Update, May 29: Auburn wasn't officially claiming those three old titles it appeared to be claiming. But it might, athletic director Jay Jacobs says.
A committee is scheduled to meet in June to discuss the potential of recognizing more than the two titles it already claims for the undefeated seasons in 1957 and 2010. The committee ... has already sought feedback from former players, coaches and fans.
Update, May 16: Auburn seemed to have added 1913, 1983 and 1993 to its list of claimed titles, apparently as of April 24. But Auburn beat writers report the school still officially only claims two. We've reached out to Auburn for clarification.
"The NCAA recognizes Auburn as National Champions in 2010, 1993, 1983, 1957 and 1913," the school's website generously claims, above the following image (these links has since been updated with a link to the NCAA's FBS record book):
The NCAA's list of noted selectors does not include Auburn for any of the three seasons, but the FBS record book does list Auburn as one of multiple "national poll champions" in each of those three years. Those "polls" are the retroactive Billingsley computer formula, the retroactive National Championship Foundation (which split its 1993 No. 1 spot between Auburn and three other teams), something called Football Research, something called FACT, and the retroactive Sagarin computer formula, along with the New York Times' crowning of Auburn in 1983.
Basically, Auburn wants you to know that the NCAA knows of selectors (of varied merit) who chose Auburn, but it's not actually claiming those titles for itself, despite how the webpage in question looks. Auburn fans are confused, and SEC fans are amused.
Original, January 31, 2014: Upon entering the SEC, Texas A&M decided to retroactively award itself a pair of national championships from nearly a century prior, one of which was based on the computer formula of a man who wasn't even alive during the season in question. Computers were not around at the time, either.
Other schools have slipped ages-old banners onto their stadiums and hoped no one would notice -- Ole Miss is showing off trophies that literally do not exist -- and A&M's was especially bold, but when in Rome ...
The latest school to consider fluffing its numbers is Auburn, which has the 1957 and 2010 titles but might tack on the 1913, 1983, and 1993. Auburn Undercover quotes athletic director Jay Jacobs as saying he'd like to throw in the 2004 as well, but that one's not on the list. Auburn didn't play in the BCS Championship in 2004, as you've been reminded.
Chicago and Harvard also lay claim to the 1913, with Harvard being named the champion by more noteworthy polls and analysts (dubbed "selectors" in the lingo of college football history) than Auburn was.
You could make a good case that college football media was still in the throes of Northeast bias and ignored Southern teams, as hilarious as that sounds today. The unbeaten SIAA (proto-SEC) champion outscored its opponents 224–13 and didn't give up a point until November 15. The out-of-conference schedule included a trip to Clemson. Nobody would get too worked up if Auburn added the 1913, but there would be jokes.
Florida State won nearly every selector in 1993, including the AP, FWAA, New York Times, UPI, and both USA Today polls. Auburn didn't even outright win the National Championship Foundation's crown, as the Tigers split that one with three other teams. They went undefeated in the SEC, but didn't play in the SEC Championship or a bowl, due to NCAA sanctions. "Nutshell Sports and Sparks Achievement" are things listed as having crowned the 1993 Tigers.
That Auburn players were punished for the previous coaching staff's rule-breaking is unforgivable. But claiming 1993 over perhaps the best Florida State team ever would be worthy of eternal mockery.
Meet the Bag Man
Meet the Bag Man
And here's the big one. The Tigers have a case for claiming 1983.
Even though Miami won the AP, FWAA, UPI, and USA Today and Nebraska won more total selectors than Auburn did, all three teams finished with one loss. Multiple outlets considered Auburn the best.
Miami beat three teams ranked in the final AP poll; Auburn beat four. The Tigers had the better loss -- Auburn's was to a Texas team that came within a field goal of going unbeaten, and Texas' only loss was to a Georgia team that Auburn had beaten, while Miami fell to Florida by 25 points. And to stay on that, Auburn beat Florida.
The SRS formula ranks Auburn No. 1, Miami No. 4. Auburn played one of the toughest schedules in college football history. The Tigers ranked ahead of the Canes in the AP poll until the end of the season, when Miami beat No. 1 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl by one point (when Huskers coach Tom Osborne elected to go for two and the win despite needing only a tie to clinch the title) and somehow vaulted from No. 5 to No. 1.
Claiming 1983 wouldn't raise a fuss outside of Miami (Nebraska certainly doesn't claim it). But there would still be jokes.
Get to claimin'
But there's precedent for all this, as plenty of schools claim disputed titles. And titles that actually aren't disputed, as Ole Miss does by claiming the 1962 over USC despite winning far fewer major selectors.
"We're so competitive. We compare ourselves to other schools," Jacobs told Auburn Undercover. "If they're counting something that we're not counting, and we're on equal footing, wouldn't it be wise to count it?"
By combining some numbers from Wikipedia's well-researched database on the matter, here are the championships available for claiming for each school, if any of them find themselves so inclined. Most of the unclaimed titles are somewhat spurious for one reason or another, but that's only if you're scared of winnin'.
And, yes, Princeton media guides claim 28 national championships, which includes that time the Tigers went 1-0 in 1870. Top that, SEC.
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Stop being so modest, Notre Dame.