List of Alabama Crimson Tide football national championships
This is a list of Alabama Crimson Tide football national championships. The school claims 18 championships, some of which are disputed.
At the advent of college football (first played in a much different form in the 1860s at Rutgers and Princeton), the concept of a "national champion" was nonsensical. The sport only gradually became broad enough in geographical scope and its rules standardized enough to conceive of crowning a national champion. The proliferation of post-season bowl games fostered rare cross-country comparisons between teams.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) began organizing college football into major and minor divisions in 1956, but, due to the power of the bowl game organizers, has never operated its own system for determining a champion in football.
The Associated Press (AP) began conducting a national poll of sports writers to rank teams in the 1930s, followed by United Press International's poll of coaches in 1950. These polls were well-respected, but they published their final poll results before the postseason bowl games until 1968 and 1974, respectively.
Only with the debut of the "Bowl Championship Series" at the end of the 1998 college football season was a consensus reached on a unanimously-declared national champion of Division I-A college football. In 2014 a four-team College Football Playoff was instituted to determine a national champion.
Therefore, championships claimed for the years prior to the "poll era", which came into its own in the 1940s, are the most contentious. Various organization and associations, termed "selectors", have published rankings for those years, often retroactively. These organizations include the National Championship Foundation (NCF), Helms Athletic Foundation, Dickinson System, Dunkel Index, Houlgate, Litkenhaus, Spalding's Football Guide, and the College Football Research Association (CFRA).
Until 1982, Alabama claimed only one national championship prior to the tenure of Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. After his retirement, Alabama sports information director Wayne Atcheson added four claimed championships to the team's official program notes.
The NCAA does not itself recognize official national champions, but does provide a partial listing of various organizations' selections of a champion, often noting several teams in the same year. In addition to the 15 claimed by the Alabama program, the Official NCAA Football Records Book has cited 5 additional championship years for which a case could be made for Alabama to hold the title: 1945, 1962, 1966, 1975 and 1977. The NCAA recognizes only 13 times since 1900, however, that Alabama was a "national poll champion" going into their bowl game.
Alabama's claimed championships
- 1925-- The 1925 team, coached by Wallace Wade, completed the regular season 9-0-0, winning the Southern Conference championship. Alabama was then invited to play Washington in the January 1, 1926 Rose Bowl. Coach Wade's team initially fell behind the undefeated Huskies, but rallied in the second half to defeat Washington 20-19. The outstanding player of the game was Johnny Mack Brown. The 1925 Alabama football team finished the season with a 10-0-0 record and was selected national champions by Football Annual and the Helms Athletic Foundation.
- 1926-- The 1926 team, coached by Wallace Wade, completed the regular season 9-0-0, winning the Southern Conference championship. Alabama was then invited to play Stanford in the January 1, 1927 Rose Bowl. Coach Wade's team tied the Indians 7-7 to finish the season 9-0-1. The outstanding player of the game was Fred Pickhard. The team was selected as national champion by the Helms Athletic Foundation
- 1930-- The 1930 team, coached by Wallace Wade, completed the regular season 9-0-0, winning the Southern Conference championship. Alabama was then invited to play Washington State in the January 1, 1931 Rose Bowl. Coach Wade's team defeated the Cougars 24-0 to finish the season 10-0-0. The outstanding player of the game was John Campbell. Park Davis retroactively awarded Alabama a share in the national championship in his analysis for Spalding's Football Guide in 1934. The contemporary Dickenson, Dunkel and Houlgate rankings gave Notre Dame, also 10-0, the championship. The Fighting Irish are recognized as champions in the NCAA record book.
- 1934-- The 1934 team, coached by Frank W. Thomas, completed the regular season 9-0-0, winning the Southeastern Conference championship. Alabama was then invited to play Stanford in the January 1, 1935 Rose Bowl. Coach Thomas' team defeated the Indians 29-13 to finish the season 10-0-0. The outstanding player of the game was Millard "Dixie" Howell. Selectors crediting Alabama as national champion included Dunkel, Williamson, and The Football Thesaurus. Minnesota, which went 8-0 but did not play in a bowl game, was also credited as champion by three contemporary selectors and several retroactive indices. The Golden Gophers are recognized as champions in the NCAA record book
- 1941-- The 1941 team, coached by Frank W. Thomas, completed the regular season 8-2-0. Alabama's squad finished 3rd in the Southeastern Conference after suffering losses to Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. Alabama was ranked 20th in the final Associated Press poll, but defeated the Texas A&M Aggies 29-21 in the January 1, 1942 Cotton Bowl to finish the season 9-2-0. The outstanding players of the game were Holt Rast, Don Whitmire, and Jimmy Nelson. The only selector giving Alabama the title that year was Deke Houlgate's retroactive system. Big Ten champion Minnesota (8-0) was credited as national champion in 12 other polls and in the NCAA record book.
