1909 college football season

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The 1909 college football season was the first for the 3-point field goal, which had previously been worth 4 points. [1] The season ran from Saturday, September 25, until Thanksgiving Day, November 25, although a few games were played on the week before. [2]


The 1909 season was also one of the most dangerous in the history of college football. The third annual survey by the Chicago Tribune at season's end showed that 10 college players had been killed and 38 seriously injured in 1909, up from six fatalities and 14 maimings in 1908. [3]

Schools in the Midwest competed in the Western Conference, now called the Big Ten, consisting of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin and Chicago. Iowa was also a member of the Missouri Valley Conference, which included future Big 12 teams Iowa State, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska, as well as Drake and Washington University in St. Louis. In California, intercollegiate football programs (such as those of Stanford University and the University of California) had been discontinued after the 1905 season, and rugby was the autumn intercollegiate sport. [4]

Although there was no provision for a national championship, major teams played their regular schedules before facing their most difficult matches late in the season. The most eagerly anticipated games were the November 10 matchups, with Princeton at Yale, Dartmouth at Harvard, Michigan vs. Pennsylvania (in Philadelphia), and Cornell at Chicago. [5]


The rules for American football in 1909 were significantly different than the ones of a century later, as many of the present conventions (100 yard field, four downs to gain ten yards, and the 6-point touchdown) would not be adopted until 1912. [6]

Beginning in 1909, the worth of a field goal dropped from 4 points to 3 points. Touchdowns remained at 5 points. "This has come about gradually," noted one report, "owing to the feeling of players and spectators that two field kick goals should not be reckoned of greater value that a touchdown from which a goal is scored. As it is now, a touchdown if a goal results, counts six points, and two field goals count but six in the aggregate." [7] For the first time, ineligible receivers were identified. [8]

The rules in 1909 were:

Conference and program changes

Conference changes

Membership changes

School1908 Conference1909 Conference
Colorado Buffaloes Colorado CFAC (Rocky Mountain)
Colorado Agricultural Rams Colorado CFAC (Rocky Mountain)
Colorado College Tigers Colorado CFAC (Rocky Mountain)
Colorado Mines Orediggers Colorado CFAC (Rocky Mountain)
Hawaiʻi Fighting Deans Program EstablishedIndependent
Troy Normal football Program EstablishedIndependent


The Carlisle Indians played a Wednesday afternoon game on September 22 at home against Lebanon Valley, winning 30–0. The previous Saturday, they had beaten a non-college team from Steelton, Pennsylvania, 35–0.

On September 25, defending champion Pennsylvania beat Gettysburg College 20–0 on two touchdowns, and a field goal (one of the first three-pointers) by Edmund Thayer. Carlisle beat visiting Villanova 9–0. Washington and Jefferson defeated Denison College 13–2. Lehigh beat Lebanon Valley 24–0. To the west, Ohio State defeated Otterbein 14–0, Minnesota beat Lawrence 26–0, and Kansas crushed Kansas Normal (now Emporia State) 55–0. St. Louis edged Shurtleff College 12–11. In the South, Virginia defeated William and Mary 30–0 in a short (two 15 minute halves) game at home [9] and Vanderbilt defeated Southwestern Presbyterian (now Rhodes College) 52–0. [10]

Defending co-champion Harvard opened its season in a Wednesday afternoon game, beating Bates College 11–0 on September 29. In other home openers, Brown beat Rhode Island 6–0, Yale beat Wesleyan 11–0, and Dartmouth beat Massachusetts 22–0. Pennsylvania moved to 2–0–0 with a 22–0 win over Ursinus. [11]


On October 2, Brown beat Colgate 12–0, Yale defeated Syracuse 15–0 and Harvard won against Bowdoin 17–0. Army opened its season with a 22–0 win over Tufts. Pennsylvania earned its third win, over Dickinson, 28–0. Elsewhere, Auburn won 11–0 over Howard College (now Samford University), Pitt defeated Ohio Northern 16–0, North Carolina beat Wake Forest 18–0, Arkansas won 24–0 over Henderson State, and Kansas beat little St. Mary's College of Kansas 29–0. State College of Pennsylvania rolled over Grove City, 31–0, North Carolina A&M (now N.C. State) trampled Maryville (Tennessee) College 39–0. In Western Conference play, Chicago overwhelmed Purdue 40–0, and Minnesota crushed Iowa 41–0. Carlisle yielded a score in a 48–6 win over Bucknell, and Princeton surrendered two touchdowns in a 47–12 win over Stevens. Dartmouth was unable to score in a 0–0 tie with Vermont. Lehigh lost at home to Franklin and Marshall, 10–0. In a game the day before, Virginia held off Davidson, 11–0.

