History does not record whom the first person was to come up with the idea of a national championship in college football, but chances are he or she certainly had no idea of what they instigated.

10. Slippery Rock’s No. 1! (1936)

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the first Associated Press poll in 1936 brought about the first controversy when Minnesota was declared the national champion, completing a very unusual season for the Golden Gophers.

With Bernie Bierman wanting to beef up the schedule, Minnesota was set to open against Washington in Seattle, a four-day trip by train. Bierman scheduled two practices along the way, but while staying overnight at the Florence Hotel in Missoula, Montana, the players were forced to flee at approximately 3 a.m. due to the building being on fire. No one was hurt, but most of the hotel was destroyed. With Julian Alfonse intercepting three passes at the goal-line, Minnesota also escaped the Huskies with a 14-7 victory, and went on to post impressive wins against Nebraska, Michigan, Purdue, Iowa, Texas and Wisconsin.

Heading into a Halloween showdown with Northwestern, which many thought would likely determine both the conference and national championship, Minnesota was No. 1, the Wildcats ranked third. Played in wind and driving rain, the Gophers, who hadn’t lost since the season finale of the 1932 season to Michigan, a streak of 28 games, couldn’t reach the end zone while Northwestern punched in a touchdown for a 6-0 victory. Fullback Steve Toth scored from the 1-yard line on third down shortly after reserve Don Geyer had fumbled with Minnesota tackle Ed Widseth penalized for punching Geyer during the scramble for the loose ball.

However, after sitting atop the poll for three weeks, Big Ten champion Northwestern was pounded by Notre Dame, 26-6, and would finish seventh in the final poll.

Even with the one loss, voters put Minnesota back up to No. 1, ahead of LSU (9-0-1), Pittsburgh (7-1-1), and Alabama (8-0-1), and with the regular season complete the Gophers secured the consensus national championship. Three services: Boand, Football Research and Houlgate, proclaimed Pitt their national champion. LSU lost to No. 6 Santa Clara in the Sugar Bowl, 21-14, Pittsburgh beat Washington in the Rose Bowl, 21-0, and Alabama didn’t play in a bowl.

Also controversial that year was Arkansas being snubbed for the Cotton Bowl, even though it was the Southwest Conference champion. Instead, Texas Christian received the invitation because it would be quarterback Sammy Baugh’s final collegiate game. The Horned Frogs beat Marquette, 16-6.

One sportswriter came up with a unique winner for the mythical title, and after backtracking the season’s results made a case for Slippery Rock in an article that was reprinted throughout the country. Here’s why: Slippery Rock beat Westminster, which defeated West Virginia Wesleyan, which beat Duquesne, which upset Pittsburgh, which defeated Notre Dame, which beat Northwestern, which beat Minnesota.

That’s why you’ll still occasionally hear an announcer or broadcaster mention a Slippery Rock score.

9. What game was he watching? (2002)

The 2002 national championship game between Miami and Ohio State at the Fiesta Bowl was one of the most exciting title games ever if for no other reason than it went to double-overtime. However, Hurricanes fans are still calling foul.

Miami forced overtime when Todd Sievers made a 40-yard field goal on the final play of regulation for a 17-17 score. The play everyone remembers, though, occurred in the first extra frame. On fourth-and-3 and the 5-yard line, Buckeyes quarterback Craig Krenzel threw into the right corner of the end zone where Chris Gamble was being defended by cornerback Glenn Sharpe. As Gamble reached for the ball, he got his hands on it, but couldn’t pull in the reception. Moments later, with fireworks prematurely going off and Miami beginning to celebrate, field judge Terry Porter threw the flag to call pass interference. With the first down, Ohio State scored three plays later and the game went to a second overtime.

Buckeyes freshman tailback Maurice Clarett scored on a 5-yard run for the final 31-24 score.

“It feels unreal,” Miami fullback Quadtrine Hill said. “After the game was over, it felt like we had one play left. It can’t be over. It’s something I never want to feel again.”

