Mythical national championship
||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (December 2010)|
A mythical national championship (sometimes abbreviated MNC) is national championship recognition that is not explicitly competitive. This is often invoked in reference to American college football because the NCAA does not sponsor a playoff-style tournament or recognize official national champions for the Football Bowl Subdivision. The relevant recognition comes from various entities, including coach polls and media ballots, which have attempted to recognize their own national champions.
|“||If there are any Big Ten teams that shoot for a national championship, they're damn fools...You play to win the Big Ten championship, and if you win it and go to the Rose Bowl and win it, then you've had a great season. If they choose to vote you number one, then you're the national champion. But a national champion is a mythical national champion, and I think you guys ought to know that. It's mythical.||”|
"Mythical national champion" is a term used since at least 1921 for a championship won by a NCAA Division I football team, especially for titles won before the current Bowl Championship Series (BCS) system began in 1998. Before the BCS, polls in which coaches and/or sportwriters voted, such as the AP, UPI, and USA Today polls, awarded championships. This led to seasons in which two or even more teams could claim to have won a national championship.
The BCS attempts to eliminate uncertainty by ranking college teams and inviting the top two teams at the end of the regular season to play in a championship game. These teams are determined by the BCS ranking formula, which itself uses a combination of human voter polls and computer rankings. The process of selecting the two best teams for the BCS championship game has, nonetheless, resulted in controversy almost every season of its existence.
The national championship of collegiate basketball that is officially recognized by the main governing body for collegiate athletics in the United States, the NCAA, has been awarded to the champion of an annual national post-season tournament run by the NCAA since 1939. Prior to the advent of national post-season college basketball tournaments, beginning with the NAIA national men's basketball championship in 1937, the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) in 1938 and the NCAA Tournament in 1939, various third-party organizations selected basketball national champions in a manner similar to the selection of national champions for college football described above.
|“||In the 1940's, when the N.C.A.A. tournament was less than 10 years old, the National Invitation Tournament, a saturnalia held in New York at Madison Square Garden by The Metropolitan Intercollegiate Basketball Association, was the most glamorous of the post-season tournaments and generally had the better teams. The winner of the National Invitation Tournament was regarded as more of a national champion than the actual, titular, national champion, or winner of the N.C.A.A. tournament.||”|
Notable among the pre-tournament era selections, and listed in the Official NCAA Men's Basketball Records Book, are those from the Helms Athletic Foundation. The Helms Foundation named a national champion from 1901 to 1982, with its selections from 1901-1941 being awarded retroactively. The Helms champion, for the years in which the NIT and NCAA post-season tournaments were played, matched the winners of the 1938 NIT and 1939 NIT, as well as the winners for all years of the NCAA Tournament except for 1939, 1940, 1944 and 1954.
From 1943 to 1945 during World War II, the American Red Cross sponsored a postseason charity game between each year's NCAA and NIT champions to raise money for the war effort. The NCAA champion prevailed in all three games. On the other hand, in both 1944 and 1949, the NCAA champion suffered elimination in the NIT before going on to win the NCAA. 
In the early years of the two tournaments, the NIT was more highly regarded. In 1950, City College of New York won both the NIT and the NCAA tournaments in the same season, coincidentally defeating Bradley University in the championship game of both tournaments, and remains the only school to accomplish that feat. After 1954, however, the NCAA tournament has clearly been the major one.
Schools that claim pre-NCAA Tournament basketball championships
Many schools claim or recognize pre-tournament era national college basketball championships by virtue of being selected by third-party selectors, such as the Helms Athletic Foundation, including the University of Kansas, Purdue University, Stanford University, the University of North Carolina, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Wisonsin, Syracuse University, and Washington State University. In addition, in some years teams won playoff series or tournaments played on the court for a national championship. For example, LSU claims the 1935 championship by virtue of winning the American Legion Bowl game against Pittsburgh in a match-up of regional powers.