In four midweek games on October 6, Navy opened its season with a 16–6 win over the other Annapolis school, St. John's College, and Princeton defeated Villanova, 12–0. Yale, in a 12–0 win over Holy Cross, and Brown (which beat Bates, 17–0), both stayed unscored upon and upped their records to 3–0–0.

October 9: Fewer teams stayed unscored upon. Yale won 33–0 over the Springfield Training School college team, Penn defeated West Virginia 12–0, and Brown won 10–0 over Amherst College. Further south, Virginia beat St. John's of Maryland, 12–0. All four winners were 4–0–0. Harvard was surprised by Williams College, which led in the first half before the Crimson eked out an 8–6 win, and Princeton struggled against Fordham, averting defeat with a last minute field goal, 3–0. Pitt beat Marietta College, 12–0, and Lafayette rolled 50–0 over Hobart College.

Opening their seasons were defending southern champion LSU with a 10–0 triumph over visiting Ole Miss, Kansas (11–0 over Oklahoma), Texas (12–0 over Southwestern), Texas A&M (17–0 over Austin), Wisconsin opened with a 22–0 win over Lawrence College. and Michigan, which struggled in a 3–0 win over Case. Alabama defeated Howard College 14–0, and Arkansas allowed at TD in beating Drury, 12–6. Western Conference games saw Chicago beat Indiana 12–0 and Minnesota defeat Iowa State, 18–0, but Illinois was surprised by visiting Kentucky State College (later the University of Kentucky), 6–2. When the Kentucky team was welcomed home, Philip Carbusier said that they had "fought like wildcats", a nickname that stuck. [12] Navy won 12–3 over Rutgers and Army beat Trinity College of Connecticut, 17–6.

The biggest game of the week was at Wilkes-Barre, where Penn State and Carlisle met on neutral ground. Down 6–5 when Larry Vorhis missed the point after, State was up 8–6 on a Vorhis field goal. Vorhis was sacked in the end zone by Emil Wauseka during a punt return, and the game ended 8–8. [13]

October 13: In a midweek game, Princeton found itself losing 6–5 to visiting Virginia Tech after an interception was returned for a touchdown. The Tigers stayed unbeaten (4–0–0) on a drop kicked field goal in the last four minutes. [14]

October 16: At Philadelphia, Pennsylvania hosted Brown. Both were unbeaten (4–0–0), and neither had been scored upon. Penn shut down the Bears offense and won 13–5. Yale, also 4–0–0 in four shutouts, earned a fifth, handing Army its first defeat, 17–0. In an intersectional battle of Tigers, Princeton handed visiting Sewanee its first defeat, 20–0. Once-tied Carlisle faced Syracuse at New York's Polo Grounds and won 14–11. Pitt yielded its first points in an 18–6 win over Bucknell, and Harvard handled Maine, 17–0. Navy was upset by Villanova, 11–6.

In the South, Virginia, unbeaten (4–0–0) and unscored upon, was upset by a (1–1–1) Lehigh team, 11–7, in a game at Norfolk. LSU beat Mississippi A&M (now Mississippi State), 15–0. Alabama edged Clemson, 3–0, at Birmingham. Arkansas defeated Wichita State, 23–6. Texas A&M and Texas Christian played a scoreless tie. To the West, Chicago beat Illinois, 14–8. Minnesota defeated Nebraska, 14–0. Michigan handed Ohio State its 10th consecutive defeat. Kansas defeated Kansas Agricultural (now Kansas State), 5–3, and Missouri beat visiting Missouri School of Mines (of Rolla, now Missouri S & T) 13–0.

October 23: In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (5–0–0) hosted Penn State (2–0–1) in a battle of unbeatens. Penn fumbled away two chances to score in the first half, but took a 3–0 lead on a 35–yard field goal. Penn State came within 15 yards of a touchdown, but settled for a dropkicked field goal to tie the Quakers. [15] Harvard handed Brown a second straight loss, 11–0. At Pittsburgh, Pitt hosted unbeaten (3–0–1) Carlisle and won 14–3. Yale Bulldogs stayed unscored on and reached 6–0–0 with a 36–0 win over Colgate. The other major unbeaten team in the east, Princeton, was upset by visiting Lafayette, after the Leopards' Frank Irmschler blocked a field goal in the final six seconds and returned it 92 yards for a touchdown, winning 6–0 in what the New York Times termed "probably the most sensational finish that has ever been seen in a football game." [16] Navy was defeated at home, 5–0, by Virginia.

