SEC football teams are expected to win championships. It’s no wonder that out of 14 schools, 10 have combined to win 43 claimed national championships over the years.
But before the dawn of the BCS and College Football Playoff, declaring a national championship was more of an art than a science. There were numerous polls and ratings that declared a No. 1 team, even if only a select few were recognized by the NCAA. At a certain point, it’s up to a team’s own discretion as to whether it claims national championships.
This level of subjectivity has led to multiple teams claiming national championships in a given year. In all, 260 national championships have been claimed in 146 years of college football – nearly two a year. Here are all the SEC programs to claim national championships.
National championships: 16 (1925, 1926, 1930, 1934, 1941, 1961, 1964, 1965, 1973, 1978, 1979, 1992, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015)
The golden standard of modern college football ranks No. 3 all-time in claimed national championships, behind only Princeton and Yale. The Ivy League schools won almost all of their championships before the AP poll emerged in 1936, but Alabama kept the momentum going past that. Nick Saban and Bear Bryant account for a combined 10 uncontested national titles. However, two of Alabama’s titles (1934, 1941) are not recognized by the NCAA.
National championships: 6 (1938, 1940, 1950, 1951, 1967, 1998)
Tennessee football starts and ends with one name: Neyland. “The General” Robert Neyland led the Volunteers to four national championships in three different stints at the school. However, only one of his championships is recognized by the NCAA. Additionally, Tennessee won the consensus 1998 national championship under Phillip Fulmer.
National championships: 5 (1927, 1942, 1946, 1968, 1980)
How many championships has Georgia won? It depends who you ask. The Bulldogs classify two of their titles as consensus: 1942 and 1980. However, the school still separately acknowledges the other three seasons being picked by other polls. The most well-known of these teams is the 1980 squad, on which Herschel Walker broke the freshman record books.
National championships: 3 (1996, 2006, 2008)
Unlike most of the teams on this list, all of Florida’s championships came during the modern era. For that reason, all three titles are recognized by the NCAA. The first came in 1996, under legendary coach Steve Spurrier and College Football Hall of Fame member Danny Wuerffel. The latter two came not so long ago under Urban Meyer. The Gators hope Jim McElwain can lead Florida back to national prominence once again.
National championships: 3 (1958, 2003, 2007)
The Tigers’ 1958 national championship team was one of the dominant teams in SEC history, outscoring teams by a combined 229 points en route to a No. 1 ranking in the AP and Coaches polls. After that year, it was a 45-year wait before Nick Saban led LSU to the title. A few years after Saban left, Les Miles also took the Tigers to another national championship. Miles is one of only four LSU coaches to ever lead the Tigers to multiple SEC championships.
National championships: 3 (1959, 1960, 1962)
The Rebels might only have one NCAA recognized national championship, but Ole Miss had one of college football’s most dominant stretches at the beginning of the 1960s. The 1959 and 1962 championships were accepted retroactively, but the 1960 championship was acknowledged by the FWAA and the NCAA. Ole Miss went 10-0-1, but split honors with the 8-2 Minnesota Gophers.
National championships: 3 (1919, 1927, 1939)
Before the AP poll was officially recognized in 1936 by the NCAA, declaring national champions was like the Wild West. Perhaps no school makes that more obvious than the Aggies. Texas A&M went from being one-time national champs to three-time title winners over the 2012 offseason, when it was painted on the side of the stadium. The NCAA does recognize 1919 as a three-way split for the national championship. However, the 1927 national championship was based off the Sagarin Ratings, a mathematical formula developed much later. To say the least, this is one of the more unique ways to claim a national title.
National championships: 2 (1957, 2010)
Unlike many of the teams on this list, Auburn has multiple national championships it chooses not to flaunt. Instead, the Tigers default to simply recognizing the pair of titles recognized by the NCAA. The 1957 title team went undefeated, and was named national champions by the AP despite not being allowed to participate in a bowl game because of suspension. In recent memory, Cam Newton led the Tigers to a dominant national championship run in 2010. Auburn also has six unclaimed national championships.
National championships: 1 (1964)
Once again, the NCAA’s recognition of national titles before bowl play puts Arkansas’ national championship in a strange position. Alabama was recognized as national champion after going undefeated, but lost in its bowl game. That opened the door for No. 2 Arkansas to be named national champs by the FWAA. Four years later, the AP changed its practices to recognize the national champion only after all bowl games were played.
National championships: 1 (1950)
The Wildcats have a lone national championship. However, Kentucky’s claimed title is the same year as one of Tennessee’s claimed title years. Funnily enough, neither Kentucky nor Tennessee are recognized as the 1950 national champion by the NCAA – that honor goes to Oklahoma. The Sooners’ championship was awarded before bowl season, but Kentucky upset Oklahoma and claims the national championship.