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How many titles has Bama won? 16 or 12, depending on whom you ask

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Clemson has one. That much is for certain. Alabama? That's in the eye of the beholder.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Monday night's offers both Alabama and Clemson a chance to add to their national championship count. This year's title game (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) should be a great time.

One thing's for certain: if Clemson wins, it'll give the Tigers their second national title. The only other one came in 1981, when the Tigers went 12-0. There's no dispute about this.

For Alabama, how many titles depends on whom you ask. If you ask the university, it'll tell you last year's was the Crimson Tide's 16th national championship, the most among major programs, although third behind Princeton (26) and Yale (18).

But if you ask other folks, the numbers get a little murkier. Here's everything in the discussion:

Alabama's claimed national championships

Year

Polling organization

1925

Football Annual, Helms Athletic Foundation

1926

Football Annual, Helms Athletic Foundation

1930

Spalding's Football Guide

1934

The Football Thesaurus, Dunkel Index,

1941

Deke Houlgate System, The Football Thesaurus, Dunkel Index

1961

AP, UPI

1964

AP, UPI

1965

AP

1973

UPI

1978

AP

1979

AP, UPI

1992

AP, Coaches Poll

2009

BCS, AP

2011

BCS, AP

2012

BCS, AP

2015

Playoff

Things cleared up a bit as the Associated Press and United Press International (which eventually became the USA Today Coaches Poll) polls were instituted in the 1940s, but as you can see, there are a lot of organizations you probably haven't heard of on that list.

Outfits like the Houlgate System or Dunkel Index would award retroactive titles to past seasons based on formulas and evaluations. These and other selectors are granted some validity by the NCAA (which doesn't award an official championship in FBS football, as it does in other sports), and recognized in the official NCAA record book. T

Still, the claims get a little bit out there. The 1941 Crimson Tide went 8-2, including a loss to SEC champion Mississippi State. Bama didn't even win its own conference that year! What kind of a ridiculous system would vote a team national champion after it failed to even win its own conference?

The big twist to this story came in 1982, when then-Bama sports information director Wayne Atcheson added five national title claims to what was then only six in the Alabama media guide:

"I want to say the right thing here. I made the change because Coach Bryant had these 25 years and six national championships and they were emphasized so much. It was on all the stationery. And when I got there, it was a matter of seeing there were five others (before Bryant) and we should put them all together. It was as simple as that."

If you say Alabama has 12 titles, you're not necessarily wrong, but you're also not necessarily write. Neither is anybody who claims 16. Just like most things in this sport, we all get to argue about it.

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