10 College Football Powerhouses that fell from glory

April 25, 2012

Notre Dame has been longing to return to greatness.

The popularity of professional football is often credited to its possession of the greatest level of parity among teams of any of the major sports. Any year could be the year for any team to make a deep run into the playoffs. College football, on the other hand, does not enjoy such a reputation. The rankings might be mixed every year, but it always seems to be the same handful of schools that dominate. And when a team becomes a contender, they tend to stay that way. Still, sometimes the stars align in such a way that a great program descends into mediocrity and can’t find its way back. These 10 former powerhouses can attest to the old adage that all glory is fleeting.

1. Notre Dame

No compilation of the greatest college sports dynasties would be complete without mentioning the Fighting Irish at least once. Between 1946 and 1949, the program won three national championships with an incredible 36-0-2 record. This was after winning six national titles from 1919-1930. From 1964 to 1988 they would win four more trophies. It’s now been 24 years and counting since the storied team has won a title. There have been bad losses at home, coaches fired after middling seasons, and repeated failures to make bowl games. Students and fans continue to look for the light at the end of the tunnel.

2. Yale

Yale’s glory days are so far behind them it surprises many people to hear they were ever a dominant force in college football. But it’s safe to say 26 national titles in 38 years (1872-1909) qualify a team as a powerhouse. So what happened? For one thing, joining the Ivy League meant no athletic scholarships, which meant a drop-off in talent. In 1981, the league was kicked out of Division 1-A, further hurting recruiting. Although Yale has won its conference at least once a decade since 1956, it has been 85 years since it stood atop the college football world.

3. Southern Methodist University

Sanctions against college football programs dot the landscape today, but no school has ever been punished as severely as SMU in 1987. The ’80s had seen the Mustangs rise to prominence they had not enjoyed since winning the national championship in 1935. They won their second title in 1982 and went 55-14-1 from 1980-1985. And then came the news of years of payments to players from boosters, and the NCAA dropped the “death penalty” on the program: no football in 1987. The school then chose to cancel the next season as well. The Mustangs would not reach another bowl game until 2009, its first glimpse of recovery in 22 years.

4. Nebraska

Back-to-back national titles in 1970 and 1971 cemented the Cornhuskers into powerhouse status. In 1973, coach Tom Osborne took over and the team won at least nine games in every one of his 25 seasons there, with national championships in ’94, ’95, and ’97. After Osborne left, the program held on until 2002, then the slide began. The 2004 season was the team’s first losing one in 43 years. In 2007, the Huskers lost five consecutive games for the first time in 49 years. After firing their coach and hiring Bo Pelini, NU has finished 10-4 and 9-4 in two years, and commentators are beginning to wonder if a return to former glory could be on the horizon for one of the winningest programs in history.

5. Miami

Until the mid-2000s, The U was a powerhouse of college football. In a seven-year stretch from 1986 to 1992, the Hurricanes reached the national championship game five times, winning three times, and brought home two Heismans. Another dynasty was born in 2000, as the ‘Canes won 34 straight games with a title in 2001. But since a 2004 Peach Bowl victory over Florida, Miami has struggled, and not just with players’ on-field performance. In 2006 Coach Larry Coker was fired after a 6-6 season that included a brawl with FIU, a player choking a woman, and two players shooting at people. And the future looks cloudy: recent NCAA violations have brought the phrase “death penalty” back into college football discussions.

6. Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Panthers of the modern era are not a bad team; they made seven bowl games in the 2000s. It’s just that they were once so successful, and then they fell off the map for 40 years. Beginning in 1910, they won at least a share of 13 national titles in 29 seasons, with winnings records in 27 of those seasons. But from 1938 to 1972, they recorded 22 losing seasons and only attended two bowl games. They turned it around in 1973 and won a national championship in ’76, and stayed ranked nearly every year until 1990, when they fell off the map for the entire decade, recording just one winning season. The ’76 title was their last since.

7. Texas A&M

In the 1917 and 1919 seasons, the Aggie defense gave up zero points. The Aggies went undefeated again in 1927 and claimed their one national championship in 1939. Although never duplicating the feat, the team secured a steady stream of conference titles after that, winning 12 times after 1939, including three-peats from 1985-1987 and 1991-1993. But three bowl wins in the next 12 years would be all they had to hang their hats on. The 2010 season marked the first time they finished a season ranked in the Top 25 since 1999. The mighty “Wrecking Crew” (as the defense came to be called in the ’80s) became one of the consistently worst in the country, and now the Aggies are leaving the Big 12 having not won their conference in 14 years.

8. Florida State

The 2011 Champs Sports Bowl was like a game out of the sports annuls of yesteryear. Like their opponent Notre Dame, FSU was trying to gain a foothold from which to climb back to its former glory. The ’80s and ’90s were the heyday for the Seminoles. They won national championships in 1993 and 1999, and won every ACC conference title from 1992 to 2000. But after going 8-5 in 2005, the Seminoles went 2-6 and 0-6 the next two years. The team hasn’t won 11 games in 12 years, but FSU faithful hope Doak Stadium will once again be rocking in 2012 as the ‘Noles chase another title.

9. Michigan

Michigan’s legacy of football greatness was rolling right along before the kickoff to the 2007 season. This was the school that had claimed 11 national championships and 42 conference titles in its storied history. Then they lost to Appalachian State at home in the opener. Then they got pummeled by Oregon. They salvaged the season and won their bowl game, but then they got a new coach who overhauled the offense. The result was a 3-9 record, the Wolverines’ first losing season in 41 years, followed by another losing season the next year. A 7-5 record in 2010 was not enough to save the coach’s job. The 10-2 record of last year was promising, but long-time Michigan fans are still awaiting the school’s first national title since 1997.

10. Fordham University

The term “Ivy League” was coined as a derogatory way to separate Columbia and Princeton from the powerhouse that was Fordham University in the 1930s. A perennially highly-ranked team that won a national title in 1929, the Rams steamrolled opponents on the strength of their “Seven Blocks of Granite,” as the offensive and defensive lines were collectively nicknamed. (Legendary coach Vince Lombardi was one of these blocks.) In 1937 the team went undefeated and only surrendered 16 points on the season. In 1954, the team shuttered its football program; they later reformed it as a member of the Football Championship Subdivision. Although they have had success there, the glory of a Division I championship is now just a memory.

Provided by: http://www.onlinecolleges.net/

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