I have been researching the sports pages of old newspapers lately, and I came across an article in the 1903 Milwaukee Journal regarding their upcoming college football season. The article, “Football Championship in Question Again,” laments that football fans will not have a definitive, conclusive end to their season because there is no adequate championship system in place to determine what team truly is the best in the nation. Sound familiar?
The unnamed author complains that the eastern teams refuse to acknowledge the strengths of western teams (meaning Midwestern by our geography) and will not entertain the idea of a Michigan or Chicago team as being better than Harvard, Yale, or West Point.
“The time will not be far distant when games will be arranged to settle this question. Comparisons, at best, are only problematical, and seldom hold good, but college men in general who are fair-minded would like to see the championship of the country proved conclusively rather than have critics haggling about it for months after the season ends.”
We have come a long way since 1903—journalists no longer count the number of deaths during each college football season as a result of injuries; we allow the forward pass; and not all the players are white. But we still don’t have a system that conclusively determines what team is the best in the nation. I don't think we will until we make some major changes to the way the NCAA manages the game.