What is an unclaimed national championship?

The greatest prize in college football is a national championship. Each year two teams face off in the national championship game to determine the winner.

Though this wasn’t always the case, previously teams would put in claims to be named the national champion of college football based on their regular-season records.

When a team did not put in a claim but was named a national champion by computer rankings, polls, or math systems they were awarded an unclaimed national championship.

Throughout the history of college football, there have been many instances in which teams were awarded unclaimed national championships.

It only took one ranking system or poll to award the national championship to a team.

What is a claimed national championship?

football player in tears after losing championship game

Now that you know what an unclaimed national championship is in football you may be wondering what a claimed one is.

Just as a team may fail to put a claim in and win a national championship they may also put in a claim after any season.

If a team claims a national championship and is named a champion by a ranking, poll, or computer system they will get a claimed national championship.

For the most part, these claimed national championships are going to be accurate but oftentimes they can be off base.

For example, in 1941 Alabama went 9-2 losing two games in the SEC. Despite being ranked 20th in the AP poll one ranking system had them as the top team in the country.

Alabama put in a claim and since one ranking system had them as champions they received a claimed national title.

Now when Alabama references how many national championships they have won this claimed national championship will be included.

This sort of inaccurate championship still awarding goes on to this day. In 2017 UCF had an incredible undefeated season but was not quite good enough to make the national championship game.

Clemson went on to beat Alabama in that game to win college football’s greatest prize.

Despite this, the Nevada Dental Association named UCF the national champs. UCF went ahead and accepted this claim and now counts 2007 as a claimed national championship.

Why do teams leave national titles unclaimed?

Now that you have a solid understanding of claimed and unclaimed championships you may be wondering why some teams fail to claim these wins.

One of the main reasons that a team may fail to claim a title in college football is because the sources awarding the championship aren’t well recognized.

As we stated earlier the Nevada Dental Association was the one that awarded UCF with their 2017 national championship.

This example was claimed but this is not always going to be the case. Some larger more established schools are more likely to claim wins from respectable football sources.

If the major ranking and polling systems are not naming a team the champion the school may just accept these rankings. If one minor source states that the team was number one this may not be enough for a team to put forth a claim.

Another reason teams may not claim titles is that the polls are done in retrograde. Some teams choose to claim titles long after the season has concluded.

Oftentimes polls and rankings will be done years after the season has been completed. Once given a number one ranking in the country teams may take this opportunity to claim their title.

Other teams may not want the criticism of claiming a title that had occurred many years earlier. For this reason, teams may decide to leave their national title unclaimed.

Claimed vs unclaimed national championship

A claimed national championship is awarded when a team puts in a claim to be a national champion and is named champion by a ranking, poll, or computer system. An unclaimed national championship is awarded if a team does not put in a claim but is named champion anyways.

Nowadays national champions are usually decided by the team which succeeds in the college football playoffs.

Though before playoffs were used in college ball teams would simply attempt to be ranked number one in the nation by the time the season ended.


I hope you enjoyed this guide to unclaimed national championships in football.

In essence, an unclaimed national championship is one that has been awarded to the team yet the team has not claimed to win it themselves.

Due to a large number of ranking systems out there it is common for multiple teams to be named champions of college football.

If you enjoyed this article you may want to see our guides on what a redshirt senior is or if you can play in the NFL without going to college.

1 thought on “What is an unclaimed national championship?”

  1. Thank you for the explanation.
    P.S. Nevada Dental Assn voting on CFB champion? WTF/LOL


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