1966 college football season

1966 college football season

The 1966 college football season was marked by controversy as the year of "The Tie", a November 19 game between the two top-ranked teams, Michigan State and Notre Dame. Neither team participated in a post-season bowl game. At the same time, 1966 was the first year that the professional football season would end with a Super Bowl. During the 20th Century, the NCAA had no playoff for the college football teams that would later be described as "Division I-A". The NCAA Football Guide, however, did note an "unofficial national champion" based on the top ranked teams in the "wire service" (AP and UPI) polls. The "writers' poll" by Associated Press (AP) was the most popular, followed by the "coaches' poll" by United Press International) (UPI). In 1966, both services issued their final polls at the close of the regular season, but before teams competed in bowl games. The Associated Press presented the "AP Trophy" to the winner.

The AP poll in 1966 consisted of the votes of as many as 63 sportswriters, though not all of them voted in every poll. Those who cast votes would give their opinion of the ten best teams. Under a point system of 10 points for first place, 9 for second, etc., the "overall" ranking was determined. In the preseason poll for 1966, Alabama was slightly ahead of Michigan State in first place votes (15 vs. 12) and points.

The American Broadcasting Company began showing College football on television in color this season. By the NCAA rules, only 8 national and 5 regional telecasts were allowed during the season.


In the preseason poll released on September 12, 1966, the top six teams were from different conferences. First place was the defending champion Alabama Crimson Tide (SEC), followed by defending UPI champ Michigan State (Big Ten), Nebraska (Big Eight), UCLA (Pacific 8), Arkansas (SWC) and Notre Dame (independent).

September 17 #2 Michigan State beat North Carolina State 28-10 at home. #3 Nebraska beat Texas Christian (TCU) 14-10. In Los Angeles, #4 UCLA crushed the Pittsburgh Panthers, 57-14. At a game in Little Rock, #5 Arkansas beat visiting Oklahoma State 14-10, but fell to 6th place in the next poll, while #9 USC won at Texas, 10-6. Alabama had not yet begun its season. The poll was 1.Michigan State 2.UCLA 3.Alabama 4.Nebraska and 5.USC.

September 24 #1 Michigan State beat Penn State 42-8 at home in East Lansing. #2 UCLA won 31-12 at Syracuse, #3 Alabama easily handled Louisiana Tech 34-0, and #4 Nebraska won over Utah State 28-7 but would drop to sixth. The Cornhuskers were replaced by #8 Notre Dame, which had beaten #7 Purdue at home, 26-14. #5 USC beat Wisconsin in Los Angeles 38-3. In the poll, it was 1.Michigan State 2.UCLA 3.Alabama 4.Notre Dame and 5.USC.


October 1 #1 Michigan State won at Illinois, 26-10. #2 UCLA hosted Missouri and won, 24-15. #3 Alabama beat Mississippi 17-7, while #4 Notre Dame won 35-7 at Northwestern. #5 USC played Oregon State in a game at Portland, winning 21-0, but it dropped from fifth to sixth. Its place was taken by #7 Arkansas, which shut out Texas Christian by the same 21-0 score. The next poll was 1.Michigan State 2.UCLA 3.Notre Dame 4.Alabama 5.Arkansas. All of the Top Ten teams remained unbeaten (the next five were USC, Nebraska, Tennessee, Georgia Tech and Florida

October 8 #1 Michigan State beat Michigan at home, 20-7. #2 UCLA won in Houston against Rice, 27-24. #3 Notre Dame and #4 Alabama registered shutouts, beating Army (35-0) and Clemson (26-0), respectively.
#5 Arkansas was itself shut out, 7-0, by the Baylor Bears. They were replaced at fifth place by #6 USC which won 17-14 at Washington. #7 Nebraska beat the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison, 31-3. In a matchup between #9 Georgia Tech and #8 Tennessee in Atlanta, Tech won 6-3. With two unbeatens gone, the eight remaining in the poll were 1.Michigan State 2.Notre Dame 3.Alabama 4.UCLA 5.USC 6.Nebraska 7.Georgia Tech 8.Florida