In the South, Vanderbilt hosted Auburn in a meeting of 3–0–0 teams at Nashville, with Vandy winning 17–0. Alabama and Ole Miss played a scoreless tie at Jackson. Arkansas defeated Oklahoma 21–6. Sewanee beat Georgia Tech in Atlanta, 15–0. To the West, Michigan averted being tied by Marquette, 6–5. Wisconsin beat Indiana 6–3. Missouri was tied by Iowa State, 6–6, and Kansas (4–0–0) hosted Washington of St. Louis (2–0–0) and won 23–0.

On October 30, the fatal injury of Army player Eugene Byrne, at a game against visiting Harvard, overshadowed the other games of the day. With ten minutes left to play, Byrne had broken his neck in a collision with three Harvard men. The game was halted with Harvard ahead, 9–0. [17] Byrne died the next morning, and Army canceled the remainder of its schedule, including the annual Army-Navy Game. [18]

In other contests [19] Penn beat Carlisle, 29–6. Princeton beat Navy at Annapolis, 5–3. The Lafayette Leopards, who had upset Princeton the week before, tied Penn State, 6–6, giving the Nittany Lions a record of 2 wins, 3 ties, and no losses. Meanwhile, the Yale Bulldogs remained unscored upon as they registered their seventh consecutive shutout, a 34–0 win over visiting Amherst College. Yale had an average score of 21–0 against its opposition, but still had to face Brown, Princeton and Harvard.

In Western Conference play (the future Big Ten) between two unbeatens, Minnesota defeated visiting Chicago, 20–6. Wisconsin won at Northwestern, 21–11. Further west, Missouri edged Iowa, 13–12, and Kansas won at Washburn, 17–0.

In a big game at New Orleans, the LSU Tigers suffered their first defeat in almost two years, losing to Sewanee's Tigers, 15–6. At Nashville, Vanderbilt beat Ole Miss, 17–0, and at Atlanta, Alabama beat Georgia, 14–0. Texas A&M won at Baylor, 9–6. N.C. State (North Carolina A&M) beat visiting Maryland 31–0, Virginia beat VMI 32–0, and Arkansas clobbered Ouachita Baptist, 56–0. TCU lost at Texas, 24–0.

In intersectional games, Michigan beat visiting Syracuse 44–0, while Pittsburgh was upset by visiting Notre Dame, 6–0.


On November 6 Yale remained unscored upon, beating Brown, 23–0. Harvard beat Cornell 18–0, and Penn State beat Bucknell 33–0. Penn averted a defeat by visiting Lafayette, managing a 6–6 tie. Other ties were between Princeton and Dartmouth (6–6), Pittsburgh and West Virginia (0–0), and Navy and Washington & Jefferson (0–0). The "Jeffs" had a 7–0–0 record before meeting Navy, against smaller schools. To the west, previously unbeaten (5–0–0) Michigan was upset at home by unheralded Notre Dame, 11–3. Michigan's Coach Fielding H. Yost told a reporter after the game, "I take my hat off to the Irishmen", and a story in the Detroit Free Press the next day made the "Fighting Irishmen" a nickname that would ever after stick with Notre Dame. [20] Kansas won at Nebraska 6–0, to stay unbeaten, and once-tied Missouri beat Washington University of St. Louis, 5–0. Minnesota and Wisconsin were both idle and preparing to meet at Madison on November 13. In the South, Vanderbilt defeated visiting Tennessee, 23–0, and North Carolina A&M (N.C. State) won at Washington & Lee 3–0. Virginia beat visiting VMI 32–0. LSU had won earlier in a Thursday game at Louisiana Tech, 23–0. Further west, the University of California played a football game, beating the University of Nevada 19–8, and the University of Colorado beat the University of New Mexico, 53–0. [21] In a Monday game at Houston, Texas A&M defeated Texas 23–0 to stay unbeaten.

