The Minnesota football program was once a dominant force in college football, but they have been long removed from their glory days. Michigan and Ohio State have long since emerged as the dominant programs in the Big Ten, separated from the likes of Iowa, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Minnesota along the way and keeping newer members like Penn State and Nebraska at arm’s length on a regular basis. There s a sentimental part of me that would like to see Minnesota enjoy a high level of success again someday, although I do not know if that is realistic given the current state of collegiate sports.
But that does not mean Minnesota can’t sell their program history in hopes of reviving the glory days, does it? The 2013 football season poster for the Gophers showcases the newer home of the Gophers as well as their updated uniforms from last season, but also prints a reminder to the past championships won by Minnesota with “seven-time national champions” across the top, next to “Eighteen B1G Championships.”
Minnesota claims national titles from 1904, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1940, 1941 and 1960 (despite losing the Rose Bowl). There were obviously no BCS rankings or College Football Playoff back before World War II era, so declaring a national champion was a little more laissez-faire than it is today, but that does not take away from the accomplishments of some of those Minnesota teams. Winning three national championships in a row is unheard of, although Alabama figures to have a shot at just that this season.
I would like to propose some new standards for national championship claims.
1. If you have not won a national championship in 25 years, please refrain from bragging about any previous titles won
You do not have to empty the trophy cases or remove the information from the media guides or inside the stadium. History is just that, history. It deserves to be preserved, acknowledged and honored. But if you have not won a title since before your school’s most recent graduating class was born, do not flaunt your previous accolades in advertising form. This is a “what have you done for me lately?” world we live in, and seven national titles won before integration means very little to me now (helmet sticker to my pal Mark Ennis for that one).
This goes for you too, Ole Miss.
Penn State’s national title bragging rights expired last season (1986 season) and Notre Dame is getting ready to expire as well (1988). Georgia Tech and Colorado are likely to lose their national title bragging rights soon after that as well (1990).
2. The same rule generally applies to conference titles, but with a twist
Minnesota is bragging about 18 Big Ten football titles, but the Gophers have not won a Big Ten championship since 1967, and we won’t even dive in to the idea of shared conference championships which is what Minnesota did that season with Indiana and Purdue. And let;s be honest, if you are claiming a conference title that is tied with Indiana and Purdue, we have some other issues to address at another time. Since 1967, Ohio State has won at least a share of the Big Ten championship 22 times. Michigan has done so 21 times. If a rival, or in this case two conference foes, have won more conference titles than you own since your last conference crown, it’s best not to advertise it.
2.1 Getting left behind
Also, since Minnesota last won a Big Ten championship (1967), a total of nine different Big Ten schools have won at least a share of the conference crown. The only schools not to win a Big Ten title since Minnesota’s last conference crown are Indiana and Nebraska, but the Huskers have only been in the conference for two years so far (and they have at least played for the Big Ten title once). When just about everyone in the conference has won a conference championship since your last title, you also should lose any rights to advertise your conference titles.
2.2 The Northwestern Rule
Northwestern has won at least a share of the Big Ten championship three times since Minnesota last won the Big Ten. If Northwestern has you beat out in conference titles in the expanded Big Ten era, keep your conference title bragging rights to yourself.