Alabama Football: Attaining and maintaining National Championship value

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

In the 22 seasons of the BCS and CFB Playoff, not all Championships bring lasting value. Why Alabama football and few more programs capitalize, while others don’t.

Gaining the value of a National Championship is well known to Alabama football and Nick Saban. Going back to the first BCS National Championship game, 12 college football programs have won 23 National Championships. The period covers 22 seasons, but 2003 had shared Champions.

Most college football fans will agree winning National Championships is exceedingly hard. Given the difficulty of the task, contending for a Championship every year for several years is quite a feat.

Of the 12 NC-winning programs, only six teams have been late-season National Championship contenders for five seasons or more. A seventh, Clemson appears poised to reach that milestone in the 2020 season.

Defining which teams have been legitimate, late-season contenders leaves room for interpretation.  The records of the six teams listed below argue each has met the criteria. Debating what other teams should have made the list is less important than understanding why the chosen six, did.

Most National Championship Value Gained

Alabama Football – National Championships in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017

With five National Championships and two runner-up finishes, the Alabama Crimson Tide has set the standard. The newest ‘it’ schools are LSU and Clemson, but none can argue the power of five National Championships in nine seasons. On top of the five jewels were two runner-up finishes. In the period since the 2009 National Championship, the Alabama Crimson Tide experienced one sub-par season. When that happened, the Tide still won 10 games.

LSU – National Championships in 2003, 2007 and 2019

After the shared 2003 National Championship, LSU stayed in the hunt with, nine, 11 and 11 wins in the next three seasons, followed by the 12-2, 2007 National Championship. The Tigers reached runner-up in 2011 and of course, won one another National Championship last season. Their worst seasons during the long period were 8-win seasons in 2008, 2014 and 2016.

Ohio State – National Championships in 2002 and 2014

The Buckeyes were also runner-up in 2006 and 2007. Since the 2005 season, Ohio State has had 11 wins or better, in 12 seasons.

Florida State – National Championships in 1999 and 2013

The Seminoles had a long interval between their two National Championships. Bobby Bowden also got them to runner-up status in 1998 and 2000. The last three seasons have been tough for FSU, but between 2000 and 2016, FSU won less than nine games in a season, only four times.

Southern Cal – National Championships in 2003 and 2004

The Trojans also finished second in 2005. From 2003 through 2008, USC lost only seven games. The lowest points in what might be a continuing spiral for the Trojans was 7-6 in 2012 and 5-7 in 2018.

Oklahoma – National Championship in 2000

The Sooners are at the bottom in the group of six, because of only one National Championship. But the Big 12 powerhouse was runner-up three times in 2003, 2004 and 2008. Consistently winning has kept them in Championship contention. Going back to 2001, the Sooners have won less than 11 games in a season only three times. In 2005, 2009 and 2014, they won eight games.

When Championship success does not last

What separates these six teams and Clemson? And why were the Tennessee, Texas, Miami and Auburn National Championship teams unable to do the same? Plus, why did a two-time National Championship winner in Florida, win two Championships in three seasons, followed by losing 27 games over the next seven?

Answers to all three questions are the same. The top six (seven with Clemson) programs were all-in with the resources to build and in most cases hold on to a Championship program. Top facilities, elite players and tremendous head coaches made the difference. When any of those three components were lacking the top programs began to struggle, as in FSU and Southern Cal.

For Alabama football and LSU, the stature of the SEC helped. An ability to attract elite players nationwide is another factor. Minimal staff turnover has helped Clemson be one more championship-contending season away from joining the top six.

The ingredients are not complex. Though simple, they are hard to achieve. NCAA sanctions or unexpected coaching drama can derail any program – quickly.

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In the ebb and flow of winning National Championships, what comes next? Better than taking the field, a good bet would be on either the Alabama Crimson Tide, LSU, Ohio State, Clemson or Oklahoma.