November 13 saw a number of intersectional games. Previously unbeaten and untied Vanderbilt (5–0–0) traveled to Columbus, O. and lost 5–0 to Ohio State. On the same afternoon, unbeaten (5–0–2) Pennsylvania went to Ann Arbor to meet once-beaten (4–1–0) Michigan, and sustained their first loss, 12–6. Penn State stayed unbeaten, reaching 5–0–2 after defeating visiting West Virginia 40–0. Lafayette went to 5–0–1 after beating Stroudsburg, 43–0.

At a Western Conference game between two unbeatens at Madison, Wisconsin, Minnesota (5–0–0) faced Wisconsin (3–0–0). The visitors won 34–6. In the MVIAA, Missouri (5–0–1) hosted Drake (4–0–0 against smaller opponents), and Missouri won 22–6. Arkansas (5–0–0) and LSU (4–1–0) met at Memphis, and the "Cardinals" of Arkansas won 16–0. Coach Hugo Bezdek remarked that his players were like "a wild band of razorback hogs", giving Arkansas teams a new nickname. [22] Alabama stayed unbeaten with a 10–0 win at Tennessee, and Texas A&M reached 5–0–1 with a 47–0 win over visiting Trinity College of Dallas (and three days later at Dallas, A&M defeated Oklahoma, 14–8)

Kansas and North Carolina A&M were idle. Virginia won at Georgetown, 21–0, but the Cavaliers' halfback Christian Archer was fatally injured.

In the East, unbeaten, untied and unscored on Yale (8–0–0) hosted once-beaten Princeton (5–1–1). Yale had a ninth straight shutout, winning 17–0 in its last game before it would meet Harvard, which raised its record to 8–0–0, defeating Dartmouth 12–3.

Yale vs. Harvard

In other games played on November 20, unbeaten (6–0–0) Minnesota lost, at home, to once-beaten (5–1–0) Michigan, 15–6. Kansas stayed unbeaten with a 20–7 win over visiting Iowa. In its annual game against Lehigh, Lafayette won 21–0, while at New Orleans, Alabama and Tulane played to a 5–5 tie.

Other teams closed out their seasons with games on Thanksgiving Day (November 25). At Kansas City, the MVIAA championship came down to unbeaten (9–0–0) Kansas against unbeaten and once-tied (6–0–1) Missouri. The Missouri Tigers won, 12–6.

Arkansas beat Washington University of St. Louis 32–0 to finish unbeaten and untied (7–0–0). Colorado beat Colorado School of Mines 16–0 in a season with four college games, for a 6–0–0 finish.

Lafayette beat Dickinson, Texas A&M won at Texas, and Penn State won at Pittsburgh; the score was 5–0 in all three games, and all three winners finished unbeaten. At Norfolk, unbeaten North Carolina A & M (the future N.C. State) lost to once-beaten Virginia Tech, 18–5, and at Birmingham, unbeaten Alabama lost to LSU, 12–6.

Conference standings

Major conference standings

1909 Colorado Faculty Athletic Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
Colorado $300  600
Colorado College 210  520
Colorado Mines 020  330
Colorado Agricultural 020  120
  • $ Conference champion
1909 Missouri Valley football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
Missouri $401  701
Kansas 310  810
Drake 210  610
Iowa 131  241
Iowa State 021  431
Nebraska 010  332
Washington University 020  340
  • $ Conference champion
1909 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
Sewanee $400  610
Vanderbilt 410  730
Alabama 411  512
LSU 310  620
Georgia Tech 420  720
Auburn 420  520
Howard (AL) 220  521
Clemson 220  630
Ole Miss 121  432
Georgia 141  142
The Citadel 011  432
Mississippi A&M 030  540
Mercer 040  350
Tennessee 050  162
  • $ Conference champion
1909 Western Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
Minnesota $300  610
Chicago 411  412
Illinois 310  520
Wisconsin 211  311
Indiana 130  430
Northwestern 130  131
Iowa 010  241
Purdue 040  250
  • $ Conference champion


