Countdown to College Football Kickoff 2015, Day 32: Championship Controversy in 1932


The college football kickoff countdown marches on to day 32, and as we get closer to the start of the 2015 season its clear that controversies about who was crowned champion happened long before the BCS era.

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Say what you want about teams being left out of the current four-team playoff, or the computerized entropy of the BCS era, or even the “coaches said/writers said” arguments of the UPI/AP poll era – things were no better in the early days of college football championships.

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One of the best examples is the 1932 season, when a split national championship was seen between two huge rival schools – the USC Trojans and Michigan Wolverines.

Michigan, who was part of the Big Ten even in 1932, ran the table on the season, going 8-0 and was ranked as the No. 1 team in the nation. But, because the conference didn’t allow teams to play in postseason games at that time, the Rose Bowl (which essentially decided the national title) was to feature the No. 2 and No. 3 teams – USC and Pittsburgh, respectively.

USC dominated the Panthers from Pitt in a 35-0 rout, and staked their claim to the national title. However, despite playing two less games than the Trojans, the Wolverines were awarded the national title using the Dickinson System, a points system used to rank teams prior to the AP Polls being instituted.

This system — developed by Frank G. Dickinson, an economics professor at the University of Illinois — would award 30 points for a win over a “strong team”, 20 for a win over a “weak team”, and losses were awarded at 15 for loss to a strong team, and 10 for loss to a weak team. Ties were treated as half a win and half a loss (22.5 for a tie with a strong team, 15 for a tie with a weak team). An average was then derived by dividing the points by games played

Using this system, Michigan was given an average rating of 28.47, barely eeking out USC at 26.81.

It’s a sure bet that this system as compared to the rankings caused as much controversy as we see today, and it proves that even the “good ol’ days” were just as inefficient at choosing a football champion as we are today.

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