- 1961-- The 1961 team, coached by Bear Bryant, completed the regular season 10-0-0, winning the Southeastern Conference championship. Led by quarterback Pat Trammell, linebacker Lee Roy Jordan and two-way lineman Billy Neighbors, Alabama outscored their opponents 297-25. Alabama was then invited to play the #9-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks in the January 1, 1962 Sugar Bowl. Coach Bryant's team defeated the Razorbacks 10-3 to finish the season 11-0-0. The outstanding player of the game was Mike Fracchia. The only organization not recognizing the undefeated Sugar Bowl champions as national champion was the Football Writers Association.
- 1964-- The 1964 team, coached by Bear Bryant, completed the regular season 10-0-0, winning the Southeastern Conference championship. Alabama was led by quarterback Joe Namath. Alabama was then invited to play the Texas Longhorns in the January 1, 1965 Orange Bowl. Coach Bryant's team lost to the Longhorns 21-17 to finish the season 10-1-0. The outstanding player of the game was Joe Namath. Organizations crediting Alabama with the championship included the Associated Press, United Press International, and Litkenhous. Because of the controversy, the AP decided to wait until after the bowl games to select their champion in the 1965 season. Arkansas and Notre Dame were also credited with the championship that year, although Notre Dame does include it as one of their 11 claimed championships.
- 1965 -- The 1965 team, coached by Bear Bryant, completed the regular season 8-1-1, winning the Southeastern Conference championship. The Tide lost to Georgia and tied Tennessee during the regular season. Alabama was then invited to play Nebraska in the January 1, 1966 Orange Bowl. Coach Bryant's team defeated the Cornhuskers 39-28 to finish the season 9-1-1. The outstanding player of the game was Steve Sloan. The Associated Press and Football Writers gave Alabama the 1965 championship.
- 1973-- The 1973 team, coached by Bear Bryant, completed the regular season 11-0-0, winning the Southeastern Conference championship. Alabama was then invited to play Notre Dame in the December 31, 1973 Sugar Bowl. Coach Bryant's team lost to the Fighting Irish 24-23 to finish the season 11-1-0. The 1973 Alabama football team was selected national champions by the Coaches Poll as at the time the final poll was announced prior to the bowl games. Because of the controversy after the bowl loss, the Coaches Poll began selecting their champion after the bowl games starting in 1974.
- 1978-- The 1978 team, coached by Bear Bryant, completed the regular season 10-1-0, winning the Southeastern Conference championship. The Tide defeated #10-ranked Nebraska 20-3, and defeated #11-ranked Missouri 38-20, and lost to Southern Cal during the regular season. Alabama was then invited to play #1-ranked Penn State in the January 1, 1979 Sugar Bowl. Coach Bryant's team defeated the Nittany Lions 14-7 to finish the season 11-1-0. The outstanding player of the game was linebacker Barry Krauss.
- 1979-- The 1979 team, coached by Bear Bryant, completed the regular season 11-0-0, winning the Southeastern Conference championship. The Tide defeated #18-ranked Tennessee 27-17, and defeated #14-ranked Auburn University 25-18 during the regular season. Alabama was then invited to play #6-ranked Arkansas in the January 1, 1980 Sugar Bowl. Coach Bryant's team defeated the Razorbacks 24-9 to finish the season 12-0-0. The outstanding player of the game was running back Major Ogilvie.
- 1992-- The 1992 team, coached by Gene Stallings, completed the regular season 11-0-0. They then defeated #12-ranked Florida in the inaugural SEC Championship Game at Legion Field, defeating the Gators 28-21; the win gave Alabama its 20th SEC title and a record of 12-0-0. Alabama was then invited to play #1-ranked Miami in the January 1, 1993 Sugar Bowl. Coach Stallings' team defeated the Hurricanes 34-13 to finish the season 13-0-0. The outstanding player of the game was Derrick Lassic.
- 2009— The 2009 team, coached by Nick Saban, finished with a 12–0 regular season. The team then faced Florida in the SEC Championship Game, the team defeated the Gators 32–13 in a rematch of the previous year's championship. Alabama then traveled to Pasadena to face Texas in the 2010 BCS National Championship Game at the Rose Bowl. After Texas quarterback Colt McCoy left the game due to injury, Alabama's Heisman winning running back Mark Ingram Jr rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns in a 37–21 win. Ingram was named the game's offensive MVP in Alabama's first ever BCS victory.
