There once was a Buckeye football coach named Carroll Widdoes. He was born in 1903 in, like Manny Pacquiao, Corazon Aquino, Efren Reyes, and Tim Tebow, the Philippines. He went to Otterbein College, then he became an assistant coach to a young man named Paul Brown at Massillon Washington High School and later at The Ohio State University. When Brown joined the Navy in 1944, Widdoes became the Buckeyes’ head coach. His team went undefeated in his first year (9-0), and went 7-2 in his second year. Then he left and eventually became the coach and athletic director at Ohio University (which will confuse Brady Hoke to no end).
Here’s the thing. Widdoes’ 1944 Buckeye team went undefeated. They beat three teams in the top 20, two in the top 6. They had on their team the pride of Parma Senior High School, Les Horvath, the Heisman Trophy winner that year. They had some of the same players who won the 1942 national championship, including Les Horvath. They also were playing at the same time as Army’s dominant team (which included future Heisman winners Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis), with whom they were retroactively given a share of the title. But Ohio State doesn’t officially claim it.
Well I think we should. Maybe it’s the disappointment of losing the Big Ten Championship this year. Maybe I’m just trying to grasp at something positive. But I think we should claim it. We were undefeated and beat three top teams. The only decent way to compare the teams is not great for us, but it’s not damning. We both played Pittsburgh that year. Army won 69-7, while OSU won 54-19. Plus there’s a little bit of a conspiracy involved. Ohio State’s All-Americans from the 1942 title team Lin Houston and Gene Fekete (and probably others) joined the army and did not play for the Buckeyes in 1944. Now I’m not saying that the Army Black Knights football team started World War II to better their chances in the football world, but…..
There are precedents for claiming retroactively applied titles. All polls and rankings before Frank Dickinson named Stanford champion in 1926 (with the brief exception of Caspar Whitney’s rankings from 1905-1907, each of which crowned Yale champion) were retroactively applied. Here is a list of cases where schools only had retroactively applied titles and they officially claim them:
1926 – Alabama: BR, CFRA, HAF, NCF & PS
1926 – Navy: BS & HS
1927 – Texas A&M: SR
1927 – Georgia: BS & PS
1930 – Alabama: CFRA & SR
1944??? – Ohio State: NCF & SR
1950 – Kentucky: SR
(Polls and systems used in abbreviations above: Billingsley Report, Boand System, College Football Researchers Association, Helms Athletic Foundation, Houlgate System, National Championship Foundation, Poling System, and Sagarin Ratings.)
From 1953 to today, no one has claimed a title when it was only given by retroactively applied polls or rankings. But some SEC schools claim their retroactive titles. Why can’t we?