Confusion and ridicule were abound on social media Thursday as wording on Auburn athletics’ official website supposedly indicated that Auburn was claiming three more national championships, in addition to the two (1957, 2010) that it had previously claimed.
In a statement made available to The Auburn Plainsman Saturday afternoon, Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs clarified the situation, stating that no national championships had been formally claimed and that the issue was still up for discussion amongst the Auburn Family.
"Information shared across social media platforms is often inaccurate or incomplete. To the subject of National Champions, the NCAA record book has Auburn documented as National Champions in 2010, 1993, 1983, 1957 and 1913 (Source: NCAA Record Book). While Auburn does not currently formally recognize additional national champions other than 1957 and 2010, the subject of doing so is still open for consideration and discussion among the Auburn Family regarding how we choose to recognize the great accomplishments of our student athletes. That being said, Auburn will never claim anything we did not earn. To that, the discussion is based solely on how to formally acknowledge the honor and National Champion distinction that has been previously documented and bestowed upon these teams in the NCAA Record Book."
Here is the statement from the Auburn athletics’ website:
“The NCAA recognizes Auburn as National Champions in 2010, 1993, 1983, 1957 and 1913.”
Though it is not the clearest wording, Auburn has not formally claimed national championships in 1993, 1983 and 1913; it is merely pointing out that the FBS record book recognizes Auburn was selected as national champion in those years by various services.
Auburn’s 1913 team, which went 8-0, was selected as national champion retroactively by the Billingsley computer formula.
The 1983 team, which controversially finished No. 3 in the Associated Press rankings after going 11-1 and winning the Sugar Bowl, was selected by The New York Times as national champion and then retroactively selected by the Billingsley and Sagarin computer formulas, among others.
Auburn’s 1993 team, which went undefeated but was ineligible for postseason play due to NCAA probation, was retroactively selected as a split-national champion by the National Championship Foundation.
Retroactively claiming national championships is nothing new in the college football world.
Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Alabama and USC have all retroactively added championships to their record books in recent seasons.
College football’s murky and disorganized early years have made it relatively easy for programs to retroactively claim titles.
The lack of a central body to select a national champion meant individual organizations could select their own champions, even if they differed from the champions selected by other organizations.
“What you don’t want to do is make somebody think you’re making something up,” Jacobs told Kevin Scarbinsky of al.com. “But if other schools are claiming their championships, why shouldn’t we claim ours?”
Jacobs has made his feelings clear about how he thinks Auburn should handle the issue.
“I think we should go back and claim them,” Jacobs said. “I think we should count our national championships just as our peers do.”
For Jacobs, it’s a matter of respecting and honoring the accomplishments of the top teams in Auburn football history.
“We’re so competitive. We compare ourselves to other schools,” Jacobs told Bryan Matthews of 247sports. “If they’re counting something that we’re not counting, and we’re on equal footing, wouldn’t it be wise to count it?”