Who has the most ncaa football championships ? College football is quite simply American football played by student athletes fielded by American universities, colleges, and military academies. And since no official minor league farm organizations exist in American football, college football is considered the second tier of American football in the United States.
In other words, collegiate football is one step below professional football, and one step above high school competition.
And while in over 100 years of college football, there have only been 10 teams with six or more national championship titles, some of these names are surprising, while others are rather familiar.
A somewhat surprising one: the University of Minnesota, who sit in 10th place, with the Golden Gophers possessing a total of six championships. A more familiar one: Yale University, whose Bulldogs have won the most number of championship titles, to date.
What Conference Claims the Most National Championships?
The Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) is composed of 11 different conferences, each of which have between 10 and 14 teams. Here is how each of those conferences have performed in the national championship.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the ACC made a big impact, winning 40% of national championships. Since then, the SEC has dominated, winning over 60% of national titles.Note Reference
The Southeastern Conference (SEC), home to the Alabama Crimson Tide (13 championships), the LSU Tigers (4 championships), the Florida Gators (3 championships), and other championship winners has collected 30 titles since 1936.Note Reference
The SEC also has the most teams to receive a national title (9), followed closely by the Big Ten (8) and the ACC (6).Note Reference
Five conferences — the Sun Belt, the Mid-Atlantic Conference, Conference-USA, the Mountain West Conference, and the AmericanConference — have yet to win a national title.Note Reference
FBS Independent is also on the leaderboard with nine titles from Notre Dame, two from Army, and one from Brigham Young University.Note Reference
Conferences with the Most National Titles
Bar chart with 6 bars.
Bar chart ranking the college football conferences with the most national championship titles.
View as data table, Conferences with the Most National Titles
The chart has 1 X axis displaying categories.
The chart has 1 Y axis displaying Number of Championships. Data ranges from 10 to 30.
Who Has the Most Wins in College Football?
Winning the national championship is the highest honor in college football, and having the most wins in history is no small feat. Beyond national titles, these are the teams that have won the most games in the history of the sport, both by total number of wins and by win-percentage.
Most Wins in College Football
Michigan — which ranks fourth in the country for overall win-percentage — has won the most games in college football. The team with the next-most wins, the Ohio State Buckeyes, trailing by 36.Note Reference
Tennessee, a contender in the SEC, does not rank in the top 10 for win-percentage, but does have one of the highest number of wins in the country, with 867 wins to their name.Note Reference
Four of the top 11 teams with the highest number of wins are members of the Big Ten (Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, and Nebraska).Note Reference
The Georgia Bulldogs, back-to-back champions in 2022 and 2023, have collected 867 wins in the history of their program, tied with the University of Tennessee and the University of Southern California.Note Reference
College Football Winners Throughout the Decades
Alabama has dominated three of the last seven decades by number of wins and two of the last seven decades by percentage of wins.Note Reference
Oklahoma has also been a solid contender throughout the decades, racking up most overall wins in one decade and the highest percentage of wins over two decades.Note Reference
Marshall, a member of the Sun Belt Conference out of Huntington, West Virginia, rocked the 1990s, accumulating more overall wins than any other football teams in the NCAA.Note Reference
Boise State, a current member of the Mountain-West Conference, had the highest number of wins and highest win-percentage in the 2000s, right after joining Division 1A, now known as the FBS, in 1996.Note Reference
Most College Football Championships
When it comes to counting the number of national championships, there are several ways to look at it. But, for the most part, college football fans consider two main classifications: most national championships collected since the sport’s inception and most championships since 1936, or the AP Poll era.
Since the Beginning
Yale University has received the most national titles in all of college football history, winning 18 since their first in 1874. Their most recent win was nearly a century ago in 1927.
Out of the top 10 college football teams with the most national championships, three are Ivy League members.Note Reference
The top 10 teams account for 71% of all national titles won in college football.Note Reference
Since 1869, only 47 different teams have been crowned as national champions
From 1936 On
Many college football fans consider the start of the AP Poll era to be the true beginning of college football.
Since the AP Poll made its debut, Alabama has won the most national championships, with 13 titles.Note Reference
Alabama has won just under half of the last 13 national titles, winning in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017, and 2020.Note Reference
The top five winners have accounted for 42 titles, which is half of all titles received since 1936.Note Reference
Six conferences are represented in top national championship recipients, but the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and the Big Ten have each earned three titles during the AP Poll era.Note Reference
The Process of Winning a College Football National Championship
While Alabama is often considered the most successful college football program, the Princeton Tigers have the most college football championships in the history of the sport. The Tigers were credited as the original college football national champions, sharing the 1869 title with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
Between 1869 and 1935, Princeton and Yale were at the pinnacle of college football. As a result, the record books are etched with the names of the two schools. Between them, they are credited with 55 college football national championships. Even when the poll era signaled a change in college football in 1936, Princeton still claimed a title in 1950.
Herein lies the issue with tabulating the number of college football national championships each program has. With multiple polls and selectors, the honor of being named the national champion has become a heavily disputed affair. The most recent example of this is the 2017 UCF Knights, who claimed a national championship following an undefeated season.
With the NCAA not officially crowning a national champion for college football, the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) was created in 1998 to crown a national champion. The mathematical process created a one-off game between the two top-ranked teams, with the winner crowned national champion.
The College Football Playoff Format
However, that format proved unsatisfactory to fans and programs alike. Under the BCS format, it was almost impossible for teams outside of the established elite conferences to compete for a national championship. As a result, the BCS was disbanded and replaced with the College Football Playoff in the 2014 college football season.
Under the format, a committee votes on the top four teams in the nation. Subsequently, those teams compete in two semifinals, with the winners advancing to the CFP National Championship. The winner of that game wears the crown as the college football national champion for that season.
While the format was meant to allow “smaller programs” the opportunity to compete for a national championship, it has taken until this season for a team outside of the Power Five to permeate the college football elite. The Cincinnati Bearcats are competing for their first college football national championship following their 13-0 campaign in the 2021 season.
Although Princeton lays claim to the most college football national championships, Alabama leads the way since the introduction of the poll system in 1936. Whether the AP poll, BCS, or College Football Playoff, the Crimson Tide has won 13 national championships. With three titles, Nick Saban’s team was the most successful team of the BCS era. Furthermore, they’ve won the most college football titles under the current format.
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