It was arguably the most controversial call in a title game since the Rose Bowl at the end of the 1978 season, when Michigan linebacker Ron Simpkins stripped Southern California running back Charles White of the ball as he crossed the goal-line. There’s also what happened in 1953.

No. 1 Notre Dame was 7-0 heading into a late-season meeting against No. 20 Iowa (5-3). The Hawkeyes led 7-0 when an official stopped the clock with 1 second remaining in the first half because a Fighting Irish player appeared to be injured. With the extra play quarterback Ralph Guglielmi threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Dan Shannon to tie the game.

Again Iowa took the lead, 14-7, when with less than a minute remaining the game two more official timeouts were called due to apparent Notre Dame injuries. Guglielmi found Shannon for another touchdown, this time 9 yards and with 6 seconds remaining.

Although the season-ending game finished in a 14-14 tie, Iowa left South Bend furious, and the following day Hawkeyes coach Forest Evashevski told a pep rally that they had been “gypped.”

But Iowa also got the last laugh. Notre Dame, which had been ranked No. 1 all season, was being hailed nationwide as the “Fainting Irish” and in the subsequent Associated Press poll was bumped down to No. 2 in favor of 10-0 Maryland. That’s how the final polls had it at the end of the regular season, only to see Maryland lose to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, 7-0.

Not surprisingly, both schools claim the title.

8. The Bear did it (1950)

Although the first Associated Press poll was in 1936, the debate on whether or not to move the final tabulation until after the bowl games didn’t start to heat up until 1950, in part because there were so few bowl games – not to mention that they still had the air of being exhibitions.

That year, Oklahoma was already declared the national champion when it arrived at the Sugar Bowl to face Paul W. “Bear” Bryant’s No. 7 Kentucky Wildcats. Naturally, the Sooners, riding a 31-game winning streak, were considered heavy favorites and no one seriously thought that Bud Wilkinson wouldn’t find a way to win convincingly.

But led by linemen Walt Yowarsky and Bob Gain, the Wildcats lived up to their No. 2 national ranking defensively. Wilbur Jamerson scored two touchdowns, including a 14-yard touchdown pass from Babe Parilli, and Yowarsky was named game MVP as Kentucky won, 13-7.

Had voting taken place after the postseason a number of teams would have certainly received title consideration, including 11-1 Tennessee, which defeated No. 3 Texas in the Cotton Bowl, 20-14, and was the only top-five team to win a bowl game.

At Alabama, Bryant was able to take advantage of the changing times and attitude after the 1964 season, when Arkansas posted four less-than inspiring wins before shocking No. 1 Texas and then going on an epic roll, outscoring the final five opponents 116-0.

The Associated Press ranked only 10 teams at the time, so coming off a 5-5 year Arkansas was essentially a preseason afterthought. Even after defeating the Longhorns, the Razorbacks were still behind the Crimson Tide in the polls, and when both finished the regular season it was: 1. Alabama; 2. Arkansas. However, the Crimson Tide lost 21-17 to Texas in the first Orange Bowl played under the lights (which came down to a controversial call at the end of the game) while the Razorbacks defeated No. 6 Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl, 19-7.

Ranking services waiting until after the bowls to declare their champions, including the Football Writers Association of America and the Helms Athletic Foundation, had Arkansas No. 1 instead of Alabama. Consequently, the Associated Press changed its procedure the following year, but only for the 1965 season. Almost unbelievably, it worked to Alabama’s advantage again.

After beating LSU 31-7, and Auburn 30-3, Alabama was ranked fourth and turned down an opportunity to play in the Cotton Bowl to meet No. 3 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl and keep its dim national championship hopes alive. Bryant’s thinking was that if No. 1 Michigan State lost to UCLA in the Rose Bowl, and No. 2 Arkansas had its 22-game unbeaten streak snapped by LSU in the Sugar Bowl, the Crimson Tide would have a chance to defend its title against No. 3 Nebraska.

