Wednesday, September 11, 2002
Updated: September 16, 12:29 PM ET
Readers: Worst college football team
From the Page 2 mailbag
Earlier this week, Page 2 listed its choices for the 10 worst college football teams of all time, but we knew there were others and, as usual, we wanted your take. We received more than 875 letters on the dispute, and here's how you ranked them.
Be sure to vote in the poll at right to crown the most inept college team ever to dis-grace the gridiron.
1. Rutgers, 1996-present (146 letters)
This list should be put on hold until after this weekend. Rutgers is just that far from proving its right to make the cut. The Scarlet Knights have won only three of their last 22 games. Their last two losses came to a I-AA team and a I-A team that was coming off a loss to a different I-AA team -- and both losses came at home. Never mind that Villanova is a "good" I-AA team, Rutgers used to spank such upstarts (34-21 and 59-0 in 2000, respectively).
Rutgers is a public institution of nearly 50,000 students located in a talent-rich football state. When small privates are piling up two touchdown leads on a school with RU's resources, it's beyond any excusable slump from a small college with short funds. This is Muggsy dunking over Shaq here.
If the Scarlet Knights fall to Army this weekend (hardly an impossibility), there is no way in hell they're not going to doughnut the rest of the season. That would bring their grand total of losses in a row to 16, including losses to a California team that had previously lost 13 straight, a I-AA team, a sub-I-AA team, and an Army team that lost to Holy Cross (a I-AA that barely earns top 25 nods, I mean c'mon, Jesuits can't play football -- Boston College notwithstanding. The Sports Guy will back me up on this one.) Oh yeah, and all this while Rutgers is the birthplace of college football. So please remember: No list of the top 10 worst college teams is complete without a cold, hard look at Schiano's crew, after a potentially abysmal loss to Army.
New Brunswick, N.J.
Don't look now, but we're seeing the latest addition to this distinguished top 10 right in front of our very eyes. Since 1996, Rutgers has given up point totals of 50 or more on several occasions. This includes 62-0 at Notre Dame, 80-7 at West Virginia (WVU was shut out the previous two weeks) and 64-6 against Miami. The Miami game got out of hand so fast people started leaving in the first quarter. When Pitt posted a 45-0 lead by halftime, they ran the ball up the middle on nearly every play in the second half just to keep the score down. And Syracuse -- when leading 50-3 -- took a knee four times on the RU 1-yard line to end further embarrassment.
Now consider this year's opener, a loss to I-AA Villanova at home ... and then, the successive loss to Buffalo, at home (each by significant margins) and you've got all the marks of a very, very bad team. It's going to be scary to see what Tennessee, Miami, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame post up if they don't take it easy on these guys. I'm a Rutgers grad, and proud of it. But I'm not proud of our football.
New Brunswick, N.J.
Rutgers University is blazing a trail as perhaps the most pathetic bunch ever to call themselves a I-A team. I'm not even talking the Terry Shea era here (which, by the way, was absolutely horrific -- something like, oh, one Big East win in four years). Look at the past 13 games where the Knights are 2-11 and have been outscored 468-114. Just to put this in perspective, Rutgers has been absolutely destroyed by "powerhouse football programs" such as Villanova, Temple, UConn and California.
Throw in a couple of 60- or 80-point blowouts to the big guns and it's a safe bet that good ol' RU is headed for one of the most humiliating, embarrassing and outrageously inept football reputations of all time. And yes, I am a season ticket holder. ... While our football program may be a joke, we take our tailgating very, very seriously.
2. Prairie View, 1989-98 (71 letters)
Prairie View was horrible in basketball and football, setting record losing streaks in both sports. They have a great band, a great Ph.D program, but when it comes to athletics, they have their work cut out for them.
Prairie View has to be the worst of all time. As students, we used to go to the games and wait for the band to perform at halftime ... then we'd leave, we'd be getting beat 58-0 already, anyway. No scholarships, bad facilities and almost 100 percent walk-ons will make you the worst any day. The only place we could make them winners was in video games ... gotta love them, though!
3. South Carolina, 1998-2000 (68 letters)
An SEC team that lost 21 straight games (including 0-11 in 1999), then tore down their goalposts when they beat -- New Mexico State. If Duke can make the list, so can South Carolina. Sure, they were in a lot of games, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
They don't have academic standards high enough to preclude athletes, like say ... Duke, Northwestern or Vanderbilt ... so talent shouldn't be a problem. As an independent in the '80s, they lost to The Citadel (Div I-AA), Furman (Div I-AA), Hawaii (twice) and Pacific when all four of those schools were simply horrible. To top it off, all of these losses came at home. In 1987, during their one chance to gain some national prominence, they were 9-0 until they lost to one of the poorest teams in the country that season -- Navy.
