Alabama Football: A sometimes forgotten program record

Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports /

As the reigning National Champion, Alabama Football sits atop the college football world. Every time the Alabama Crimson Tide wins another National Championships wails of displeasure can be heard across the nation. For some (perhaps most) college football fans, no Alabama Football achievement is credibly attained.

A few weeks back we discussed an idea to shut down the nonsense debate over claimed National Championships. The idea is for all programs to make a distinction between ‘awarded’ and ‘won’ National Championships and ‘claimed’ national titles. Valid or invalid claims by schools will not matter if a new standard of ‘awarded’ and ‘won’ is acknowledged. Some day another program might match the Crimson Tide in ‘awarded’ and ‘won’ National Championships – but not anytime soon. The closest program to the Crimson Tide is Notre Dame and the Irish are five national titles behind.

So much attention is given to National Championship history, even some Crimson Tide fans forget about another program achievement. The best college football team, winning percentage in a single decade belongs to the Oklahoma Sooners. Oklahoma won 89.5 percent of its games in the 1950s. Florida State has the second-best winning decade ever in the 1990s with 89.3 percent. Alabama in the 2010s decade is right behind FSU at 89.2 percent.

Alabama Crimson Tide fans take joy in the Tide’s early lead for the 2020s at 100 percent.

There’s another Alabama Football Record of Merit

College football has grown more competitive rather than less competitive during its history. In its earliest decades, a few teams dominated. College football was ruled by what many years later became Ivy League teams.

Anything of significance beyond ‘Eastern’ football did not occur until the first decade of the 20th century. Alabama Football did not become a team with national prominence until the 1920s. Retroactively, LSU and Texas A&M were awarded National Championships before the Crimson Tide. Led first by Vanderbilt and Sewanee, ‘Southern’ football slowly gained national recognition.  It was the Tide’s upset win in the 1926 Rose bowl that thrust ‘Southern’ football to national credibility.

The modern era of college football is defined differently by each generation. Most college football historians discuss the modern era beginning in the 1920s. Consistent with those opinions, we reviewed the top winning percentages, by decade, going back to 1920. Of course, all winning percentages are accomplished in a wide range of schedule difficulty. Trying to leapfrog analysis of schedules, we used an old work by Bill Connelly, published in 2016.

Connelly used some not fully disclosed calculations of data points and choose the top 10 teams of each decade, going back to 1900. We borrowed Connelly’s list of teams from each decade and simply calculated each program’s winning percentage, confirmed from

The results are listed below, and once again, a major college football category of achievement shows the Alabama Crimson Tide as the top program of all time.

Highest Winning Percentage by Decade

  • 1920-1929 – Notre Dame – 87.1 percent
  • 1930-1939 – Alabama Crimson Tide – 85.8 percent
  • 1940-1949 – Notre Dame – 87.6 percent
  • 1950-1959 – Oklahoma Sooners – 89.5 percent
  • 1960-1969 – Alabama Crimson Tide – 83.6 percent
  • 1970-1979 – Oklahoma Sooners – 87.7 percent
  • 1980-1989 – Nebraska – 83.7 percent
  • 1990 – 1999 – Florida State – 89.3 percent
  • 2000-2009 – Texas – 85.3 percent
  • 2010-2019 – Alabama Crimson Tide – 89.2 percent

In 10 decades of college football competition, six schools have had the winningest team in a decade. Only the Alabama Crimson Tide program had done it in three decades.

Next. 25 Greatest Games of Saban Era. dark

For the record, the No. 2 winningest program in the 1970s, at 86.3 percent was Paul Bryant’s Crimson Tide.