That’s exactly what happened.

The Associated Press reverted back to holding its final poll at the end of the regular season, but switched for good in 1969. The coaches’ poll by United Press International held firm until 1973. The Cotton Bowl at the end of the 1970 season, when No. 6 Notre Dame defeated No. 1 Texas, 24-11, giving Nebraska a split title, brought it to the threshold. What crossed it was the Sugar Bowl concluding the 1973 season, when No. 3 Notre Dame beat No. 1 Alabama, and Bryant, 24-23, in a game featuring six lead changes and a late field goal. Although the Irish were the clear popular national champions, the Crimson Tide still claims 1973 as one of its 12 national titles.

7. Who’s No. 2? (2000)

The biggest problem the Bowl Championship Series, and its previous incantations, has regularly experienced in determining which two teams should play for the national title hasn’t been “Who’s #1?” but which team should be No. 2.

The 2006 season was a perfect example. When Ohio State and Michigan closed their regular seasons against one another, both were undefeated and for the first time they met ranked 1-2 in the polls. After the Buckeyes won 42-39, the Wolverines remained at No. 2, but not for long.

Lurking at No. 3 was Southern California, which subsequently won its ballyhooed matchup with No. 6 Notre Dame, 44-24. After moving up in the following week’s poll, all the Trojans had to do was defeat UCLA in their season finale to secure a spot in the championship game against Ohio State.

Only the Bruins pulled of a 13-9 upset.

Meanwhile, at the SEC Championship, No. 4 Florida began lobbying for a chance immediately after finishing off Arkansas, 38-28.

“We’re going to tell a group of young men who just went 12-1 with the most difficult schedule against six ranked opponents that they don’t have a chance to go play for a national championship?” Florida coach Urban Meyer said. “I’m going to need help with that one.”

“Michigan already had its chance,” game MVP Percy Harvin said. “I think we deserve a chance.”

Florida got it, but barely, and took advantage of the opportunity by crushing, or in this case chomping, on the Buckeyes 41-14 to win the title.

Of course, it wasn’t anything new for the BCS. Even in its first year, 1998, there was a similar dispute with nearly everyone in agreement that 12-0 Tennessee was No. 1, but Ohio State fans felt the Buckeyes were more deserving to play for the championship than Florida State (11-1). The following year, the Seminoles were the undisputed top choice, but Virginia Tech (11-0), and Nebraska (11-1), both thought they deserved a shot at the title.

In 2000 there were three worthy candidates between Miami, Florida State and Washington with the computers overruling the humans and putting the Seminoles in the title game where they lost 13-2 to Oklahoma.

6. Splitsville (1997)

In 1954, Associated Press voters favored Ohio State, while the coaches preferred UCLA. The only thing they could agree upon was that Oklahoma was No. 3, even though all three teams were undefeated.

However, instead of a No. 1 vs. No. 2 meeting in the Rose Bowl, out of the three only Ohio State played in a postseason game and was paired against Southern California (8-3) because both the Big Ten and Pac-10 had rules prohibiting teams from playing in the Rose Bowl in consecutive years. UCLA had lost to Michigan State the year before, 28-20, and returned after the 1955 season only to lose again to the Spartans, 17-14.

Despite playing in the rain, Woody Hayes’ first bowl trip to Pasadena proved to be successful. USC’s lone touchdown came on a punt return and Ohio State left victorious, 20-7.

With the mathematical rankings declaring their champions after the Rose Bowl, Ohio State was considered the popular national champion. The Associated Press poll held its final voting after the bowl in 1965, and permanently in 1969. The coaches’ poll didn’t do so until 1973.

