There has been a lot of talk about Notre Dame and if they deserve to have their own seat at the BCS table, an exclusive television contract with NBC, and if they should be allowed to remain independent in all sports except football. The short answer is yes, and the new question is why. Because Notre Dame is one of the kings of college football; those who – as Rick Reilly noted in a recent article – are “royalty” in college football.
The list is simple and explicit without surprises…or is there?
Eighteen National Championships, notorious cheaters, the most consistent winners in the SEC. Surprising ‘Bama only has one Heisman Trophy winner (Mark Ingram), but has two of the most well-known coaches in college football history, Paul “Bear” Brant and Nick Saban. Alabama sports footballs greatest in-state rivalry with Auburn.
Twenty-Two National Championships, the largest stadium in the country, winged helmets (“borrowed” from Princeton,) one of the nation’s most well-known fight songs, and boasts one of the largest alumni in the world. Many schools claim UM to be their rival: Michigan State, Minnesota, Notre Dame, and Ohio State. UM only claims Ohio State as its main rival. Michigan has not been shutout since October 20, 1984 (Iowa) a streak of 349, the longest in FBS.
Twenty-One National Championships, the Golden Dome, Touchdown Jesus, Rudy, Knute Rockne, Bon Jovi, and its own TV network. Nearly every Notre Dame game is available on national television through its estimated $15 million annual contract with NBC, and the remaining games are shown nationally or regionally on ABC. Notre Dame has not won a National Championship since 1988, but it holds credibility for its history, integrity and the ability to be hated by 90% of college football fans.
Seventeen National Championships, a fancy alternate nick name (“Men of Troy), seven Heisman Trophy winners, a Trojan horse and band, the most loyal fan base of any school west of Texas, and playing in one of the most storied stadiums in sports – The Coliseum. USC has produced some of the greatest running backs in NFL history: Frank Gifford, Ronnie Lott, Marcus Allen, and yes, O.J. “I’ve always been a great citizen” Simpson. Despite losing many scholarships and being disqualified from post-season play for two years USC is the Associated Press’ pre-season #1 team. SC continues to reload; I am guessing great weather and an attractive co-ed help.
Seven National Championships, perhaps the oddest colors of the south (Orange and White), one of the most hated songs in collegiate athletics (“Rocky Top) only because you’ll hear it fifty times before the teams even start warm-ups. UT also has checkered end zones, a head coach that wears orange pants (Derek Dooley), and the only school in FBS that can claim each of its neighboring states hate it.
Seventeen National Championships, Boomer Sooner, Barry Switzer, Bud Wilkinson and the 1955 Sooner football team, intense rivalries with Texas (Red River Shootout), Oklahoma State (Bedlam), and Nebraska though the two last played in 2010. Oklahoma has five winners of the Heisman Trophy, NCAA’s longest streak of 47 consecutive victories, the only school to have four coaches with 100 victories (Bob Stoops, Barry Switzer, Bud Wilkinson, and Bennie Owens). Oklahoma has the most 10+ win seasons (32) and 11+ win seasons (20) of any program, as well as the fewest losing seasons (12) of any program.
Fourteen National Championships, football’s only two-time Heisman Trophy winner (Archie Griffin), Ohio Stadium, Script Ohio (“borrowed” from Michigan), dotting of the “I” (best halftime tradition in sports), probably the craziest and most loyal fans in the country north of the Mason-Dixon. Ohio State has the most interstate rivalry in college football, but not most intense, with Michigan and has historical rivals with Illinois, Penn State, and Indiana (mostly in basketball). Ohio State has three NCAA coaches of the year: Woody Hayes, Earl Bruce, and Jim Tressel.
Nine National Championships, Bevo (yes, it really is alive), great rivalries with Oklahoma, Texas A & M, Texas Tech, and Arkansas, Big Bertha, Smokey the Canon, Lighting the Tower, “The Eyes of Texas,” and Hook ‘em Horns. For five years, Texas listed as the number one seller of licensed merchandise. Texas also has its own partial network *Longhorn Network) with a partnership through ESPN. Its stadium features one of the largest high definition scoreboards in the world (everything is bigger in Texas).
Honorable mention goes to Florida State, LSU, Navy, Nebraska, Miami, Oregon, and Penn State.
College football is always great, but it is at its height when these fifteen schools are in the mix for the national championship. Any of the top eight schools could easily support their own in a national television package. This is the royalty of college football.