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Monday, September 9, 2002
Updated: September 16, 1:15 PM ET
Worst college football teams of all time

Page 2 staff

Last week we offered our picks for the 10 greatest college football teams of all time, so now we turn our attention to the worst.

We've compiled our list of the 10 worst college football teams below, and our readers' choices for the worst college football teams. Check them out and be sure to vote in the poll to crown the worst of them all.

1. Prairie View (1989-98)
Prairie View Panthers
 
Once-mighty Prairie View -- the Panthers won five national black college titles between 1953 and 1964 -- took quite a fall. During the 1990s, Prairie View set a record that might stand forever, losing 80 straight games, a losing streak that nearly doubles the second-longest Division I-AA streak -- Columbia's 44-game skein. Their worst year might have been 1991 -- they scored only 48 points all season, while giving up an average of 56 a game. After the Panthers ended their streak by beating Langston State 14-12, running back Kevin Ball said, "One isn't good enough for me. I don't want people to think it's a fluke." It wasn't -- the Panthers went 2-9 in 1999.

2. Macalester College (1974-80)
Between 1974 and 1980, the St. Paul, Minn., school lost 50 games in a row. The Scots' worst season probably came in 1977, when MIAC rivals Concordia Moorhead -- yes, the Concordia Moorhead Cobbers -- beat them 97-6, scoring 14 touchdowns to set an NAIA record that still stands (Cobbers kicker Kurt Christenson scored 13 points on extra point kicks alone). Also in 1977, Macalester set a Division III record by allowing 59.1 points per game. The losing streak ended in dramatic fashion: Kicker Bob Kaye put a 23-yarder through the uprights with 11 seconds remaining in an early September 1980 contest as the Scots beat Mount Senario College.

3. Northwestern (1979-82)
Northwestern Wildcats
 
The Wildcats were in the midst of a 34-game losing streak (the longest in Division I-A history) during the 1981 season, when they lost all of their games, getting outscored 505-82 -- an average of 40 points a game. Northwestern fans celebrated a 61-14 home loss to Michigan State by tearing down the goalposts and marching through Evanston shouting, "We're the worst!" After the Wildcats ended their losing streak, defeating Northern Illinois 31-6 on Sept. 25, 1982, coach Dennis Green said, "When I woke up this morning, I knew it was a special day."

4. Columbia (1983-88)
Columbia Lions
 
Columbia lost 44 games in a row during these years, the second-longest in major college football history. Things got so bad that the band played the "Mickey Mouse Club" theme when the team took the field. During one 1985 game against Harvard, Columbia actually looked like it might win -- it was leading 17-0 with five minutes left in the third quarter. But the Crimson came back, and scored 49 unanswered points in the time remaining. When the Lions lost their 35th straight, to set a Division 1-AA record, their coach, Larry McElreavy, told The New York Times, "I'm realistic; there's not a lot of talent here."

5. Oberlin (1994-2000)
In 1994, Oberlin went 0-9, giving up 358 points and scoring only 10. In 1995, the Yeoman were outscored 469-72. After losing 56-0 to Allegheny in one 1992 game, the Yeoman had so few players they had to forfeit their next game against Wittenberg -- and the forfeit turned out to be one of their finest outings. "Nobody got hurt," one school official told Sports Illustrated. "And a forfeit shows up as a 6-0 loss in the books, which was better than most of our scores." Swarthmore and Oberlin scheduled a 1999 matchup just so one of them would end their losing streak. Swarthmore succeeded, while Oberlin marched on, not ending a 40-game skid until October 2001.

6. Swarthmore (1997-99)
The small Pennsylvania school has a rich football tradition, but in the late 1990s fell into a stupor. On Sept. 19, 1997, the Garnet Tide's defense allowed 10 different Johns Hopkins players to score touchdowns, a Division III record. The Garnet Tide snapped a 28-game losing streak when they defeated Oberlin 42-6 on Sept. 4, 1999, in what was called "the game that somebody had to win." (See above.) In 2000, the Tide seemed to be rising, as the squad went 4-5. It wasn't enough. Swarthmore had been playing football for 122 years, but despite the occasional win and occasional interest on the part of students, school administrators decided they had enough, and made a controversial decision to end the program after the 2000 season.

7. Duke (1999-2001)
Duke Blue Devils
 
Duke ran its losing streak to 23 games by the end of the 2001 season, and many prognosticators thought the Blue Devils had a good shot at breaking Northwestern's record of 34 straight losses by the end of this season. Blue Devils coach Carl Franks explained what, exactly, the problem was: "Winning football games has certainly been harder than I anticipated." On a positive note, Duke proved the prognosticators wrong by winning their 2002 season opener against East Carolina, 23-16.

8. Marietta College (1980-84)
Between Sept. 27, 1980, when the Pioneers defeated Otterbein 14-7, and the start of the 1984 season, they were outscored 1,124 to 148. The Pioneers' 41-game winless streak ended Nov. 3, 1984, when Marietta defeated 0-8 Wooster 15-2. The week before, the Pioneers had ended their 34-game winless streak by tying Ohio Northern (which had beaten Marietta 60-0 the year before) 3-3. Linebacker Phil Schmucker had been looking on the bright side all along. "Even in losing, there are still some positive values," he said. "Like you still have to be responsible and be on time."

9. New Mexico State (1988-90)
New Mexico State Aggies
 
The Aggies started being awful in the late 1960s, and reached a peak of futility in the late '80s, when they lost 27 in a row, including a 52-7 drubbing by Kansas State, a team so bad SI called it "Futility U." One new assistant coach, watching his first practice, said, "Lord have mercy on our souls." New Mexico State's losing streak ended in November 1990 in a game that pitted the country's two worst major college teams against each other -- the 106th-ranked Aggies beat the 105th-ranked Titans of Cal State Fullerton 43-9. Head coach Jim Hess credited the victory to a minimum of turnovers. "We didn't even fumble the center snap," he said. "That's amazing."

10. Virginia (1958-60)
Virginia Cavaliers
 
From the third game of the 1958 season to the last game of 1960, coach Richard Voris' Cavaliers set an ACC record for futility when they lost 28 in a row, going 0-10 in 1959 and 1960. But 1959 was probably their worst season, as they lost by an average margin of 31 points a game.

Also receiving votes:
  • Kansas State: Lost 28 in a row between 1944-1948
  • Eastern Michigan: Lost 27 straight between 1980-1982