Split national champions since 1950
Year Writers’ champion (AP); Coaches’ champion (UPI/USA Today)

1954 Ohio State; UCLA
1957 Auburn; Ohio State
1965 Alabama; Michigan State
1970 Nebraska; Texas
1973 Notre Dame; Alabama
1974 Oklahoma; Southern California
1978 Alabama; Southern California
1990 Colorado; Georgia Tech
1991 Miami; Washington
1997 Michigan; Nebraska
2003 Southern California; LSU

The toughest choice may have been in 1991, the last season before the bowl alliance was created. Both Miami and Washington were 12-0, with impressive credentials. Miami edged preseason No. 1 Florida State (on a missed last-minute field goal, in typical fashion for that rivalry) and crushed Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, 22-0. Washington also defeated the Cornhuskers (36-21 at No. 9 Nebraska in September) and handily beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl, 34-14.

The most controversial, though, was 1997, when the Bowl Alliance was in place, but didn’t include the Rose Bowl.

No. 1 Michigan (11-0), with Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson, was heavily favored against Washington State, but didn’t live up to lofty expectations while pullinf out a 23-16 victory.

So the Wolverines were No. 1, correct?

Well, not exactly. At the Orange Bowl, undefeated Nebraska had a much better showing against No. 3 Tennessee, handily winning 42-17.

No major college football team had gone 13-0 and not been declared the national champion, but no No. 1 team had ever won its bowl game and been dropped by voters either. The writers’ poll wasn’t close, Michigan was the clear choice, while with Tom Osborne retiring Nebraska won the coaches’ poll by a mere two points.

“Being a coach, I know a little bit how they think,” Osborne said. “They probably looked at the fact we were 13-0, and to be unrewarded in some way would be … I don’t mean to say an injustice. But it wouldn’t be a good thing.”

5. The Fifth Down (1990)

Undefeated Colorado was trailing at Missouri, 31-27, on October 6, 1990, when it had first down at the Tigers’ 3-yard line with 30 seconds remaining in the game.

On the first play, quarterback Chris Johnson spiked the ball to stop the clock.

Following a 2-yard carry by running back Eric Bieniemy on second down, Colorado called time out, which is when officials failed to realized that it was, in fact, third down.

After Bieniemy was stopped for no gain on what should have been fourth down, quarterback Johnson downed the ball to stop the clock. With the extra down, Johnson ran off the right tackle, a quarterback sneak for a touchdown and 33-31 victory, though Missouri also maintains that he was down before reaching the end zone.

“If we screwed this up, nobody’s going away from here feeling any worse than we are,” umpire Frank Gaines said after referee J.C. Louderback’s crew conferred for nearly 20 minutes on the matter before upholding the score.

Missouri coach Bob Stull was livid, saying it made him feel ill. Colorado coach Bill McCartney ripped Missouri’s artificial turf, comparing it to a playing on an “ice rink,” and Missouri athletic director Dick Tamburo responded, “If he’s complaining about slipping on the turf, then I’m complaining about the seven officials who can’t count.”

Missouri’s chancellor, Haskell Monroe Jr., appealed to the Big Eight, asking that the Tigers be declared the winner. They weren’t, but the conference suspended the officials for two weeks and then broke up the crew. Meanwhile, Colorado continued its march toward the national title. Unlike the previous year, when the No. 1 Buffaloes blew “the opportunity of a lifetime” according to McCartney, with the 21-6 loss to Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl, Colorado narrowly won the rematch, 10-9.

Yet the coaches still didn’t vote Colorado No. 1. Instead, Georgia Tech (11-0-1), suddenly found itself moving up despite not playing in one of the major bowl games (it defeated No. 19 Nebraska in the Florida Citrus Bowl, 45-21), resulting in a split championship.

4. Auburn (1957)

For years Auburn was able to claim only one national championship, 1957, when Ralph “Shug” Jordan’s team yielded only 28 points, seven of which to an SEC opponent. It shut out six of the 10 teams it played that season, including Alabama (40-0), and Georgia (6-0), with the win against the Bulldogs highlighted by two goal-line stands.