1909 Eastern college football independents records
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
Yale     1000
Lafayette     701
Franklin & Marshall     910
Harvard     910
Penn State     502
Washington & Jefferson     811
NYU     611
Penn     712
Trinity (CT)     612
Dartmouth     512
Fordham     512
Princeton     621
Pittsburgh     621
Carlisle     831
Colgate     521
Brown     731
Geneva     420
Carnegie Tech     531
Vermont     422
Lehigh     432
Army     320
Villanova     320
Syracuse     451
Bucknell     342
Boston College     341
Cornell     341
Rhode Island State     340
Drexel     122
Rutgers     351
Wesleyan     351
Holy Cross     242
Tufts     260
Amherst     161
Temple     041
1909 Midwestern college football independents records
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
Iowa State Normal     600
Notre Dame     701
Michigan Agricultural     810
Carthage     610
Michigan     610
Western State (MI)     610
Mount Union     820
Lake Forest     511
Haskell     720
Detroit College     312
Butler     530
Central Michigan     430
St. Mary's (OH)     430
Cincinnati     431
Doane     323
Buchtel     440
Rose Poly     440
Marquette     221
North Dakota Agricultural     221
Wabash     341
Miami (OH)     340
Ohio     242
Saint Louis     350
Michigan State Normal     240
Fairmount     251
Heidelberg     072
1909 Southern college football independents records
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
Arkansas     700
Texas A&M     701
Mississippi College     300
Stetson     301
Kentucky State     910
Virginia     710
North Carolina A&M     610
VPI     610
Florida     611
Elon     410
Louisiana Industrial     410
Spring Hill     410
Catholic University     011
North Carolina     520
Kendall     210
Marshall     321
VMI     430
Navy     431
Texas     431
Tulane     432
West Virginia     432
Oklahoma     640
Georgetown     321
Oklahoma A&M     530
Davidson     342
George Washington     341
Chattanooga     232
Wake Forest     240
Maryland     250
South Carolina     260
Delaware     161
1909 Western college football independents records
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
Washington     700
St. Vincent's     600
Montana     601
Utah     410
Washington State     410
Arizona     310
New Mexico     420
USC     312
Oregon Agricultural     421
Oregon     320
Hawaii     220
Utah Agricultural     221
Idaho     340
Wyoming     350
New Mexico A&M     131

Minor conferences

Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Kansas State Agricultural 5–0
Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Olivet 4–0
Ohio Athletic Conference Oberlin 4–0–1

Minor conference standings

1909 Eastern Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Association football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
William & Mary 210  640
Randolph–Macon 210  322
Richmond 120  352
Hampden–Sydney 120  350
1909 Ohio Athletic Conference football standings
Conf  Overall
TeamW L T  W L T
Oberlin $401  511
Case 502  612
Ohio State 520  730
Western Reserve 211  531
Kenyon 440  640
Denison 330  451
Ohio Wesleyan 240  540
Wittenberg 130  360
Wooster 150  160
Heidelberg 050  081
  • $ Conference champion

Awards and honors


The consensus All-America team included Walter Camp's selections:

PositionNameHeightWeight (lbs.)ClassHometownTeam
QB John McGovern 5'9"155Sr. Arlington, Minnesota Minnesota
HB Stephen Philbin Yale
HB Wayland Minot Cambridge, Massachusetts Harvard
FB Ted Coy 6'0"195Sr. Andover, Massachusetts Yale
E Adrian Regnier Brown
T Hamilton Fish 6'4"200Sr. Southboro, Massachusetts Harvard
G Albert Benbrook 240Jr. Chicago, Illinois Michigan
C Carroll Cooney Sr. Yale
G Hamlin Andrus Yonkers, New York Yale
T Henry Hobbs Sr. Yale
E John Kilpatrick Yale

Statistical leaders

Related Research Articles

In the 1968 NCAA University Division football season, the system of "polls and bowls" changed. The Associated Press returned to its pre-1961 system of ranking the Top 20 rather than the Top 10, and voted on the national champion after the bowl games, rather than before. During the 20th century, the NCAA had no playoff for the major college football teams in the University Division, later known as Division I-A.

The 1969 NCAA University Division football season was celebrated as the centennial of college football.

1907 college football season

The 1907 college football season saw the increased use of the forward pass, which had been legalized the year before. Football remained a dangerous game, despite the "debrutalization" reforms, and an unprecedented eleven players were killed, while 98 others were seriously injured. However, there were no serious injuries reported among the major colleges. The Yale Bulldogs, unbeaten with a record of 10–0–1, had the best record. The Helms Athletic Foundation, founded in 1936, declared retroactively that Yale had been the best college football team of 1907. Yale and Penn both claim 1907 as a national championship season. Although Yale was named as champion by 6 different entities, Penn was not named champion by any. Penn's claim to the championship is only by the university itself.

