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June 24, 2013

Countdown to Labor Day: 70

The countdown to the start of the 2013 season is under way, as Pitt is 70 days away from its Labor Day opener against Florida State at Heinz Field. Panther-Lair.com is counting down the days until the biggest season opener in recent memory.

Today's number is 70, so we're looking at the origins of one of Pitt's greatest claim.

One of the great traditions of college football has always been debate, and the center of the debate has almost always been the national championship. So unclear was the situation that, prior to 1998, when the BCS system was put in place and a national champion was decided by the BCS championship game - although that didn't end all debate - the top team each season was often referred to as the "mythical national champion" due to the diverging opinions.

Even some schools have trouble keeping track of how many national championships they intend to claim.

For Pitt, the number that is always cited is nine:

1915, 1916, 1918, 1929, 1931, 1934, 1936, 1937, 1976.

(To the earlier point about debate: Cornell also claims a national championship in 1915, Army claims one in 1916, Michigan claims one in 1918, Notre Dame claims one in 1929, USC claims one in 1931, Alabama and Minnesota both claim national championships in 1934, Minnesota claims another one in 1936, and Cal claims one in 1937. Only 1976 stands as Pitt's championship with no other claims laid to it.)

So how did Pitt come up with those years as "claim-able" national championships? Since the sport began in the 1800's, there have been dozens of selectors, whether they were math-based, poll-based, or research-based designations.

But in 1970, Sports Illustrated set out to create a formal list of college football national champions as recognized by major selectors. It was a considerable undertaking, but SI set forth the following group of "recognized authorities:"

Associated Press (1936-present)
Parke H. Davis Rating (1889-1935)
Dickinson System (1924-40)
Dunkel System (1929-present)
Football Writers Associate of America (1954-present)
Helms First Interstate Bank Athletic Foundation (1889-1982)
Illustrated Football Annual (1924-41)
Litkenhous System (1934-84)
National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame (1959-95)
The Football Thesaurus (1927-58)
United Press International (1950-95)
Williamson System (1932-63)
The Bowl Championship Series (1998-present)

Pitt derives its nine claimed national championships from the resulting list.

1915 - Davis
1916 - Unanimous
1918 - Unanimous
1929 - Davis
1931 - Davis
1934 - Davis
1936 - Illustrated Football Annual, The Football Thesaurus
1937 - Associated Press, Dickinson System, Litkenhous System, Illustrated Football Annual, The Football Thesaurus, Williams System
1976 - Unanimous

(In 1916, where Pitt claims a unanimous national championship, the Parke H. Davis Rating had Pitt and Army as co-champions.)

And that's how Pitt came to its place as a nine-time national champion. According to the recognized championships in the SI list, the Panthers' nine titles rank sixth in college football history. Notre Dame leads with 17, followed by USC, Yale and Alabama with 13, and then Princeton with 12.

Previous entries in the Countdown

Countdown: 71 - A good player in a bad era
Countdown: 72 - An All-American who became a dentist
Countdown: 73 - May Day
Countdown: 74 - A "groundwork" season
Countdown: 75 - A successful DL-to-OL move
Countdown: 76 - The 1976 national championship
Countdown: 77 - The last three-sport athletes
Countdown: 78 - An underrated pro
Countdown: 79 - One of the best
Countdown: 80 - The greatest non-championship team in Pitt history
Countdown: 81 - A crushing end to a great season
Countdown: 82 - The dawn of the Foge Era
Countdown: 83 - The most accurate kicker in Pitt history
Countdown: 84 - Pitt in the Pro Bowl
Countdown: 85 - A play that will never be matched
Countdown: 86 - A long but unfulfilled play
Countdown: 87 - The final year of Ironhead
Countdown: 88 - Pitt's All-American tradition
Countdown: 89 - Iron Mike
Countdown: 90 - The four 9-0's
Countdown: 91 - The two longest plays in Pitt history
Countdown: 92 - The senior year of the most productive QB in Pitt history
Countdown: 93 - The only 9-3 season in Pitt history
Countdown: 94 - The statistical oddity of 1994
Countdown: 95 - A relentless player and his dominant season
Countdown: 96 - The biggest win in Pitt history
Countdown: 97 - A dominant current Panther
Countdown: 98 - A transition year
Countdown: 99 - Hugh Green
Countdown: 100 - A look at Pitt in 1913

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