The problem was the Tigers were banned from playing in a bowl game due to recruiting violations and on National Collegiate Athletic Association probation – though both polls would still rank sanctioned teams, and thus still consider them for the national championship. Still, it was a split championship. Had the Associated Press not considered Auburn, Ohio State, No. 1 in the United Press International rankings, would likely have been its national champion (although No. 4 Oklahoma could have made a strong case after its 48-21 victory against No. 16 Duke in the Orange Bowl, while the Buckeyes barely edged Oregon at the Rose Bowl, 10-7).

The rule was partially changed in 1974, when an agreement with the American Football Coaches Association made teams on probation ineligible for ranking and national championship consideration. The team directly affected that season was Oklahoma, which was serving a two-year penalty, and had finished second or third in each of the three previous years. The undefeated Sooners averaged 508 yards of total offense and defeated its opponents by an average final score of 43-8, but UPI’s champion was Southern California, the AP runner-up.

Auburn had a similar situation arise in 1993, when first-year coach Terry Bowden led the Tigers to an 11-0 finish, including wins against No. 4 Florida and defending national champion Alabama. But the Tigers were again under probation, keeping them off television and out of any potential bowl. Auburn was ranked No. 4 by the Associated Press, with 12-1 Florida State winning the national championship.

What really gets Auburn fans, though, was 2004.

The Tigers were coming off an unimpressive 8-5 season when they were supposed to contend for the national championship, and had endured a tumultuous offseason with school officials visiting Louisville coach Bobby Petrino and offering him the head coaching job even though Tommy Tuberville was still under contract.

“I had already filled out my application at Wal-Mart to be a greeter,” Tuberville joked much, much later. “I was done.”

Due to the scandal Tuberville was set for at least one more season, with Auburn ranked No. 17 in the preseason poll. Only the Tigers didn’t lose. With four players – quarterback Jason Campbell, running backs Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown, and cornerback Carlos Rogers — who would be selected in the first round of the following National Football League draft, and the nation’s top defense, Auburn defeated No. 4 LSU (10-9), No. 8 Tennessee (34-10), and No. 5 Georgia (24-6), en route to a 11-0 regular season.

But even after defeating Tennessee again in the SEC Championship Game, 38-28, the 12-0 Tigers were still only third in both major polls and the Bowl Championship Series standings. Instead, No. 1 Southern California (12-0), and No. 2 Oklahoma (12-0), which had maintained their rankings through the whole season, would meet for the title in the Orange Bowl.

“Neither team is better than us,” Tuberville said after Auburn defeated Virginia Teach in the Sugar Bowl, 16-13. “We’ll play them anytime, anywhere.”

Southern California, which had been the odd team out of the previous championship game, crushed Oklahoma, 55-19.

3. Wait, I want to vote again (1947)

After the AP poll was created in 1936 it took only two years for the bowls to cast doubt on teams already selected the national champion. Led by Davey O’Brien, Texas Christian went 10-0 during the 1938 regular season, with the quarterback inspiring a second-half comeback in the Sugar Bowl to defeat No. 6 Carnegie Tech by the unimpressive score of 15-7. Meanwhile, No. 2 Tennessee and No. 4 Oklahoma, both 11-0, played in what’s become known as the “Orange Brawl,” a brutal 17-0 victory for the Volunteers, while No. 3 Duke lost to Southern California at the Rose Bowl, 7-3.

Had the poll been recast, there’s a decent chance that the Volunteers, instead of the Horned Frogs, would have been No. 1.

What helped spark the debate about when the final polls should be held was a four-year period in the early 1950s in which the national champion subsequently lost, including Maryland in 1953. The Terrapins were the only unbeaten and untied major college football team in the county before falling to No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, 7-0. Notre Dame had been No. 1 until it tied Iowa, 14-14, thanks to snapping Georgia Tech’s 31-game unbeaten streak, only to see coach Frank Leahy (107-13-9) collapse at halftime and retire at the end of the season.