1906 college football season

The 1906 college football season was the first in which the forward pass was permitted. Although there was no clear cut national championship, there were two teams that had won all nine of their games as the 1906 season drew to a close, the Princeton Tigers and the Yale Bulldogs, and on November 17, 1906, they played to a 0–0 tie. St. Louis University finished at 11–0–0. The Helms Athletic Foundation, founded in 1936, declared retroactively that Princeton had been the best college football team of 1906. Other selectors recognized Yale as the national champions for 1906.

The 1926 college football season was the first in which an attempt was made to recognize a national champion after the season.

The 1927 college football season ended with the Illini of the University of Illinois (7–0–1) being recognized as champion under the Dickinson System. At season's end, the Rissler Cup was awarded to the team that finished first in the "Dickinson ratings", which considered strength of schedule, in that a win, loss or tie against a "strong" opponent was worth more than one against a lesser team, and the results were averaged.

The 1928 football season have both the USC Trojans and the Georgia Tech Golden Tornado claim national championships. USC was recognized as champions under the Dickinson System, but the Rose Bowl was contested between the No. 2 and No. 3 teams, California and Georgia Tech. The game was decided by a safety scored after Roy "Wrong Way" Riegels ran 65 yards in the wrong direction. Vance Maree blocked the ensuing punt which gave Georgia Tech a safety deciding the 8–7 win.

The 1931 college football season saw the USC Trojans win the Knute Rockne Memorial Trophy as national champion under the Dickinson System. Rockne, who had coached Notre Dame to a championship in 1930, had been killed in a plane crash on March 31, 1931. For the first time, the champion under the Dickinson system also played in a postseason game. The Rose Bowl, promoted as an unofficial championship matchup between the best teams of East and West, matched USC and Tulane, No. 1 and No. 2 in the Dickinson ratings. USC won, 21–12. Also for 1931, historian Parke Davis, through research, selected Pittsburgh and Purdue as National Champions and these selections, along with USC, are all recognized by the official NCAA records book. Both USC and Pitt claim national championships for 1931, and both are recognized by College Football Data Warehouse.

1932 college football season

The 1932 college football season saw the Michigan Wolverines win the Knute Rockne Memorial Trophy as national champion under the Dickinson System. Because the "Big Nine" conference didn't permit its teams to play in the postseason, however, the Wolverines were not able to accept a bid to the Rose Bowl. As such, the Pasadena game matched the No. 2 and No. 3 teams, USC and Pittsburgh, with the USC Trojans winning the East-West matchup 35–0.

The 1933 college football season saw the Michigan Wolverines repeat as winners of the Knute Rockne Memorial Trophy as national champion under the Dickinson System.

The 1935 college football season was the last one before the Associated Press writers' poll was used in selecting the national champion. The Williamson System, calculated by Paul O. Williamson out of New Orleans, deemed Texas Christian University (TCU) as the best in the nation. The Dickinson System, consisting of the calculations of University of Illinois Professor Frank Dickinson, crowned Southern Methodist University (SMU) as the best in the nation. A poll of newspaper writers, taken at year's end—by United Press rather than the AP—concluded that Minnesota was the best in the nation.

1911 college football season

The 1911 college football season was the last one before major reforms were made to the American game in 1912. In 1911, touchdowns were worth five points, the field was 110 yards in length, and a team had three downs within which to advance the ball ten yards. The United States Naval Academy (Navy) finished with a record of 6 wins and 3 ties (6–0–3). Two of the ties were 0–0 games with the other major unbeaten teams, Penn State (8–0–1) and Princeton (8–0–2). Other teams that finished the season unbeaten were Minnesota (6–0–1) and Florida (5–0–1). The Helms Athletic Foundation, founded in 1936, declared retroactively that Princeton had been the best team of 1911

1912 college football season

The 1912 college football season was the first of the modern era, as the NCAA implemented changes to increase scoring:

1925 college football season

The 1925 college football season ended with no clear national champion. At the close of the season, noted sports writer Billy Evans described the championship contest as "a dead heat" among Dartmouth, Tulane, Michigan, Washington, and Alabama.

1924 college football season

The 1924 college football season was the year of the Four Horsemen as the Notre Dame team, coached by Knute Rockne, won all of its games, including the Rose Bowl, to be acclaimed as the best team in the nation. Notre Dame and Stanford were both unbeaten at season's end, with the Fighting Irish winning the Rose Bowl contest 27–10. The Penn Quakers were retroactively awarded a national championship by Parke H. Davis.