The following table is a partial list of schools that claim a national championship from the pre-NCAA Tournament era of college basketball. See also Helms Athletic Foundation Basketball National Champions. Not all schools recognize national championship honors bestowed by third-party selectors.
|1904||Hiram College||1904 Olympic Games college championship tournament|
|1908||Chicago ||National Championship Playoff|
|1912||Wisconsin||Helms Athletic Foundation|
|1914||Wisconsin||Helms Athletic Foundation|
|1915||Illinois||Helms Athletic Foundation|
Helms Athletic Foundation
|1917||Washington State||Helms Athletic Foundation|
|1918||Syracuse||Helms Athletic Foundation|
|1920||New York University 
National Championship Playoff
|First National Collegiate Championship Tournament
Helms Athletic Foundation
|1923||Kansas||Helms Athletic Foundation|
|Helms Athletic Foundation
|Helms Athletic Foundation
|1926||Syracuse||Helms Athletic Foundation|
|1927||Notre Dame||Helms Athletic Foundation|
|1928||Pittsburgh||Helms Athletic Foundation|
|Veteran Athletes of Philadelphia
Helms Athletic Foundation
|1930||Pittsburgh ||Naismith Basketball HOF Championship Game, Helms Athletic Foundation|
|1931||Northwestern||Helms Athletic Foundation|
|1932||Purdue||Helms Athletic Foundation|
|1934||Wyoming||Helms Athletic Foundation|
|1935||LSU ||American Legion Bowl Game|
|1936||Notre Dame||Helms Athletic Foundation|
|1937||Stanford||Helms Athletic Foundation|
|1938||Temple||Helms Athletic Foundation, NIT|
High school sports
Because high school sports in the United States such as football and basketball are state-centered sports involving thousands of schools, it would be almost impossible to have a national championship playoff. A single-game playoff for football, however, was attempted in 1938 and 1939, particularly difficult at that time due to many states' prohibition of postseason games. Nearly all states crown several champions in different classifications, which are not uniform from state to state, based upon school enrollments.
Some publications and internet sites release nationwide rankings for high school sports based on polls or mathematical formulas which take into account various factors like average margin of victory and strength of schedule. Schools that finish atop these rankings, particularly the USA Today poll, often claim to be national champions, and the press calls them "mythical national champions".
National Football League
In the earliest days of the National Football League, the NFL championship was determined by a formula and by the votes of the NFL owners. In three instances, 1920, 1921 and 1925, this led to disputed titles. In 1932, two teams tied atop the standings led to a one-game playoff for the championship, which was made permanent the next year. There has been some sort of NFL playoff ever since, and as the league grew, so too did the tournament, which eventually took form as the single-elimination tournament it is today.
- Moran, Malcolm (1989-08-27). "COLLEGE FOOTBALL '89; Defining the 80's? No Easy Task". The New York Times.
- "Two teams take place in battle for championship". New-York Tribune. 1921-10-10. p. 9. Retrieved 2012-06-01.
- "Life." December 16, 1940. "Long Island University basketball team displays best scoring plays." p. 41. "Mecca for all college basketball teams is New York's Madison Square Garden. There each winter the leading teams in the U.S. play double-header games on 16 nights, [and invited teams later] wind up the season with the National Invitation Tournament sponsored by the Metropolitan colleges to decide the mythical title."
- McPhee, John (1999). A Sense of Where You Are: Bill Bradley at Princeton. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, NY. p. 114-115. ISBN 0374526893.
- Official 2009 NCAA Men's Basketball Records Book, The National Collegiate Athletic Association, pg. 82, date=2008-10, ISSN 1089-5280, accessdate=2009-03-05
- "Helms Foundation NCAA Division I Champions". Rauzulu's Street. Retrieved 2012-01-29.
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- Harrison, Don (2011). Hoops in Connecticut: The Nutmeg State's Passion for Basketball. The History Press, Charleston, SC. p. 54. ISBN 1609490835. "[John] Egan was the Providence College Friars' first "name" recruit, the player who arrived with the most acclaim. And he delivered as a sophomore [in 1959], averaging a team-high 20.9 points en route to propelling the Friars to a fourth-place finish in the then-prestigious National Invitation Tournament at Madison Square Garden."
