd in SEC and 20th in AP poll.

To this point, Auburn only recognizes the AP national championship in 1957 and the consensus national championship in 2010.

“We’re so competitive. We compare ourselves to other schools,” Jacobs said. “If they’re counting something that we’re not counting, and we’re on equal footing, wouldn’t it be wise to count it.

“I think it’s something we need to consider right now. It’s been talked about here and there, but lets get it out there now and look at it and see what we should do.”

Jacobs and athletic department officials have already taken steps in researching and evaluating each team. Skotnicki met with Auburn officials last summer, and Jacobs said the athletic department’s Recognitions Committee is looking into it.

“We don’t have a timeline,” Jacobs said. “It won’t be an athletic director decision, it will be an Auburn decision. It will be an Auburn family decision. I want to hear from the Auburn people.”

Since publishing his book, Skotnicki has had positive feedback from a lot of Auburn people including a descendent of Legare Hairston, who was the starting quarterback of the 1914 team.

Hairston’s grandson attended one of Skotnicki’s book signings.

“His grandfather would tell him stories of how he scored the winning touchdown in the game against the Carlisle Indians,” Skotnicki said. “It means something to those people. The book meant a lot to him to see his grandfather get recognition as the quarterback on a national championship team, and I think they deserve that.

“I think they should finally get the rings and the recognition they’ve earned.”

Jacobs said he’s very appreciative of the work Skotnicki did writing his book and making a very compelling case for Auburn’s unclaimed national championships.

“It’s right there, nothing but facts. It’s awful hard to argue against facts,” Jacobs said.

Here’s a quick summary of the seven Auburn teams being considered as National Champions...

1910: Finished 6-1 and SIAA co-champions. Outscored opponents 176-9. Recognized national champion by Maxwell Ratings and Kyle Matschke. Coached by Mike Donahue.

1913: Finished 8-0 and SIAA champions. Outscored opponents 203-13. Recognized national champion by six selectors including Billingsley Report, Howell’s Power Ratings, Hatch Mathematical Rankings and Kyle Matschke. Recognized by the NCAA. Coached by Mike Donahue.

1914: Finished 8-0-1 and SIAA champions. Outscored opponents 193-0. Recognized national champion by Howell. Coached by Mike Donahue.

1958: Finished 9-0-1. Outscored opponents 173-62. Recognized national champion by Montgomery Full Season Championship. Coached by Shug Jordan.

1983: Finished 11-1 and SEC Champions. Outscored opponents 311-186 against the fifth-toughest schedule in college football history. Recognized national champion by 10 selectors including N.Y. Times, Billingsley, Massey, Howell and Hatch. Recognized by the NCAA. Coached by Pat Dye.

1993: Finished 11-0. Outscored opponents 353-192. Recognized national champion by four selectors including National Championship Foundation. Recognized by the NCAA. Coached by Terry Bowden.

2004: Finished 13-0 and SEC Champions. Outscored opponents 417-147. Recognized national champion by Darryl Perry and GBE College Football Ratings. Coached by Tommy Tuberville.

This article originally appeared on
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