They played 100 years without ever winning a bowl game and have appeared in only 12.
In Lou Holtz' first year, he inherited a 1-10 team which went on to lose 11 games the next season -- at the time it was the longest losing streak in the country and still in the top 10. They have the Chicken Curse, which was put upon them by Clemson's Ben "Pitchfork" Tillman, because the Legislature of South Carolina didn't want Clemson to exist. Tillman and Thomas Greene Clemson (among others) fought tooth and nail to create a land grant institution for the state's poor farmers. Because of Tillman's frustration over the Legislature's snub, he slammed a pitchfork into the ground of South Carolina's campus and declared them "cursed." The Curse is what we sometimes point to as an ongoing cause for the Bobby Cremin's fiasco, the above losses to lesser teams, the first round Big Dance chokes against Coppin State and Richmond ... the list is endless. At one point during a recent season, the university even hired a witch doctor to attempt to remove the curse prior to a televised game against Georgia. Yep. You guessed it. They lost.
They have an overall losing record in football, which in and of itself is a mystery, because they have over twice as many alumni and plenty of money to compete with the majority of college programs in existence. Even Lou Holtz has an overall losing record and is an underdog to Georgia after an embarrassing loss to Virginia on national television this past weekend. Finally, don't forget that their greatest player ever, arguably, Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers, never scored a touchdown against Clemson. If those reasons don't get them in the Top 10 worst, then your rankings are completely bogus.
4. Cumberland, 1916 (51 letters)
Your list has more "streaks" of ineptitude, yet Cumberland holds the distinction of losing 222-0 to Ga.Tech, the worst college defeat ever. Consider the facts regarding how awful Cumberland was ... Cumberland was so bad, not long into the game, they began to immediately kick the ball back to Tech after receiving Tech's kickoffs as they found they lost more ground than they gained.
Coach Heisman had to agree to shorten the periods from 15 minutes to 12 to get the game over with sooner (mercifully).
Tech never threw the ball the entire game, but they gained 978 yards rushing. Tech also had no first downs, as they would score within the first four series of downs every time. The match-up was so easy for Tech, they scrimmaged for 30 minutes at the game's end.
Most DII and DIII schools that play some of the elite programs in the nation don't even come close to giving up triple digits to the powerhouses -- a feat that would be unheard of in football at any level. The worst team ever in college football history somehow managed to give up a three-figure score, however ... in the first half! Georgia Tech built on their 126-0 HALFTIME lead to cruise to a 222-0 victory over lowly Cumberland College. The rest of the season didn't pan out much better for Cumberland, losing to Sewanee by a reported score of 100-0 in the same year. No team even comes close to the futility of the 1916 Cumberland team.
5. Kansas State, 1984-91 (50 letters)
The "Mildcats" of Kansas State have to warrant a position in the Top 10. Pick any time frame prior to the Bill Snyder era ('92 or so), and you've a fully qualified candidate for the worst teams ever. The list of "accomplishments" is long, but just consider the loss of 28 straight games, only one bowl appearance in over 90 years (a loss to Wisconsin 14-3 in the 1982 Independence Bowl), a PUNTER in their "Ring of Honor" and the fact that they spawned the "Gramatica-nation." This certainly warrants a Top 10 rating any way you slice it.
I can't believe you left out the mid-late '80s Kansas State team. The team Sports Illustrated dubbed "Futility U." Five winning seasons in 54 years. From '84 to '88, they went a combined 4-40-1 ... and were lucky to win those four. They had two very lengthy losing streaks, broken up only by perhaps the most infamous college football game in history -- November 7, 1987 -- a 17-17 tie against equally inept Kansas, known forever to my fellow Kansans as "The Toilet Bowl." What makes the turnaround at K-State so incredible, and so under-reported, is people forgetting how terrible the Wildcats really were. Shame on you for perpetuating that.
6. Bates, 1990-98 (47 letters)
My alma mater -- the Bates College Bobcats. Amidst the 37-game losing streak from 1991-1995, their average margin of defeat was 28.4 points. In 1990, Bates went 2-6 to establish a nine-year high water mark. In 1991, They finished the first game in a 26-26 tie against Amherst and went on to lose the remaining seven games of the season. Their average margin of defeat -- only 18 points.In 1992, we were 0-8. Points for = 38, Points against = 355. Not kidding. Worst defeat: Colby 52-0. That brings us to 1993, another 0-8 year. Points for = 71. Points against = 330. Worst defeat: Trinity 71-0. Thankfully, I graduated the following spring. In 1994 -- 0-8 -- again. Points for = 82. Points against = 320. Worst defeat: Amherst 53-0. 1995: Lost the first 6, but managed to squeak out a 33-29 win over top "rival" Bowdoin College to end the 37-game skid. Bates lost the last game to finish 1-7. Since 1995, Bates has gone 1-7 in all years, except 1996 (0-8) and 1999 (4-4!). Their total record since 1990 is 11-84-1 ... Their last winning season was 1981, 6-2.
