A few years ago, during October, I was attending a meeting in the great state of New York. During a break, several of us from the South (and, yes, I capitalize “South”) were discussing college football.
Lending to the discussion were men representing Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and the Carolinas. One man, not from the South, and, in fact, from that dark domain known to Southerners as “the North,” said, “You guys from the South sure talk about college football a lot.”
“Yes, we do,” I replied.
“We don’t do that up here,” he responded.
“No,” I shared, “why would you?
I would tell you that I said, “You guys really believe that Syracuse has a football team!”
I might even report that I declared, with amazement, “You televise the game between Harvard and Yale, neither of which could beat Valdosta High School on their best day.” But, if I did, that would sound pompous and arrogant. So, I will leave that part out.
But, seriously, did you know that the last time that a northern team won the national championship was in 2002 when Ohio State took the honors. Prior to that, it was way back in 1997 when Michigan won the title. Then one has to go back to 1986 when Penn State was the champ.
Southern teams have won the national football championship for the last seven years in a row, eight, if you count Texas, which I do, even though they like to think of themselves as a separate nation.
This year, barring a collision with an asteroid, a team from the South will again take the title as Florida State does battle with Auburn, making it eight (or nine, counting Texas, which I do) in a row. That, a dynasty does make.
The titles have been won by Alabama (three times), Auburn, Florida (twice), Louisiana State University, (and Texas). All are members of the Southeastern Conference (except Texas). This year, FSU represents the Atlantic Coast Conference against the SEC champion, Auburn. Still, FSU is a team from the South, so, in my view, it’s a win-win situation — unless one is only for either FSU or Auburn.
This isn’t to take away from the dogs that have had their day. Princeton won a number of championships when football was first introduced in 1869. But the first seven “national championships” that Princeton claims is a result of playing twelve games—total! Not twelve games a year. The Princeton football teams played a total of twelve games in seven years!
As football matured, certainly a number of teams emerged as powerhouses. Princeton won 28 championships and Yale won 27, hopefully playing more than one or two games a year.
In the more modern era, Notre Dame won 22 and Alabama won 19. They are followed by Oklahoma and USC (17 each), Michigan (16), Ohio State (14), Harvard (12) and Nebraska and Pittsburgh (11 each). So there have been a number of dynasties.
When it comes to other teams from the South, quite a number of colleges have won their own share of national championships: Miami (nine), LSU (eight), Florida State (seven), Tennessee (seven), Georgia Tech (six), Auburn, Georgia, and Florida (five each), Mississippi (three), Arkansas (two), Clemson and Kentucky (one each), and a few other schools that may or not claim to be historically “South:” Texas Christian (two), Texas A&M (three), Missouri (two), Southern Methodist University (three), and, of course, the University of Texas (nine).
Others may arise in the years ahead, but, for now, the South reigns supreme in college football and will again for at least another year. And, yes, I am aware that “pride goeth before a fall.”
But not this year. This year, I am pulling for Florida State. But if Auburn wins, the South still wins. What a great game it will be — whatever the result!
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org). He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]