1923 college football season

The 1923 college football season saw several teams finish their seasons unbeaten and untied. As such, numerous schools claim a national championship for the 1923 season. Illinois and Michigan, both members of what is now the Big Ten Conference, finished with records of 8–0 and were selected as national champion by multiple selectors. Illinois featured break-out star Red Grange. Ivy League teams Yale and Cornell also had undefeated seasons.

1922 college football season

The 1922 college football season had a number of unbeaten and untied teams, and no clear-cut champion, with the Official NCAA Division I Football Records Book listing California, Cornell, Iowa, Princeton, and Vanderbilt as national champions. California, Cornell, and Princeton were all picked by multiple selectors.

The 1951 college football season finished with seven unbeaten major college teams, of which five were unbeaten and untied. Ultimately, the Tennessee Volunteers were voted the best team by the Associated Press, followed by the Michigan State Spartans, with the Vols having a plurality of first place votes. Tennessee lost in the Sugar Bowl to the equally undefeated and untied No. 3 Maryland Terrapins, but the postseason games were not taken into account by the major polls. Tennessee, Michigan State, and Illinois all claim national championships for 1951.

1908 college football season

The 1908 college football season ran from Saturday, September 19, to November 28. The Penn Quakers and the Harvard Crimson both finished the season unbeaten, though each had been tied once during the season. The LSU Tigers went unbeaten and untied against a weaker opposition. All three teams were named national champions retroactively by various organizations. Only Pennsylvania officially claims a national championship for the 1908 season.

The 1937 college football season ended with the Panthers of the University of Pittsburgh being named the nation's No. 1 team by 30 of the 33 voters in the Associated Press writers' poll. The AP poll was in its second year, and seven votes were taken during the final weeks of the 1937 season, starting with October 18. Each writer listed his choice for the top ten teams, and points were tallied based on 10 for first place, 9 for second, etc., and the AP then ranked the twenty teams with the highest number of points. With 33 writers polled, Pitt received 30 first place votes and 3 second-place, for a total of 327 points.


  1. "About the New Rules", Syracuse Herald, September 26, 1909, pII-1
  2. "Football Season Bigger Than Ever", New York Times, August 22, 1909, pS-3; the Carlisle Indians played a Wednesday game on September 22 against Lebanon Valley, winning 30–0. Although some sources list the Virginia vs. William & Mary and Washington & Jefferson vs. Denison games as taking place on September 18, both matches were on the 25th.
  3. "Football in 1909 Caused 26 Deaths", New York Times, November 21, 1909, p9
  4. "Why California Likes Rugby", by A.A. Goldsmith, Outing Magazine (March 1914), pp742-750
  5. "Collegians Ready To Start Football", New York Times, September 5, 1909, p32
  6. Danzig, Allison (1956). The History of American Football: Its Great Teams, Players, and Coaches . Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. pp.  70–71.
  7. Syracuse Herald, 9/26/09
  8. Specifically, an end "who is more than one foot back of the line and still not a yard back" could not receive a pass; Ibid.
  9. "Virginia Wins Easily", Washington Post, September 26, 1909
  10. "Football Scores", New York Times, September 26, 1909, pS-1
  11. "Results of Football Games", New York Times, September 30, 1909, p11
  12. Michael Leo Donovan, Yankees to Fighting Irish : What's Behind Your Favorite Team's Name (Taylor Trade Publications, 2004), p107
  13. "Teams Play Tie Game"; "Results of Football Battles", pS-2
  14. "Princeton, 8; V.P.I., 6", Washington Post, October 14, 1909, p8
  15. "Pennsy Plays Loosely", New York Times, October 24, 1909, pS-2
  16. "Princeton Beaten in Last Minute", New York Times, October 24, 1909, pS-1
  17. "Cadet Near Death From Football Hurt", New York Times, October 31, 1909, pIV-1.
  18. "Cadet Byrne Dead; No Army-Navy Game", New York Times, November 1, 1909, p1
  19. "Results of Football Games", New York Times, October 31, 1909, pIV-3
  20. John Kryk, Natural Enemies: Major College Football's Oldest, Fiercest Rivaly--Michigan vs. Notre Dame (Taylor Trade Publications, 2004), p48
  21. "Results of Football Games", New York Times, November 7, 1909, pS-2
  22. "Arkansas Razorbacks website". Archived from the original on 2011-09-15. Retrieved 2009-11-13.
  23. "Yale Triumphs at Harvard: How the Game Was Played", New York Times, November 21, 1909, pS-1