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Daniel Wilco | | September 28, 2019

College football teams with the most national championships

Clemson rolls Alabama for the CFP national title

The first college football national championship was awarded 150 years ago, in 1869.

That season was eight days long and consisted of exactly two games: Princeton at Rutgers (which Rutgers won), and Rutgers at Princeton (which Princeton won). Later, the Billingsley Report and the National Championship Foundation named Yale the first national champion, while in 1933, college football historian Parke H. Davis concluded that both Rutgers and Yale were co-champions.

Since that year, 186 national champions have been named, with some years seeing two or even three teams crowned.

In that span, only 44 teams can claim a college football championship.

Here, we look at the 10 teams who have more than five titles to their names:

10. Minnesota — 6

Championships: 1934, 1935, 1936, 1940, 1941, 1960

Football was slightly different when Minnesota won its first national title in 1934. The Golden Gophers averaged 325 yards per game that year — 295 of which came on the ground.

9. Oklahoma — 7

Championships: 1950, 1955, 1956, 1974, 1975, 1985, 2000

The Sooners won a trio of titles each under Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer. Oklahoma leads all FBS programs with four different 100-win coaches in school history.

T8. Ohio State — 8

Championships: 1942, 1954, 1957, 1961, 1968, 1970, 2002, 2014

Ohio State officially formed a football team in 1890, but the Buckeyes wouldn’t win a national championship until 1942. That year, after losing dozens of players who left to fight in World War II, Ohio State went 9-1, its only loss coming against No. 6 Wisconsin.

T8. Harvard — 8

Championships: 1875, 1890, 1898, 1899, 1910, 1912, 1913, 1919

Harvard is approaching the 100th anniversary of its most recent championship, giving it the longest title drought of any team on this list.

T6. Southern California — 9

Championships: 1931, 1932, 1962, 1967, 1972, 1974, 1978, 2003, 2004

No USC coach was more successful than John McKay, who in 16 years at the helm, led the Trojans to four national championships between 1960 and 1975.

T6. Michigan — 9

Championships: 1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1918, 1923, 1933, 1948, 1997

Michigan famously holds the record for the most wins in college football history, so it naturally follows that the Wolverines have a few titles to their name. Surprisingly, they only have two in the poll era (since 1936).

4. Notre Dame — 13

Championships: 1919, 1924, 1929, 1930, 1943, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1964, 1966, 1973, 1977, 1988

Notre Dame’s nine championships in the poll era are the second-most out of all teams. You can thank coach Frank Leahy for four of those, but Leahy also won two titles as a player for the Fighting Irish under another famous coach — Knute Rockne.

T2. Princeton — 15

Championships: 1869, 1870, 1872, 1873, 1878, 1879, 1880, 1885, 1889, 1893, 1896, 1903, 1906, 1911, 1922

Princeton claims 28 national championships, though only 15 are recognized by the NCAA. None of them came in the poll era, but there’s no denying the Tigers’ ridiculous run in the late 19th century, when they won championships in 11 of 28 years, including four in five years from 1869 to 1873.

T2. Alabama — 15

Championships: 1925, 1926, 1930, 1961, 1964, 1965, 1978, 1979, 1992, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017

Alabama can claim the most NCAA titles in the poll era, with only three of its 15 coming prior. With the 15th title — a win in the College Football Playoff in 2017, coach Nick Saban tied the legendary Bear Bryant with five championships recognized by the NCAA. That was Saban’s fifth in nine years.

1. Yale — 18

Championships: 1874, 1876, 1877, 1880, 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1886, 1887, 1888, 1891, 1892, 1894, 1900, 1907, 1909, 1927

Yale football has one of the most impressive resumes in the sport, with two of the first three Heisman winners, 100 All-Americans, 28 Hall of Fame inductees, and 18 national championships recognized by the NCAA — the most all time.

See below for the complete listing of every NCAA football champion:

College football national champions from 1869 to 2018.

Year Champion Selecting Organization
2018 Clemson CFP
2017 Alabama CFP
2016 Clemson CFP
2015 Alabama CFP
2014 Ohio State CFP
2013 Florida State BCS
2012 Alabama BCS
2011 Alabama BCS
2010 Auburn BCS
2009 Alabama BCS
2008 Florida BCS
2007 Louisiana State BCS
2006 Florida BCS
2005 Texas BCS
2004 Southern California BCS
2003 Louisiana State, Southern California BCS, AP, FWAA
2002 Ohio State BCS
2001 Miami (Fla.) BCS
2000 Oklahoma BCS
1999 Florida State BCS
1998 Tennessee BCS
1997 Michigan, Nebraska AP, FWAA, NFF, USA/ESPN
1996 Florida AP, FWAA, NFF,USA/CNN
1995 Nebraska AP, FWAA, NFF, USA/CNN, UPI
1994 Nebraska AP, FWAA, NFF, USA/CNN, UPI
1993 Florida St. AP, FWAA,NFF, USA/CNN, UPI
1992 Alabama AP, FWAA, NFF, USA/CNN, UPI
1991 Washington, Miami (Fla.) FWAA, NFF, USA/CNN, UPI,AP
1990 Colorado, Georgia Tech FWAA, NFF, USA/CNN, AP, UPI
1989 Miami (Fla.) AP, FWAA, NFF, USA/CNN, UPI
1988 Notre Dame AP, FWAA, NFF, USA/CNN, UPI
1987 Miami (Fla.) AP, FWAA, NFF, USA/CNN, UPI
1986 Penn St. AP, FWAA, NFF, USA/CNN, UPI
1985 Oklahoma AP, FWAA, NFF, USA/CNN, UPI
1984 Brigham Young AP, FWAA, NFF, USA/CNN, UPI
1983 Miami (Fla.) AP, FWAA, NFF, USA/CNN, UPI
1982 Penn St. AP, FWAA, NFF, USA/CNN, UPI
1981 Clemson AP, FWAA, NFF, UPI
1980 Georgia AP, FWAA, NFF, UPI
1979 Alabama AP, FWAA, NFF, UPI
1978 Alabama, Southern California AP, FWAA, NFF, UPI
1977 Notre Dame AP, FWAA, NFF, UPI
1976 Pittsburgh AP, FWAA, NFF, UPI
1975 Oklahoma AP, FWAA, NFF, UPI
1974 Southern California, Oklahoma FWAA, NFF, UPI, AP
1973 Notre Dame, Alabama AP, FWAA, NFF, UPI
1972 Southern California AP, FWAA, NFF, UPI
1971 Nebraska AP, FWAA, NFF, UPI
1970 Nebraska, Texas, Ohio St. AP, FWAA, NFF, UPI, NFF
1969 Texas AP, FWAA, NFF, UPI
1968 Ohio St. AP, FWAA, NFF, UPI
1967 Southern California AP, FWAA, NFF, UPI
1966 Notre Dame, Michigan St. AP, FWAA, NFF, UPI, NFF
1965 Michigan St., Alabama FWAA, NFF, UPI, AP
1964 Alabama, Arkansas, Notre Dame AP, UPI, FWAA, NFF
1963 Texas AP, FWAA, NFF, UPI
1962 Southern California AP, FWAA, NFF, UPI
1961 Alabama, Ohio St. AP, NFF, UPI, FWAA
1960 Minnesota, Mississippi AP, NFF, UPI, FWAA
1959 Syracuse AP, FWAA, NFF, UPI
1958 LSU, Iowa AP, UPI, FWAA
1957 Ohio St., Auburn FWAA, UPI, AP
1956 Oklahoma AP, FWAA, UPI
1955 Oklahoma AP, FWAA, UPI
1954 UCLA, Ohio St. FWAA, UPI, AP
1953 Maryland AP, UPI
1952 Michigan St. AP, UPI
1951 Tennessee AP, UPI
1950 Oklahoma AP, UPI
1949 Notre Dame AP
1948 Michigan AP
1947 Notre Dame AP
1946 Notre Dame AP
1945 Army AP
1944 Army AP
1943 Notre Dame AP
1942 Ohio St. AP
1941 Minnesota AP
1940 Minnesota AP
1939 Texas A&M AP
1938 Texas Christian AP
1937 Pittsburgh AP
1936 Minnesota AP
1935 Minnesota CFRA, HAF, NCF
1934 Minnesota CFRA, HAF, NCF
1933 Michigan CFRA, HAF, NCF
1932 Southern California CFRA, HAF, NCF
1931 Southern California CFRA, HAF, NCF
1930 Alabama, Notre Dame CFRA, HAF, NCF
1929 Notre Dame CFRA, HAF, NCF
1928 Georgia Tech. CFRA, HAF, NCF
1927 Illinois, Yale HAF, NCF, CFRA
1926 Alabama, Stanford CFRA, HAF, NCF, HAF
1925 Alabama CFRA, HAF, NCF
1924 Notre Dame CFRA, HAF, NCF
1923 Illinois, Michigan CFRA, HAF, NCF, NCF
1922 California, Cornell, Princeton NCF, HAF, CFRA, NCF
1921 California, Cornell CFRA, NCF, HAF
1920 California CFRA, HAF, NCF
1919 Harvard, Illinois, Notre Dame, Texas A&M CFRA, HAF, NCF, CFRA, NCF, NCF
1918 Michigan, Pittsburgh NCF, HAF, NCF
1917 Georgia Tech. HAF, NCF
1916 Pittsburgh HAF, NCF
1915 Cornell HAF, NCF
1914 Army HAF, NCF
1913 Harvard HAF, NCF
1912 Harvard, Penn St. HAF, NCF, NCF
1911 Penn St., Princeton NCF, HAF, NCF
1910 Harvard, Pittsburgh HAF, NCF, NCF
1909 Yale HAF, NCF
1908 LSU, Pennsylvania NCF, HAF, NCF
1907 Yale HAF, NCF
1906 Princeton HAF, NCF
1905 Chicago HAF, NCF
1904 Michigan, Pennsylvania NCF, HAF, NCF
1903 Michigan, Princeton NCF, HAF, NCF
1902 Michigan HAF, NCF
1901 Michigan HAF, NCF
1900 Yale HAF, NCF
1899 Harvard HAF, NCF
1898 Harvard HAF, NCF
1897 Pennsylvania HAF, NCF
1896 Lafayette, Princeton NCF, HAF, NCF
1895 Pennsylvania HAF, NCF
1894 Yale HAF, NCF
1893 Princeton HAF, NCF
1892 Yale HAF, NCF
1891 Yale HAF, NCF
1890 Harvard HAF, NCF
1889 Princeton HAF, NCF
1888 Yale HAF, NCF
1887 Yale HAF, NCF
1886 Yale HAF, NCF
1885 Princeton HAF, NCF
1884 Yale HAF, NCF
1883 Yale HAF, NCF
1882 Yale NCF
1881 Yale NCF
1880 Princeton, Yale NCF, NCF
1879 Princeton NCF
1878 Princeton NCF
1877 Yale NCF
1876 Yale NCF
1875 Harvard NCF
1874 Yale NCF
1873 Princeton NCF
1872 Princeton NCF
1871 None selected NCF
1870 Princeton NCF
1869 Princeton, Rutgers NCF


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