- Hurley, Bob (2013). Chasing Perfect: The Will to Win in Basketball and Life. Crown Archetype, New York, NY. p. 26. ISBN 030798687X. "That  St. Peter's team was the best team the school ever had. That team would go on to beat Duke in the National Invitation Tournament, back when the NIT was a big-time tournament."
- "NCAA Tournament History". Retrieved 2013-02-12 "The tournament now determines the national champion, but that wasn't always the case. Until the 1950's, the NIT was just as big a tournament as the NCAA, and teams often chose to enter the NIT and bypass the NCAA tourney".
- Miller, Ralph (1990). "Ralph Miller: Spanning the Game." Sagamore Publishing LLC. p. 56. ISBN 0915611384. "Had the Aggies lost one, we would have been forced to have a playoff, and that was the problem. We had already accepted a bid to play in the  National Invitation Tournament (NIT). The tournament picture was much different then. There was no announcement of NIT teams following the selection of the NCAA field as exists today. The reason was that the NIT was still considered a premier tournament."
- Davies, Richard O. (2007). "Sports in American Life: A History." Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated. p. 155. ISBN 9781405106474. "In 1938, [Ned] Irish invited 16 [sic] teams to compete in a new tournament that he called the National Invitation Tournament (Temple defeated Colorado 60-36 in the final), and it would be the premiere college basketball event for more than a decade. The following year, the NCAA responded by creating its own tournament, but it did not surpass the NIT as the premier postseason tournament until the 1950s."
- Peeler, Timothy M. (2010). "NC State Basketball: 100 Years of Innovation." University of North Carolina Press, The. p. 66. ISBN 9780807899700. "Despite winning the crown, the Red Terrors did not have a chance to play in the 1947 NCAA Tournament. Before the league’s event began, NC State’s newly named athletic director Jon Von Glahn was offered the chance to play in the NCAA Tournament, contingent on [Everett] Case’s team winning the league tournament. Instead he chose a spot in the more prestigious National Invitation Tournament. So the NCAA District 3 selection committee gave the area’s bid to Carnevale’s team from Navy."
- Chansky, Art (2006). "Blue Blood: Duke-Carolina: Inside the Most Storied Rivalry in College Hoops" Macmillan. p. 113. ISBN 0312327889. "The NCAA Tournament field had fluctuated between 22 and 25 teams since 1953, during which time the National Invitation Tournament remained prominent and, in the Northeast, actually bigger. ... The ACC, however, had an unwritten rule stemming from the point-shaving scandals of the last two decades that it would not send teams to the NIT. [Coach Victor] Bubas requested that the policy be changed in 1967, and it was. Duke accepted the ACC's first ever bid to the NIT, ..."
- Augustyn, Adam, ed. (2011). "The Britannica Guide to Basketball." Rosen Education Service. p. 17. ISBN 1615305289. "New York City basketball writers organized the first National Invitation Tournament (NIT) in 1938, but a year later the New York City colleges took control of the event. Until the early 1950s, the NIT was considered the most prestigious U.S. tournament ...”
- Roth, John (2006). "The Encyclopedia of Duke Basketball." Duke University Press. p. 272. "During its early years the [NCAA] tourney was overshadowed by the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) in New York."
- Glickman, Marty (1999). "The Fastest Kid on the Block: The Marty Glickman Story." Syracuse University Press. p. 75. ISBN 0815605749. "The first big tournament I covered was the 1946 National Invitation Tournament, the NIT, at Madison Square Garden. It, not the NCAA, was the big college basketball tournament in those days. Later the NCAA flexed its muscles to dominate college basketball, and the NIT became little more than an also-ran tourney. In its time, though, the NIT was enormous."
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- Undisputed Champion (boxing)