- 2011— The 2011 team, also coached by Nick Saban, finished with an 11-1 regular season and was left out of the SEC Champsionship Game after losing to LSU at Bryant-Denny Stadium. When all of the other undefeated teams eventually posted losses, the polls sent the Tide to a rematch in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. Alabama's defense held the Tigers to 92 combined yards on offense on the way to a 21-0 shutout. Jeremy Shelley kicked a bowl-record 5 of 7 field goals and Trent Richardson closed the scoring with a 34-yard touchdown run in the 4th quarter.
- 2012— The 2012 team, coached by Nick Saban, finished with an 11-1 regular season and defeated the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Champsionship Game. Another round of upsets gave the Tide a match-up against the storied Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Alabama burst out of the gate, scoring its fourth unanswered touchdown at the start of the 2nd quarter and rolled to a 42-14 win. Quarterback A. J. McCarron threw four touchdown passes; two to freshman Amari Cooper; and running back Eddie Lacy rumbled for 140 yards and a score.
- 2015— The 13-1 2015 Alabama Crimson Tide football team shut out Michigan State Spartans 38-0 in the College Football Playoff semi-final in Arlington, Texas, then defeated the Clemson Tigers 45-40 in the championship game in Glendale, Arizona. Big plays by Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake and O. J. Howard kept Alabama a step ahead of Clemson for most of the game.
- 2017— The 2017 Alabama Crimson Tide football team lost the 2017 Iron Bowl and missed the SEC championship game, but slipped into the 4-team playoff after losses by Auburn and Wisconsin. The Tide avenged their 2016 loss to Clemson in a dominating performance in the semi-final in New Orleans, then defeated the Georgia Bulldogs 26-23 in the championship game in Atlanta. Freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa relieved Jalen Hurts in the second half and threw the game-winning 41-yard strike to a streaking Devonta Smith to win the game in overtime.
- 2020— The 2020 Alabama Crimson Tide football team went undefeated through an 11-game all-SEC season played in the shadow of the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic. They beat the Florida Gators 52–46 in the SEC championship game in Atlanta, then defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Ohio State Buckeyes in the College Football Playoffs.
Other possible championships
- 1945: Alabama went 10-0-0 (including wins against Keesler Air Force Base and the Pensacola Naval Air Station) and overpowered 11th-ranked Southern California 34-14 in the Rose Bowl. The Cadets of the U.S. Military Academy, however, racked up five wins against ranked teams and were given the #1 slot by the Associated Press, then by far the most widely-respected selector. In their retroactive American Football Coaches Association's Blue Ribbon Commission awarded the 1945 championship to Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University) in 2016.
- 1962: Alabama finished the season 10-1-0, second to Ole Miss in the SEC. The Tide went on to shut out the Big 8 champion Oklahoma Sooners 17-0 in the Orange Bowl. Alabama was ranked fifth in the final AP poll, released on December 3. In the first-ever #1 vs. #2 bowl match-up, 11-0 Southern California beat 8-3 Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl to cement the Trojans' championship.
- 1966: Alabama finished the season 11-0-0 and defeated 6th-ranked Nebraska 34-7 in the Sugar Bowl. Notre Dame and Michigan State both went 9-0-1 in the regular season and were ranked #1 and #2 in the AP poll, released in December.
- 1975: At 11-1-0, Alabama was crowned SEC champion and beat #7 Penn State in the Sugar Bowl. Ohio State was ranked #1 going into the postseason, but lost to UCLA 23-10 in the Rose Bowl. No. 2 11-1-0 Oklahoma, which beat #4 Michigan (8-2-2) in the Orange Bowl was honored as champion by the final, postseason AP poll.
- 1977: Alabama went 11-1-0 and would have shared the SEC crown with Kentucky, except that the Wildcats were ineligible due to NCAA rules violations. Entering the postseason at #3, the Tide defeated 8th-ranked Ohio State 35-6. The 5th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish (11-1-0) beat the top-ranked Texas Longhorns (11-1-0) to leapfrog Alabama for the postseason AP championship.
- Solomon, Jon (January 6, 2010) "Got 12? Here's how Alabama bumped up its claim to a dozen national titles". The Birmingham News
- "Alabama Crimson Tide football". (January 7, 2012) Wikipedia - accessed January 8, 2012
- Holiday, Pete (n.d.) "Alabama's National Championships"
- Solomon, Jon (January 5, 2016) "Alabama still claims most national titles (with some sketchy counting)". CBS Sports.com