While poking around the Big Ten Network website late this past week I came across this gem of a headline "Minnesota adds 108-year old national title" and I just had to find out what the hell they were talking about.
I mean, seriously, how do you not know you won a national championship in any sport? Those are things you'd think you'd document and remember for all-time, right? But if any team would "forget" a national championship it would be the Gophs.
I guess they're awesome at spelling, terrible at math over there at Eastern Dakota University?
As Badger fans we are all well aware of the most recent argument that Gopher fans seem to have in the "Battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe," you know the whole "We've got 6 national championships and you've got zero" one? Ya, I'm sure you've heard it a few times from those folks who dared cross the border and put on the maroon and gold instead of the Cardinal and White (and I'm talking students not just players here).
They certaintly can't claim they own the series as Wisconsin has a 37-24-3 record in the Axe portion of the series. (Yes, Gopher fans I'm aware that the overall series is 59-54-8 in your favor.. how's the modern day history treating you though?)
Well, apparently they are trying to claim another national championship actually happened, some 30 years before the first one that they claim happened, happened. Yep, we're talking about the 1904 National Championship.
To be fair, back in those days there wasn't an AP Poll, a Coaches Poll, but rather about 90 bazillion personal polls from the likes of Harry Frye, Bill Libby, Soren Sorensen and many more. So, finding a true national champion or an officially recognized national champion is even harder to come by.
No doubt, I'm all for getting the record books correct, but there's one major issue with the claim by the Gophers creative director (and the irony in this positions name is about to really get rich) Jeff Keiser... It's not true. How can that be? Well, let's start with his claim first.
According to the linked article in the BTN article this is what Keiser says:
As Keiser searched for information regarding the Gophers’ 18 Big Ten titles, he stumbled upon something in the NCAA record books: Minnesota had actually won seven national titles, not six as previously thought.
“It listed 1904, and I was kind of curious. I’m like, ‘It seems like that’s a mistake,’” Keiser said. “I knew 1903 and 1904 were undefeated seasons and they were really good and we were dominating games. But I didn’t know we won the national championship.”
So, me being the curious stats and records geek that I am, I went to digging on my own.
For all the crap the NCAA takes the one thing they do really well is put out their rule books and record books for everyone to see online. Guess what I found?
Yep, there is no official recognition by the NCAA that the 1904 National Champions were Minnesota. Instead the official NCAA record books recognize Michigan and Pennsylvania as National Champions for that season.
Hey, I give the Gophers a lot of creative credit (see the irony in the creative director now?) for trying to claim this one. Heck, anything to distract from what's been going on in Minneapolis the past 7 seasons or so, right? Who would want to remember constantly losing to your arch-rivals on a year in and year out basis anyway?
Don't get me wrong, the 1904 was a hell of a team to be certain. They did go 13-0 and outscored their opponents 725-12 (including a 28-0 blanking of our Badgers - who were a whole 5-3 on the season.) How can one team play 13 games an another 8 yet have a fair national champion anyway? But I digress.
That 725 point total is still 2nd most EVER scored by a team in Division I history which is an amazing feat to be sure.
However, check this article out as to why this team shouldn't be recognized as they have a real firm grasp of what the teams in 1904 looked like and why Minnesota doesn't belong in the conversation as true National Champions. I mean, can you really say you deserve to be COLLEGE FOOTBALL national champions when you include a win over a HIGH SCHOOL team in your 13-0 record? Congrats, you beat the piss out of a local Minneapolis high school... real big men there!
Maybe the mot famous man in America of the day - Harry Houdini - could have found one heck of a "creative" way to present them with this so-called national championship? Could you imagine all the fun those tens of Goph fans would've had at a parade featuring all of those famous Minnesotans... Oh wait, Prince wasn't born yet? Nevermind, I'm sure it would've been about as awful as the teams of today have played.... Which is pretty damn AWFUL!