Alabama Football: Elite programs dominating CFB does not need change

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

Alabama Football is the most elite of the few college football programs that dominate the sport. If the term ‘Blue Blood’ was used, the Crimson Tide would be the bluest of all. Over the last several seasons, two perspectives have evolved in the national dialog about college football. One perspective is simply that whatever benefits the Alabama Crimson Tide is bad for everybody else.

The other constantly evolving perspective is about fairness. The issue is murky rather than clear, and almost always, fairness is defined subjectively. The most obvious motivation behind the fairness issue is driven by college football’s success. As a highly valued entertainment product, media deals have become gigantic.

Recently, Paul Finebaum asked what CFB program would next break its “National Title Drought.” With Georgia having just done so, many fans are up for an offseason debate over what CFB programs are worthy of elite status.

There is no consensus for defining elite status. But given all the attention and consternation over the College Football Playoff format, using National Championships as the benchmark makes sense.

A first question is how long are National Championships relevant to current elite status. A generous interval is 50 years. Using that as a guide, let’s see how many teams have been elite over the last five decades. 1971-2021.

Alabama Football National Championships

The Crimson Tide has won 10 National Championships in the last 50 years. The Tide won in 1973, 1978, 1979, 1992, 2009, 2011. 2012, 2015, 2017, 2020.

The next closest programs with five each are Miami and Southern Cal. The Hurricanes won national titles in 1983, 1987, 1989, 1991 and 2001. The Trojans won in 1972, 1974, 1978, 2003 and 2004.

The Nebraska Cornhuskers and Oklahoma Sooners are next with four National Championships. The Huskers won theirs in 1971, 1994, 1995 and 1997. For the Sooners, the national titles came in 1974, 1975, 1985 and 2000.

The winners of three national titles make up a longer list; Clemson, Florida, Florida State, LSU and Notre Dame. The Irish won in 1973, 1977 and 1988. Florida State won in 1993, 1999 and 2013. Florida won in 1996, 2006 and 2008. Clemson won in 1981, 2016 and 2018. LSU won in 2002, 2007 and 2019.

The two-time winners are Penn State (1982 and 1986); Ohio State (2002 and 2014) and Georgia (1980 and 2021).

Of the 58 National Championships over the 50 seasons (including shared championships from the NCAA National Championship list), 13 schools have won 49 National Championships. Nine other programs have won one title each.

Looking at single decades yields an interesting observation that over the 50 seasons, college football has had little parity. Over the five decades, there have been an almost equal number of programs winning National Championships in any 10 season period. There is variation, from six teams to eight teams in four of the decades. In the 1990s 10 teams won National Championships but the difference was impacted by shared titles.

College football has prospered over the five decades and it can be argued the ‘elite’ brands have built most of the growth.

If we think of the CFB Playoff as the television extravaganza it is, more teams mean more sizzle. But as we discussed a few days ago, rethinking the Playoff could mean the SEC leads the way to a totally different format. That format would most likely include the potential involvement of less than the current number of Power Five teams.

Next. No Playoff expansion until 2026 and why. dark

Critics would slam such a change as being unfair. Collective angst would claim the elites would be controlling college football. Alabama Football would receive the most blame as some kind of evil empire. As the 50 years of National Championships show, Alabama Football and other elites have long dominated college football.