Bates College plays football in the Division III NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference), which is basically glorified high school football. From 1990 to 2001, Bates went 10-78-1 (less than a one win per year average), including an astounding 37 in a row from 1991 to 1995. During a game in 1993, Bates fell behind Williams 35-0 -- in the first quarter! Take away the aberrational 1999 when they went 4-4, and Bates has won only a staggering six games in the last 11 years. The NESCAC is most likely the lowest level of competition in college football in the country. Bates is in the midst of a historic run in terms of futility playing in that conference.
7. Oberlin, 1994-present (32 letters)
You guys have your stats wrong. Oberlin won ONE game in the fall of 1997 against Thiel College. (It was the first win since about 1991.) I was there. You were there. We were on SportsCenter later on, getting mocked because we rushed the field. Nobody knew quite what to do after that. It was an incredible moment, one of the finest I've ever seen in any sport. Every one of those guys busted their ass, it's easy to field a winning team of 70, Oberlin at one point had a team of about 20. Some linemen played an entire game Ironman. Of course they lost games -- their opponents could put a fresh squad on the field in the second half. OC still had the best fake punt in the league, and they played with more tenacity and guts than any team I've ever seen. I understand putting Oberlin on your list -- it was pretty rough there, and they'll sheepishly admit that ... but get those sheepish numbers right.
Oberlin, who's first football coach was Heisman himself. Oberlin, who in their first season ever, went 7-0 and outscored opponents 262-30. Oberlin, the last Ohio team to ever beat Ohio State. Yes, for Oberlin to have fallen to the depth at which they are now truly makes them the worst team ever.
8. Duke, 1999-2001 (27 letters)
Not only did they rack up a slew of consecutive losses, they did it playing in a conference where they were assured several winnable games each year. Outside of Florida State, there isn't a single powerhouse in the ACC ... and Wake Forest is a perennial dud. Maryland hadn't been very good, quite frankly, until last season. And Virginia, North Carolina, NC State, Clemson -- these aren't exactly big guns either. If an SEC or Big 12 team racked up 20-some consecutive losses, well, that's understandable, but for a team to perform that badly in a basketball conference ... you gotta be bad. Their out of conference opponents aren't great shakes either. For instance, this year Duke plays Navy, another winless team from last season. I personally saw this team get dismantled at College Park last year. Maryland was up 7-0 before we were done tailgaiting, and midway through the third quarter, the fans had already lost interest in the action on the field and just started doing the Tomahawk Chop (the Terps were playing FSU the next week). Bad.
9. Oregon State, 1971-98 (25 letters)
The Beavs did not have ONE winning season during that time, they went through six head coaches and compiled an appalling 65-238-6 record. They also managed two 14-game losing streaks, separated only by a 31-28 come-from-behind win over Fresno State in 1981 (at the time the greatest comeback in NCAA history, giving Joe Avezzano -- yes, the current special teams coach for the Dallas Cowboys -- his first victory at OSU) which followed a stellar 0-11 campaign in 1980. But that's not all! Oregon State pulled off twin 15-game losing skids under Jerry Pettibone in the 1990s! During this illustrious period, OSU managed as many as five wins twice, but had three or fewer wins 22 times! Before the 1999 Oahu Bowl, Oregon State's last bowl appearance was the Rose Bowl following the 1964 season. Sure, you can have your losing streaks like Prairie View or Columbia, but has there ever been a program as consistently inept as Oregon State's?
You can't leave the Oregon State Beavers off this list. Although Dennis Erickson has recently resurrected them from the ashes, the Beavers still hold the NCAA Div. IA record for the most consecutive losing seasons at 28 straight years, 1970-98. They weren't called the "Bad News Beavs" for nothing!
10. Northwestern, 1988 (22 letters)
To be that bad for that long as a fully funded major NCAA Division I-A member in a nationally ranked conference and with the academic reputation of that institution is just incredible. They had to work hard to be that bad for that long with the resources available -- clearly the coaching staff during those years was horrendous -- it wasn't the athletes' fault -- who recruited and coached them for four years straight?!
Prairie View A&M, as an institution, wasn't a fully funded major NCAA Division I-A member in a nationally ranked conference ... a small black university who hasn't had the exposure nor the resources to compete is another story. Northwestern has no excuses.
Also receiving votes
St. Francis (Pa.)
New Mexico State
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute