Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 4 of 47 DECEMBER 2018 5 FAN FORUM Editor's Note: In the 2018 Preseason edition, we printed a letter from Notre Dame professor John Gaski bemoaning the school's voluntary omission of rec- ognizing the 1964 Fighting Irish as na- tional champions. With the Irish vying for another national title this year, we thought this would be an appropriate time for his follow-up. TITLE DEFECT Notre Dame always tries to do the right thing, and generally arrives at a reasonable definition of "right." But one under-the-radar offense is so grave that it is time to give the issue some attention. How many national champion- ships does Notre Dame have in foot- ball? It depends on how you count, right? Actually, there is a better an- swer, an authoritative one, and an objective resolution to a problem that is more serious than it may appear. The NCAA recognizes 13 consen- sus national titles for Notre Dame football, including 1919 and 1964 — which our university's sports in- formation operatives do not include in the school's primary count of 11 (1924, 1929, 1930, 1943, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1966, 1973, 1977 and 1988). "Consensus" is mainly defined by the NCAA as at least one of the consensus-determining "Big Four" annual awards prior to the BCS era: Associated Press poll, Coaches' poll (formerly known as UPI), Football Writers Association of America selec- tion, and National Football Founda- tion's MacArthur Bowl trophy. In other words, when a college team wins one or more of those championship-conferring major awards in a given football year, it is designated a consensus national champion for that season. (Naturally, there have been occasions when more than one school shares the "consen- sus" championship. Also, the NCAA has a different but similar definition of consensus for the pre-poll era, i.e., pre-1936.) Likewise, a consensus of football historians has arrived at the same judgment of 13 generally recognized national championships for Notre Dame football. Yet our school im- poses a more restrictive, simplistic definition of consensus that yields the misleading 11 total. In the past, Notre Dame personnel have justified their ultra-self-derog- atory approach — to the extent that the bizarre policy has any rationale at all — as an exercise of modesty. So while virtually all other universi- ties in the country exaggerate their national championship totals, we un- dercount ours. An effective and sufficient rebut- tal is the official NCAA record book is a better arbiter of a school's na- tional title record keeping than the school itself, because any school (ex- cept Notre Dame, apparently) would tend to have a positive bias. Our uni- versity's modesty is laudable, but false modesty can be detrimentally overdone. Likewise, another faux Notre Dame concern about accurately por- traying the record as I describe — and as we are rightfully entitled to do — has been the potential to pro- voke negative media reaction from suddenly claiming an increment in our national title ledger. So, therefore, we are supposed to adversely distort our own football heritage forevermore when nearly everyone else distorts in the opposite way, without criticism, just to placate the Notre Dame haters? Puncturing that excuse, though, is an ironclad justification: the objec- tive fact, again, that our school, in that prospective event, would only be deferring to historical consensus and the NCAA norm (see College Football Data Warehouse and ncaa. com/history/football/fbs) while most schools inflate their records. No, 1964 and 1919 do not belong on Notre Dame's list of "other," sec- ondary, fly-by-night national title se- lections. They are among our consen- sus-recognized 13 national football championship seasons. A conventional interpretation of consensus as absolute majority is ob- solete and non-viable in this context, as football historians know, because it would disallow the Nebraska '97 and USC '78 recognized "shared" consensus national championships, among others, which are based on only one of the four major selections. Likewise, Alabama is allowed to claim 1973 as a true national cham- pionship season because it won the final coaches' poll before the bowl season that year (while Notre Dame, of course, also is a recognized cham- pion for '73 via the other three of four major awards). Another big reason why ND is con- sidered a legitimate consensus 1964 Notre Dame's Cinderella 1964 team was awarded the MacArthur Bowl, emblematic of a national cham- pionship by the NCAA-recognized National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame. However, the school itself has not recognized the title because it was not "consensus." PHOTO COURTESY FIGHTING IRISH DIGITAL MEDIA BE HEARD! Send your letters to: Blue & Gold Illustrated / Letters P. O. Box 1007 Notre Dame, IN 46556 or e-mail to:

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