The 1918 college football season had no clear-cut champion, with the Official NCAA Division I Football Records Book listing Michigan and Pittsburgh as national champions.
World War I's impact on colleges in the country, and the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 eliminated most of that year's scheduled college football games. However, to boost morale of the troops, many military organizations fielded teams to play against collegiate programs. This is exemplified no more strongly than in a letter published in the Spalding Guide from US presidentWoodrow Wilson:
"It would be difficult to over-estimate the value of football experience as a part of a soldier's training. The army athletic directors and the officers in charge of special training schools in the cantoments have derived excellent results from the use of elementary football and other personal contact games as an aid in developing the aggressiveness, initiative and determination of recruits, and the ability to carry on in spite of bodily hurts or physical discomforts. These qualities, as you well know, were the outstanding characteristics of the American soldier." -Woodrow Wilson (1919 letter)
A huge military offensive was planned by the Allied countries in the spring of 1919, so all able-bodied men of ages 18 to 20 were scheduled to be drafted in the fall of 1918. As an alternative, the men were offered the option of enlisting in the Student Army Training Corps, known as SATC, which would give them a chance to pursue (or continue pursuing) their educations at the same time as they participated in a 12-week war-training session. This was essentially an alternative to boot camp. The colleges were paid by the government to train the future soldiers, which enabled many of them to avoid closure. The program began on October 1, 1918. Most of the students who were potential football players were under the auspices of the War Department's SATC program.
In an early September meeting between college and War Department officials in Plattsburg, Missouri it became clear that the training regimen envisioned for the soldiers could be incompatible with participation in intercollegiate athletics. On September 13, 1918 newspapers around the country reported that the War Department had asked colleges to reexamine their football schedules. In August and September, athletics backers successfully argued that athletics training was an important part of military training, and the season was back on.
The influenza outbreak was colloquially called Spanish flu. Most flu outbreaks disproportionately kill juvenile, elderly, or already weakened patients, but the 1918 pandemic predominantly killed previously healthy young adults. To maintain morale, wartime censors minimized early reports of illness and mortality in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. Papers were free to report the epidemic's effects in neutral Spain (such as the grave illness of King Alfonso XIII). This created a false impression of Spain as especially hard hit, thereby giving rise to the pandemic's nickname, "Spanish Flu". By the end of the pandemic, between three to five percent of the world population had died as a result, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history.
Due to events related to World War I and the 1918 flu pandemic, the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association did not schedule any official conference games, recorded no standings, and awarded no title for 1918.Conference members:
^Shearer, Benjamin F. (August 1979). "An experiment in military and civilian education: The Student Army Training Corps at the University of Illinois". Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society. 72 (3): 213–224. JSTOR40191276.