National champions which subsequently lost in the postseason
Season, Bowl, Teams (AP rank)

1950 Sugar: No. 7 Kentucky beat No. 1 Oklahoma 13-7
1951 Sugar : No. 3 Maryland beat No. 1 Tennessee 28-13
1953 Orange: No. 4 Oklahoma beat No. 1 Maryland 7-0
1960 Rose: No. 6 Washington beat No. 1 Minnesota 17-7
1964 Orange: No. 5 Texas beat No. 1 Alabama 21-17

In 1947, Michigan and Notre Dame had taken turns atop the Associated Press poll, and wouldn’t meet on the field. The Irish were at No. 1 in the initial rankings that season, released October 6, only to see the Wolverines replace them a week later, with Notre Dame back on top by the end of the month, and so forth. They switched places three times even though neither sustained a loss or tie. At the conclusion of the regular season, both teams were 9-0.

The Irish and Wolverines had two common opponents, Pittsburgh and Northwestern. Notre Dame won 40–6 and 26–19, respectively, while Michigan did likewise in the same order, 69–0 and 49–21.

In the final poll, released December 8, Notre Dame was listed first, and its season was complete. The Irish were in the midst of a 45-year stretch (1925-70) in which it rejected all bowl invitations, primarily citing academic reasons and that the games would interfere with final exams.

Michigan, however, had no such policy, and Fritz Crisler’s team accepted the invitation to play No. 3 Southern California (7-0-1) in the Rose Bowl. The game was a slaughter, with the Wolverines celebrating a crushing 49-0 victory, at that point the worst loss in USC history. Afterward, every mathematical ranking opted for Michigan as the national champion except the Williamson System, which like the Associated Press issued its final report prior to the postseason.

Due to the outcry, the AP held a special non-binding postseason poll on Jan. 6, 1948. It had 1. Michigan, 2. Notre Dame, by vote total of 226-119, only it didn’t supersede the final regular season poll. Thus, Notre Dame (which defeated Southern California earlier in the season, 38-7) was considered the “official” national champion, with Michigan the more popular choice.

2. The most famous tie in football (1946)

College football had never seen a lineup like the one Army boasted beginning with the 1944 season. Under the direction of Earl “Red” Blaik, the Cadets destroyed the competition by an average score of 56-4.

Leading the team was the Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside backfield of fullback Doc Blanchard and halfback Glenn Davis. They finished second and third in Heisman Trophy voting behind Ohio State’s Len Horvath in 1944 (Davis was second), Blanchard won the award in 1945 with Davis second, and Davis finally took home the trophy in 1946 with Blanchard finishing fourth.

In 1946, Army appeared poised to become the first team in the modern era to secure three straight national titles when it arrived at Yankee Stadium for another showdown with Notre Dame, with both teams again undefeated. The two years previous, the Fighting Irish lost 59-0 (the worst defeat in program history), and 48-0, and both times the Fighting Irish had been ranked second in the Associated Press poll. However, after two years serving in the Navy, Frank Leahy was back coaching Notre Dame.

This time it was different, and the media buildup could only be described as intense.

“It was almost eerie along the sideline,” Notre Dame’s George Connor was quoted as saying years later. “I’ve never felt like I did that day on a football field. Everybody was very tense, everything was electric.”

Six times Army had the ball inside the Notre Dame 30-yard line, only to be rebuffed, with the Fighting Irish crossing midfield three times, yet for the same result.

With both coaches playing more not to lose rather than to win, the pivotal moment came in the second quarter, after Notre Dame drove all the way to the Army 4 in the second quarter, when Leahy supposedly turned to kicker Fred Earley and asked, “Can you make it?”

“Sir, it’s like an extra point to me,” was the reply regarding the 21-yard attempt.

“No, we need six, not three. Three points will never win this game,” and Leahy went for the first down, only to be unsuccessful.

Army’s best chance to score may have been when Blanchard broke into the open field, only to be stopped by a sensational open-field tackle by Johnny Lujack.

“I guess I should be elated over the tie,” Leahy said after the game. “After all, we didn’t lose. But I’m not.”

Army remained at No. 1, but Notre Dame, after dominating Northwestern (27-0), Tulane (41-0), and No. 16 Southern California (26-6), narrowly surpassed it in the final Associated Press poll. Although the Fighting Irish won the national championship, the 0-0 tie haunted Leahy for years.

1. “Tie One for the Gipper” (1966)

It was dubbed the “Game of the Century,” if not more, long before the teams even took the field. No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Michigan State on November 19, 1966, had been building up for two years due to the circumstances regarding those seasons. In 1964, No. 1 Notre Dame lost in the final moments of its season finale against Southern California, 20-17, costing it the national championship. In 1965, Michigan State made it through the regular season with a 10-0 record, only to be upset by No. 5 UCLA in the Rose Bowl, 14-12, nullifying the title when for the first time the Associated Press held its final voting after the postseason.

The expectation was for a rare winner-takes-all type of showdown.

Things looked bleak for the visiting team after Michigan State jumped out a 10-0 lead. Notre Dame was already without leading rusher Nick Eddy, who slipped on the ice while getting off the train in East Lansing and aggravated his shoulder injury, and quarterback Terry Hanratty had to leave the game with a separated shoulder following a hit from massive defensive lineman Bubba Smith (with Charley Thornhill helping out). But Coley O’Brien, a diabetic who required two insulin shots a day, connected with backup sophomore receiver Bob Gladieux for a 34-yard touchdown.

The score stood at 10-7 until Joe Azzaro made a 28-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter to tie it at 10. However, he missed a 41-yard attempt with 4:39 remaining that could have been the difference.

With just 1:24 left, Notre Dame got the ball back at its own 30 with plenty of time to at least try and reach field-goal range, when Ara Parseghian told his players to run out the clock for the 10-10 final score.

Notre Dame football player Rocky Bleier wrote in the book “Fighting Back,” that Parseghian told them in the locker room: “Men, I’m proud of you. God knows I’ve never been more proud of any group of young men in my life. Get one thing straight, though. We did not lose. We were number one when we came, we fell behind, had some tough things happen, but you overcame them. No one could have wanted to win this one more than I. We didn’t win, but, by God, we did not lose. They’re crying about a tie, trying to detract from your efforts. They’re trying to make it come out a win. Well, don’t you believe it. Their season is over. They can’t go anywhere. It’s all over and we’re still Number One. Time will prove everything that has happened here today.”

Despite the widespread criticism that Parseghian accurately foresaw, including Dan Jenkins of Sports Illustrated writing that the Irish “tied one for the Gipper,” the AP rankings remained No.1 ahead of Michigan State. But there was also the issue of No. 3 Alabama, which some believe had its best team yet under Paul W. “Bear” Bryant. The Crimson Tide was coming off national championships in 1964 and 1965, was the preseason No. 1 selection, and finished the regular season as the only team with an unblemished record, 10-0.

Alabama was paired against No. 6 Nebraska in the Sugar Bowl and won convincingly, 34-7. But still the Crimson Tide didn’t move up in the polls, and felt it was robbed of its place in history as the first program to win three consecutive national titles.

What can’t be measured was the impact civil rights had on the voting. At the time, Alabama, the state, was the focal point of the national debate, and tensions were at an all-time high. The football team had yet to integrate, with Bryant publicly saying the time wasn’t right yet while helping some standout black athletes land at other top programs, including, ironically, Michigan State and his friend Duffy Daugherty. Alabama yielded only 37 points the entire season and five opponents failed to score, including LSU (21-0), and Auburn (34-0).

As for his reaction to the Notre Dame-Michigan State tie, Bryant said: “At Alabama, we teach our men to win.” Meanwhile, Daugherty became an advocate for college football having a playoff, a position he maintained for the rest of his life.