Best All-Time NCAA College Football Program

Who has the best all-time NCAA college football program? Your answer to that question probably has more to do with the region of the country you hail from than anything else.

Alabama, Notre Dame, USC, Michigan, Ohio State, even Yale are often discussed as possibly having the best all-time NCAA college football program. [Yale might surprise you. If so, check out SEC vs Ivy League football.]

Some of the relatively objective factors to consider include:

  • All-Time Win-Loss Record
  • Number of Championships won
  • The caliber of a program's coaches
  • The quality of a program's players
  • The statistical dominance of its teams
  • The amount of fan support for the program
  • A program's tradition, history, culture, etc.
  • Impact of program on fans and community

After considering all the above factors (and others), we think the University of Alabama undoubtedly has the best all-time NCAA college football program.

Obviously we are biased. But, so is everyone. In fact, if you don't have a bias towards some college football team, or conference, then you obviously are not interested in (or know anything about) college football.

So, is as qualified as anyone to say who has the best all-time NCAA college football program.

And, truly, we think we have the facts on our side.

1922 Alabama team that upset the University of Pennsylvania

1922 Alabama team that stunned the University of Pennsylvania by beating them at Penn, 9-7. Sportswriters throughout the South called the Alabama win as a long delayed reckoning for the South's loss at Gettysburg.

Let's start with all-time wins.

Alabama comes in 8th (Michigan, Texas, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State and Oklahoma have all won more). Actually, in the AP era (since 1936), the OKLAHOMA SOONERS have the most wins.

But, Alabama's all-time record of 802-319-43 was accomplished in fewer years and fewer games than almost all the teams ahead of them.

Poll rankings? Again, this is largely related to how long the programs have been around. In number of times ranked in the AP pre-season poll, Alabama comes in 7th. Ohio State leads the pack in this category with 55 all-time appearances in the pre-season AP College Football Poll.

How bout National Championships?

The fact is that Alabama has arguably won as many college football National Championships as anyone. Before the advent of the BCS, college football championships were decided by voting in multiple polls. So, the further back you go, the more difficult it is to name only one team as the champion as there often were several major polls, each naming a different national champion.

Depending on which poll you rely on; Alabama, USC, and Notre Dame all have between 10 and 12 college football national championships (fewer official NC's; see pdf below). The Crimson Tide can legitimately lay claim to NCAA Football National Championships in 1925, 1926, 1930, 1934, 1941, 1961, 1964, 1965, 1973, 1978, 1979, 1992, 2009 and 2011 (some of these were "unofficial"; some "retroactive".) You can read a critical review of Alabama's claim to 11 NC's at Alabama National Championship Myths. Here's more about the significance of Bama's latest (and current) National Championship.

Frankly, the whole issue of which team should be credited with which National Championship is a mess. You can read much more about that at Top All-Time NCAA College Football National Championship Conference or by downloading this pdf.

UPDATE: Alabama has added another National Championship to its portfolio with its 2010 BCS Championship win over Texas!!


Truthfully, Notre Dame is probably still #1 in all time NC's. And, a good case for Notre Dame as the best college football program ever is made by Dan's submission below at Alabama Football History is Overrated and also at Notre Dame is the Greatest All Time CFB Program.

But, in the end, we think Alabama has the best all-time NCAA college football program. Why?

First, we see Bama as being roughly equivalent to Notre Dame and USC in total national championships. And when you consider that Alabama has done what it has done in the toughest college football conference -- those wins are simply worth more.

How about bowl game appearances?

The Crimson Tide has appeared in 55 Bowl games, winning 31 of them through the 2007 season. This is more bowl appearances and bowl wins than any other NCAA football program.

How bout conference championships?

Bama has more than anyone in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) with 21 all-time. And, of course, the caliber of SEC Football is the best.

Who has won the most Team Stats Titles? The pdf shows the answer is Oklahoma; with Alabama coming in 5th.

Johnny Mack scoring touchdown in 1926 Rose Bowl

Alabama's Johnny Mack running for his second touchdown in the Crimson Tide's 20-19 upset win over the Washington Huskies in the New Years Day 1926 Rose Bowl. Alabama's win shocked the college football world; some have called this game the most important in Southern football history. Thanks to Historic Photos of University of Alabama Football for this picture (and the one above). You can purchase the book at follows right.

How about coaches and players?

Alabama is also the top all-time NCAA college football team because of the coaches and players that have built the foundation of the football program over the years.

As discussed at Best All-Time NCAA College Football Coach Alabama's Paul "Bear" Bryant was the best college football coach ever.

As for great players, Alabama has had 92 First-Team All-Americans. To date, 19 former Tide coaches and players have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. They include halfback, Johnny Mack Brown (1923-25) and linebacker, Cornelius Bennett (1983-86). Many former Alabama players went on to have great NFL careers. In fact, more quarterbacks from the University of Alabama have won the Super Bowl than QB's from any other school.

And, we haven't even talked about the intangibles that Alabama football brings to the table. The unmatched college football culture and tradition in Alabama or the biggest all-time college football rivalry with Auburn.

No, in the end, Alabama is the clear choice for the Best All-Time NCAA College Football Program. That's our "objective" opinion.

To read more about Alabama football and other great SEC football programs, see All-Time Best SEC Football College.

Cast your vote at this link for the Top All-Time SEC Football Team.

Here's some info about a Great Early College Football History Book.

You can read about other great college sports programs at:

Here's an article about 2012 - 2013 SEC Bowl Season Recap.

Best All-Time NCAA College Football Program
Best All-Time NCAA College Football Program
Best All-Time NCAA College Football Program

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By Mo Johnson, Copyright © 2006-2017

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