|1994 NCAA Division I-A season|
|Number of teams||107|
|Preseason AP No. 1||Florida|
|Heisman Trophy||Rashaan Salaam (running back, Colorado)|
|Bowl Coalition Championship|
|1995 Orange Bowl|
|Site|| Miami Orange Bowl,|
|Champion(s)||Nebraska (AP, Coaches, FWAA)|
|Division I-A football seasons|
The 1994 NCAA Division I-A football season, play of college football in the United States at the NCAA Division I-A level, began in August 1994 and ended on January 2, 1995. Nebraska, who finished the season undefeated, ended the year ranked No. 1 in both the Associated Press and Coaches polls. This was the first national championship of coach Tom Osborne's career at Nebraska, having come close the year before, when Nebraska lost to eventual national champion Florida State on a missed field goal as time expired.
Although Osborne's team finished the season unbeaten, the national championship picture again was engulfed in controversy. For much of the second half of the season, Nebraska and Penn State were regarded as the top two teams in the country. This raised the possibility of a split national championship for the third time since 1990, due in large part to the system in place that had been concocted to avoid a split title.
Following the 1991 season, where Miami and Washington split the national championship in the AP and Coaches' polls, the Bowl Coalition was founded. The Coalition consisted of six bowls, with the Orange, Fiesta, Cotton, and Sugar bowls were all considered potential hosts for a national championship game. Since three of these bowls already had specific tie-ins with conferences, an agreement was struck where the conferences would agree to release those teams from their contractual obligations in order to achieve a No. 1 vs No. 2 matchup. For the first two years of the Coalition, this did occur without incident as the Sugar and Orange Bowls in 1993 and 1994 featured No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups in their respective games.
The problem with this as far as 1994 was concerned was that the Rose Bowl, which featured the Pac-10 and Big Ten champions playing each other, was not included in the Coalition and thus a team that finished No. 1 or No. 2 in the polls from those two conferences could not be considered by the Coalition to be its national champion. Nebraska, as a member of the Big Eight Conference, was part of the coalition while Penn State was not. As Nebraska went on to win the conference title, it earned an automatic bid to the Orange Bowl to face off against No. 3 Miami, who won the Big East title and was No. 2 in the Coalition pool. Thus Miami, who as recently as two years earlier was in the Coalition championship game, had a chance to stake a claim as the national champion with a win (as they would have been awarded the Coaches' Trophy) and all but ensure a split title with Penn State provided they defeated No. 13 Oregon in the Rose Bowl.
On January 1, 1995, Nebraska defeated Miami in the Orange Bowl 24–17 and clinched the championship. The next day Penn State defeated Oregon in the Rose Bowl by a count of 38–20 and secured the No. 2 spot in the polls.
In the offseason that followed, the Bowl Coalition was disbanded and in its place came the Bowl Alliance, which attempted to serve the same purpose by rotating a national championship game between the Sugar, Fiesta, and Orange Bowls. Like the Bowl Coalition before it, the Bowl Alliance did not include the Rose Bowl and two of the three national championship games did not feature a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup, with the 1997 season seeing another split national championship.
|School||1993 Conference||1994 Conference|
|Northeast Louisiana Indians||Southland (I-AA)||I-A Independent|
In February 1994, before the season began, an announcement was made regarding the future of the Southwest Conference. In 1991, the SWC became an all-Texas conference as Arkansas left the SWC to join the Southeastern Conference. As 1994 began Texas was rumored to be considering joining the Pac-10 with Big Eight member Colorado (rumors that would resurface over a decade later, which eventually resulted in Colorado joining the Pac-10 with Utah to form the Pac-12), while Texas A&M was reported to be looking at joining the SEC (which they would eventually do in 2012). On February 25, 1994, it was announced that Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, and Baylor would be joining with all eight of the teams in the Big Eight to form the Big 12 Conference, in 1996. Following this decision, another decision was made regarding the future of remaining SWC members SMU, Houston, TCU, and Rice; SMU, TCU, and Rice would join the Western Athletic Conference while Houston joined Conference USA. (Of the schools that joined the Big 12, as noted, the only one that did not stay in the conference was Texas A&M. TCU, SMU, and Rice all eventually became part of Conference USA as well, with TCU being the first to join while the other three schools joined as part of the 2005 conference realignment. TCU left for the Mountain West Conference in 2005 and eventually joined their former SWC brethren in the Big 12, while SMU and Houston became part of the American Athletic Conference in 2013 with the former Big East football schools that were still in the conference. Rice still plays in C-USA.)
The 1994 Heisman Trophy presentation ceremony was held on December 10, 1994, at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York City. The five finalists were:
Warren Sapp from Miami was the 6th finalist and also attended the ceremony.
McNair's nomination as a finalist was a rare feat, as Alcorn State was a member of Division I-AA and I-AA awarded the Walter Payton Award to its most outstanding player (which McNair won).
The Heisman voters awarded the trophy to Salaam, who also won the Walter Camp Award and the Doak Walker Award. Salaam received 400 first place votes and 1743 total points, 842 more than second-place Carter. McNair finished third, sixteen points ahead of Collins, and Barker finished a distant fifth.
Other players receiving votes were Miami defensive tackle Warren Sapp, Georgia quarterback Eric Zeier, Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips and offensive tackle Zach Wiegert, and Washington running back Napoleon Kaufman.
After being played for the first two years at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama, the SEC Championship Game moved to its now-permanent home in Atlanta's Georgia Dome. Meanwhile, in Jacksonville, the demolition and reconstruction of Gator Bowl Stadium that coincided with the Jacksonville Jaguars' entry into the NFL for 1995 forced the Gator Bowl to move to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville for its 1994 playing. The game returned to Jacksonville in the newly built Jacksonville Municipal Stadium the following year. Also, John Hancock Insurance's deal for naming rights to the Sun Bowl expired and the game reverted to its former name.
Although Nebraska, Penn State and Alabama were still ranked in the Top 10, many of college football's legendary[ citation needed ] teams finished the regular season with their lowest rankings in years. Ohio State finished the season ranked 14th in the AP poll while Michigan was No. 20 and USC No. 21. Notre Dame, which started the season ranked fourth, finished the season unranked as did preseason No. 16 Oklahoma.
Due to several fighting incidents that occurred during the 1993 season (including one between the Miami Hurricanes and the Colorado Buffaloes that resulted in 12 ejections), the following changes were made:
The Bowl Coalition did not include the Big 10 and Pacific-10 conferences, whose champions played in the Rose Bowl. Penn State, which was ranked No. 1 in the Oct 18 and Oct 25 polls, and No. 2 for the remainder of the season, finished the regular season 11–0–0 and played in the Rose Bowl as the champion of the Big Ten.
|8-9||No. 2 Colorado||Big 8||No. 3 Nebraska||Big 8|
|10-11||Nebraska||Big 8||No. 3 Auburn||SEC|
|12||Nebraska||Big 8||No. 3 Florida||SEC|
|13–14||Nebraska||Big 8||No. 3 Alabama||SEC|
|15||Nebraska||Big 8||No. 3 Miami||Big East|
The Heisman Memorial Trophy Award is given to the Most Outstanding Player of the year
Rashaan Salaam, Colorado, JR. RB (1400 votes)
Rashaan Iman Salaam was an American college and professional football player who was a running back in the National Football League (NFL) for four seasons during the 1990s. Salaam played college football for the University of Colorado and won the 1994 Heisman Trophy. He was picked by the Chicago Bears in the first round of the 1995 NFL Draft, and played professionally for the Bears and Cleveland Browns of the NFL. Salaam died by suicide on December 5, 2016.
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