October 15 #1 Michigan State narrowly beat Ohio State in Columbus, 11-8, while #2 Notre Dame held North Carolina scoreless at home, 32-0, which was enough for them to trade places in the next poll. Likewise, #3 Alabama edged Tennessee 11-10 while #4 UCLA overwhelmed Penn State 49-11. UCLA's Los Angeles rival, #5 USC, beat Stanford 21-7. #6 Nebraska won 21-10 over Kansas State. #7 Georgia Tech met Auburn in Birmingham, winning 17-3 to stay unbeaten, and #8 Florida won at North Carolina State, 17-10. Oklahoma, which was scheduled to face Notre Dame, beat Kansas 35-0, while Purdue (set to face Michigan State) beat Michigan 22-21 in Ann Arbor. Purdue was the only team with a loss in the next poll: 1.Notre Dame 2.Michigan State 3.UCLA 4.Alabama 5.USC 6.Georgia Tech 7.Nebraska 8.Florida 9.Purdue 10.Oklahoma

On October 22, #1 Notre Dame met #10 Oklahoma at Norman and beat them, 38-0. #2 Michigan State hosted #9 Purdue and won 41-20, which would give State the Big Ten crown. Because of a Big Ten rule barring two straight Rose Bowl appearances, Purdue went to Pasadena instead of the Spartans.

#3 UCLA won 28-15 at California in Berkeley, while in Birmingham, #4 Alabama handled Vanderbilt 42-6 and #5 USC beat visiting Clemson 30-0. It was #6 Georgia Tech over Tulane, 35-17, and #7 Nebraska won 21-19 at Colorado in a game that would determine the Big 8 championship. Arkansas returned to the Top Ten with a 41-0 triumph over Wichita State at Little Rock and Wyoming (which had gone 6-0-0 with a 35-10 win over Utah State) reached #10. The next poll had nine unbeaten teams, and Arkansas: 1.Notre Dame 2.Michigan State 3.UCLA 4.Alabama 5.USC 6.Ga Tech 7.Florida 8.Nebraska 9.Arkansas 5-1 10.Wyoming

October 29 Week Eight featured games in large cities. In a Friday night game in Miami, #5 USC lost 10-7 to the Hurricanes. #1 Notre Dame met Navy in a game at Philadelphia and won 31-7. #2 Michigan State traveled to metropolitan Chicago (Evanston) to beat Northwestern 22-0. In Los Angeles, #3 UCLA beat the Air Force Academy 38-13. #4 Alabama beat Mississippi State 27-14 in little Tuscaloosa. Three other teams won again to go 7-0-0 (#6 Georgia Tech over Duke 48-7, #7 Florida over Auburn 30-27 and #8 Nebraska 35-0 over Missouri). #9 Arkansas won 34-0 over Texas A&M, and #10 Wyoming's Top Ten ranking ended with its first loss, 12-10 at Colorado State. The remaining unbeatens in the Halloween rankings were 1.Notre Dame 2.Michigan State 3.UCLA 4.Alabama 5.Georgia Tech 6.Nebraska and 7.Florida.


November 5 #1 Notre Dame beat Pittsburgh at home, 40-0. #2 Michigan State beat Iowa at home, 56-7. In Los Angeles, The #3 UCLA Bruins suffered their first loss, falling 16-3 at Washington. #4 Alabama defeated LSU 21-0 at Birmingham. #5 Georgia Tech got by Virginia in Atlanta, 14-13.
#6 Nebraska, which had won 24-13 at Kansas, entered the Top Five, which contained the nation's five unbeaten major teams: 1.Notre Dame 2.Michigan State 3.Alabama 4.Nebraska 5.Georgia Tech.

#1 Notre Dame crushed Duke 64-0 at home. #2 Michigan State won at Indiana 37-19. #3 Alabama over South Carolina 24-0 at Tuscaloosa for its third straight shutout win. #4 Nebraska won 21-6 over Oklahoma State, and #5 Georgia Tech beat Penn State 21-0. The Top Five remained the same, as #1 Notre Dame and #2 Michigan State prepared to meet on State's turf in East Lansing.

