Editorial: Why OSU should NOT claim the 1945 National Championship

By: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief

Oklahoma State University, or rather, Oklahoma A&M, was retroactively awarded the 1945 football National Championship by the American Football Coaches Association last week. The problem is, there already is a National Champion for 1945--the Army. Apparently the AFCA established a panel to rewrite history. 

The AFCA has recognized a National Champion annually since 1950 when the University of Oklahoma won its first National Title under Bud Wilkinson. The organization recently decided to retroactively award Titles for the 1922-1949 seasons and will arbitrarily select Champions based on pleas from those schools, rather than based on the polls that already existed during that time period. 

The AP poll has been universally recognized as the awarding association for the 1936-1949 National Championships, and in that poll the Aggies weren't even ranked in the top four. By today's standards, they just barely missed the playoffs. 

There were several undefeated teams that season, but the undefeated Army team was unanimously selected by all 116 voters of the AP writers' poll as the top team in the country. Next up was the undefeated Alabama Crimson Tide, followed by the undefeated Navy. 

No. 1 Army (9-0-0)

9/29 Army defeats Louisville Fields 32-0
10/6 Army defeats Wake Forest 54-0
10/13 Army defeats No. 9 Michigan 28-7
10/20 Army defeats Melville PT Boats 55-13
10/27 Army defeats No. 19 Duke 48-13
11/3 Army defeats Villanova 54-0
11/10 Army defeats No. 2 Notre Dame 48-0
10/17 Army defeats No. 6 Penn 61-0
12/1 Arms defeats No. 2 Navy 32-13

No. 5 Oklahoma A&M (9-0-0)

9/29 OSU defeats Arkansas 19-14
10/6 OSU defeats Denver 31-7
10/12 OSU defeats SMU 26-12
10/20 OSU defeats Utah 46-6
10/27 OSU defeats TCU 25-12
11/10 OSU defeats No. 19 Tulsa 12-6
11/17 OSU defeats Texas Tech 46-6
11/24 OSU defeats Oklahoma 47-0
1/1 OSU defeats No. 9 Saint Mary's 33-13

Comparing the two teams isn't that hard. OSU clearly had a good team. There's no contesting that. But they posted only one shutout to Army's five shutouts. OSU won their games by an average score of 31-8 whereas Army won their games by an average score of 45-5. Army had the number one offense in the country, and the number one defense. Army posted five ranked wins with an average score of 43-6, while OSU's two ranked wins came at an average of 22-9. And don't forget that Army had Heisman Trophy winner Doc Blanchard. 

But somehow, OSU was the better team?

By whatever wildly errant logic that the AFCA is using, Sand Springs should have several State Championships. The Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association (OSSAA) didn't begin holding playoffs or recognizing a State Champion until 1944, leaving individual schools to claim to State Titles as they saw fit. In 1931 the Sandites went 6-0-1 with four shutout wins and a 0-0 tie with an equally impressive Skiatook team. At the time, high schools didn't play to overtime. Though they didn't have the toughest schedule, they did go undefeated. That's good enough, right? Again, in 1937, the Sandites went undefeated at 8-0-2 with six shutout wins and two 0-0 ties, both to winning teams. Once again, it wasn't the toughest schedule in Oklahoma, but neither was OSU's. 

In 1951, the Sandites went 11-1 with their only true loss being 27-6 to Sapulpa in week three. From there they won nine straight games, including five shutouts. They defeated Poteau 54-0 in the State quarterfinals before "losing" 20-20 to Ada. At the time the OSSAA didn't allow overtime and Ada was awarded the win on red zone penetrations. Apparently having a stout defense able to put up red zone stops doesn't matter to the OSSAA. Sapulpa was Class AA at the time while Sand Springs was A, so that loss doesn't affect their claim to a State title. They essentially went undefeated in their division, and had they been allowed to play overtime against Ada, who knows what might have happened? Ada went on to defeat Ponca City 20-13 for their first Championship. They now hold nineteen State Titles.

In 1962 the Sandites went 7-0-3 with three shutouts and three ties. They even beat Broken Arrow 32-0. At the time the Sandites weren't in an eligible conference and weren't allowed to compete for the State Title. 

That makes two State Titles that the Sandites could claim on wins, due to there being no playoffs, and two Titles they can claim on being unfairly excluded from the playoffs. But Sand Springs doesn't claim those Titles. We didn't claim them then, because we followed the rules and respected that there were better teams, and we don't claim them now, because it would be unfair to the schools that have already held them for decades. We are content to settle for our 1966 State Title and work towards earning new titles in the future rather than living in the past. 

If the University of Oklahoma were to claim National Titles outside of AP rankings, they would have ten more than the seven they claim. In 1915, Oklahoma went 10-0 under Bennie Owen. The official NCAA Division I Football Records Book even lists Cornell, Oklahoma, and Pittsburgh as having equal claim to the Title, but only Cornell and Pittsburgh claim it. 

Cornell (9-0)
9/25 defeated Gettysburg 13-0
10/2 defeated Oberlin 34-7
10/9 defeated Williams 46-6
10/16 defeated Bucknell 41-0
10/23 defeated Harvard 10-0
10/30 defeated VPI 45-0
11/6 defeated Michigan 34-7
11/13 defeated Washington & Lee 40-21
11/25 defeated Penn 40-21

Oklahoma (10-0)
9/25 defeated Kingfisher 67-0
10/2 defeated SW Oklahoma 55-0
10/9 defeated NW OK State 102-0
10/16 defeated Missouri 24-0
10/23 defeated Texas 14-13
10/30 defeated Kansas 23-14
11/6 defeated Kendall 14-13
11/14 defeated Arkansas 24-0
11/19 defeated Kansas State 21-7
11/25 defeated Oklahoma A&M 26-7

Shutouts: Pittsburgh 6
Average Score: Oklahoma 37-5

Pittsburgh (8-0)
10/2 defeated Westminster 32-0
10/9 defeated Navy 47-12
10/16 defeated Carlisle 45-0
10/23 defeated Penn 14-7
10/30 defeated Allegheny 42-0
11/6 defeated Washington & Jefferson 19-0
11/13 defeated Carnegie Tech 28-0
11/25 defeated Penn State 20-0

Oklahoma was retroactively selected as National Champions by the Billingsley Report. Cornell was retroactively selected by the Helms Athletic Foundation, the Houlgate System, and the National Championship Foundation, while being selected as co-champions by Parke H. Davis. Pittsburgh was selected as co-champions by Parke H. Davis. 

Oklahoma had yet another undefeated season in 1949 under Bud Wilkinson and was retroactively awarded the National Title by the College Football Research Association, despite the AP giving it to Notre Dame. 

No. 1 Notre Dame (10-0)
9/24 defeated Indiana 49-6
10/1 defeated Washington 27-7
10/8 defeated Purdue 35-12
10/15 defeated No. 4 Tulane 46-7
10/29 defeated Navy 40-0
11/5 defeated No. 10 Michigan State 34-21
11/12 defeated North Carolina 42-6
11/19 defeated Iowa 28-7
11/26 defeated No. 17 USC 32-0
12/3 defeated SMU 27-20

No. 2 Oklahoma 11-0
9/23 defeated Boston College 46-0
10/1 defeated Texas A&M 33-13
10/8 defeated No. 12 Texas 20-14
10/15 defeated Kansas 48-26
10/22 defeated Nebraska 48-0
10/29 defeated Iowa State 34-7
11/5 defeated Kansas State 39-0
11/12 defeated Missouri 27-7
11/19 defeated No. 19 Santa Clara 28-21
11/26 defeated Oklahoma A&M 41-0
1/1 defeated No. 9 LSU  41-0

1949 saw four undefeated teams, including California and Army. However, Notre Dame received 172 of 208 first place votes in the final AP Poll. OU actually came in second on first place votes with 18, whereas the 1945 OSU team received 0. OU defeated three ranked opponents by an average score of 30-12, while Notre Dame defeated three ranked opponents by an average score of 37-9. Notre Dame also had a Heisman award winner, six players who went on to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and four All-Americans. Oklahoma had one future Hall of Famer and five All-Americans. Just like in 1945, it was clear to the people alive at the time that Notre Dame was the better team, despite Oklahoma having far more claim to the Title than OSU did in 1945. 

The Oklahoma conversation can continue with 1953 (9-1-1, named by Berryman and CFRA) when Maryland (10-1) was recognized by the AP. The 1957  team (10-1, named by Berryman) when Auburn was recognized by the AP, despite having paid two high school players $5000 to play. In 1967 (10-1, named by Poling System) when USC was recognized by the AP. In 1973 (10-0-1, named by CFRA, DeVold, Dunkel, Sagarin) when Notre Dame was recognized by the AP. In 1978 (11-1, named by DeVold, Dunkel, FACT, Helms, Litkenhous, Matthews, Poling, Sagarin) when Alabama was recognized by the AP. In 1980 (10-2, named by Dunkel and Matthews) when Georgia was recognized by the AP. In 1986 (11-1, named by CFRA, Berryman, DeVold, Dunkel, NY Times, Sagarin) when Penn State was recognized by AP. Finally, in 2003 (12-2, named by Berryman) when USC was recognized by AP. 

OSU fans can call themselves National Champions all they want, but the fact is all 116 AP voters, who were alive at the time and actually watched the season, thought that Army was the better team. OSU has a handful of panel members who weren't even alive at the time. 

Oklahoma only claims 7 of our 17 awarded titles. Notre Dame only claims 11 of 22. USC claims 11 of 17. Michigan claims 11 of 16. Ohio State claims 8 of 16. Harvard claims 7 of 12. 

As a proud Oklahoman, I want OSU to win a National Title one day. I would love to see a day and age when OU and OSU are in the playoffs every year as the No. 1 and 2 ranked teams. It's unlikely, but wouldn't it be nice? Heck, throw Tulsa in there as well, so long as we're imaging a perfect world. 

I would much rather see OSU make a case for the 2011 season, when they won ten-straight to earn the No. 2 rank before dropping a double overtime upset to Iowa State. They bested OU 44-10, won their first and only Big 12 title, and beat No. 4 Stanford 41-38 in overtime at the Fiesta Bowl. That year there wasn't a single ranked team without a loss, and National Champion Alabama avenged their regular season loss to No. 1 LSU with a 21-0 victory in the Championship game. While I personally think Alabama and LSU were both far better teams than OSU, at least OSU got 4 of 60 votes in the AP poll that year, as opposed to 1945 when they got 0 of 116. 

Oklahoma State has come a long way as a program and I think one day they will likely win a Championship. But that day won't be this year, it wasn't in 2011, and it wasn't in 1945 either. In 2011 they were named the National Champion by the Colley-Matrix, and the Cowboys did the right thing by not recognizing it. They shouldn't recognize this one either.

I'm not being one sided in this. The AFCA still has 27 more National Titles to give out, of which OU could make legitimate claim to the 1949 title. We were undefeated and we posted one more win than Notre Dame, who was recognized by the AP. While many OU fans may be excited to win the '49 title, I won't be. You can hold me to it, if the AFCA calls Oklahoma the 1949 National Champion, I'll still be claiming seven national titles, not eight. National Titles should be decided at the time, not decades later by people who weren't around when the games were played. Notre Dame was the better team in '49 and Army was the better team in '45.

When Oklahoma State wins its first National Title, I will be as excited as anybody, and more excited than anybody who recognizes the 1945 Championship. Winning a real Title will be much sweeter without being watered down by revisionist history.