#1 Notre Dame played #2 Michigan State to a 10-10 tie in East Lansing. The Spartans closed their season with a 9-0-1 record and no postseason game, since they had played the 1965 Rose Bowl and were barred from a repeat.
#8 UCLA beat #7 USC 14-7. Although UCLA finished with a better overall record (9-1) than USC (7-3), USC had played more conference games, and was voted into the Rose Bowl despite losing to the Bruins. The Rose Bowl would pit USC against Purdue when everybody wanted to see UCLA vs. Michigan State. #3 Alabama, #4 Nebraska and #5 Georgia Tech were all idle. The poll remained unchanged.

11/26On Thanksgiving Day, #4 Nebraska and Oklahoma met at Norman, with the Sooners winning 10-9 to leave the Cornhuskers with a 9-1-0 finish. On Saturday,
#1 Notre Dame went to Los Angeles to hand #10 USC a 51-0 shutout loss.
#3 Alabama won over Southern Mississippi in Mobile
#5 Georgia Tech lost to #7 Georgia 23-14 at Athens. The Bulldogs closed with a 9-1-0 finish, an unbeaten SEC record (tied with Alabama), and an invitation to the Cotton Bowl to face SMU. In the final regular poll, Notre Dame, Michigan State and Alabama were first, second and third, with Georgia 4th and UCLA 5th. On December 3, #3 Alabama closed its season with a 31-0 win at Birmingham over Auburn, for its fourth straight shutout and a 10-0-0 record.

Alabama Controversy

Alabama, the two-time defending National Champions, were ranked in the preseason as #1. However, they tumbled to #3 after not playing a game, the first of many controversies. This baffled many Alabama players who wondered how the defending champions could fall in the rankings without losing or tying. Michigan State took first place in the polls, with Notre Dame eighth.

Alabama was leap-frogged by Notre Dame in what was one of the most controversial ratings changes of the year. Players wondered how the #4 team could surpass the #3 team if both won their games. This set the stage for an extremely intense season for Alabama fans and players. The players ignored this change at first, thinking that if they continued to win the title would surely be theirs.

The final piece of the puzzle came when Michigan State and Notre Dame played each other in a game. Third-ranked Alabama expected that one of the teams would lose, propelling Alabama to the top. However, Michigan State and Notre Dame tied, in one of the most highly-contested moments in football. With almost a minute and a half left to play in the tied game, the Notre Dame coach ran out the clock instead of trying to win. This was considered a disgrace for the time.

With Notre Dame and Michigan State both receiving a tie, it seemed certain the Crimson Tide would take first place in the polls. However, the rankings stayed the same.

Players and coaches wondered how the only untied and undefeated team in the nation could not take first place. This question has never been answered. It has been attributed, however, to the fact that Alabama's governor continued to allow segregation, and the poll-voters were punishing the Alabama team that was aiming to make history. Other theories have cast blame on voters' favoritism for Notre Dame (some illustrated by saying that if Notre Dame was the two-time defending champion, they would surely still be at the #1 position). Yes another theory was that Alabama was give "pay back" for being ranked #1 in 1964 despite losing to Texas, whom undefeated Arkansas had beaten. In addition, the 1965 title was disputed as Alabama, with a loss and a tie, was voted #1 over Michigan State who had only one loss.

This bias against Alabama was seen as a heavy blow for the South from the North, and even a bias against SEC teams. To this day, many Alabama fans claim that the '66 title belonged to the Crimson Tide. Then again, most Arkansas fans believe the 1964 title belongs to them.

Bowl Games

In the final AP poll, 9-0-1 Notre Dame was the overwhelming choice of the writers for the AP Trophy, with 41 of the 56 first place votes, and Michigan State was second. Alabama, which had gone unbeaten and won the Sugar Bowl against Nebraska, still finished third. Georgia, whose only blemish had been a one-point loss to the Miami Hurricanes, was fourth and UCLA was fifth.

Other bowls:

Other champions

The schools that are now in the NCAA's "Division I-AA" were ranked in the "small college poll", taken by both the UPI (coaches) and AP (a panel of writers). In 1966, both services ranked the 10-0-0 San Diego State Aztecs #1 and the 8-2-0 Montana Grizzlies #2. The teams met in the Camellia Bowl in Sacramento (one of four postseason games for college division teams). San Diego State won, 28-7. In the NAIA championship game, the Waynesburg Yellow Jackets beat the UW-Whitewater Warhawks 42-21.

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