The AP college football poll has a long history. The news media began running their own polls of sports writers to determine who was, by popular opinion, the best football team in the country at the end of the season. One of the earliest such polls was the AP College Football Poll, first run in 1934 (compiled and organized by Charles Woodroof, former SEC Assistant Director of Media Relations) and then continuously from 1936. Due to the long-standing historical ties between individual college football conferences and high-paying bowl games like the Rose Bowl and Orange Bowl, the NCAA has never held a tournament or championship game to determine the champion of what is now the highest division, NCAA Division I, Football Bowl Subdivision (the Division I, Football Championship Subdivision and lower divisions do hold championship tournaments). As a result, the public and the media began to take the leading vote-getter in the final AP Poll as the national champion for that season.
While the AP Poll currently lists the Top 25 teams in the nation, from 1936 to 1961 the wire service only ranked 20 teams. And from 1962 to 1967 only 10 teams were recognized. From 1968 to 1988, the AP again resumed its Top 20 before expanding to 25 teams in 1989.
Until 1968 college football season, the final AP poll of the season was released following the end of the regular season, with the exception of the 1965 season. In 1964, Alabama was named the national champion in the final AP Poll following the completion of the regular season, but lost in the Orange Bowl to Texas, leaving Arkansas as the only undefeated, untied team after the Razorbacks defeated Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl. In 1965, the AP's decision to wait to crown its champion paid handsomely, as top-ranked Michigan State lost to UCLA in the Rose Bowl, number two Arkansas lost to LSU in the Cotton Bowl, and fourth-ranked Alabama defeated third-ranked Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, vaulting the Crimson Tide to the top of the AP's final poll (Michigan State was named national champion in the final United Press International poll of coaches, which did not conduct a post-bowl poll).
At the end of the 1947 season when the AP released an unofficial post-bowl poll which differed from the regular season final poll. The AP national championship was awarded before bowl games were played.
Beginning in the 1968 season, a post bowl game poll was released and the AP championship reflected the bowl game results. The UPI did not follow suit with the coaches' poll until the 1974 season.
In 2007, the AP Top 25 poll witnessed the largest single drop of a ranked team. #5 ranked Michigan lost to Appalachian St. 34-32 on Sept. 4, 2007, dropping 21 spots and out of the Top 25. The Wolverines became the first ranked team from the Football Bowl Subdivision, previously known as Division I-A, to lose to a team from the Football Championship Subdivision, previously known as Division I-AA. As an additional result of this game, the AP poll decided to open up its poll and allow voters to vote for Division I-FCS in the poll if that team has played a Division I-FBS team.
Before Michigan's fall, Notre Dame held the record for largest drop in the rankings in the Top 25-era. The Fighting Irish dropped 16 spots, from #9 to #25, after losing to Northwestern 17-15 on Sept. 3, 1995. The highest ranked team to fall from the poll after one loss was #2 Oklahoma in 1959, when the AP was ranking the top 20 teams. Later that season Army went from #4 to unranked. In 1950, Tennessee went from #4 to unranked in October and in 1960 Illinois fell out of the ranking from #4.
Notable #1 vs #2 games
ESPN also publishes a weekly Bottom 10 during the regular season, showcasing the worst ten teams in college football.
Starting with the 1998 season, the AP Poll factored in the determination of the BCS rankings, along with other factors including the Coaches Poll and computer-based polls. The BCS system did not get permission from the Associated Press, but the AP did not initially voice serious concern. However two major problems in the 2003 and 2004 seasons resulted in the AP asking to be removed after the 2004 season.
In the 2003 season the BCS system broke down when the next-to-final BCS poll ranked the University of Southern California (USC) at #3 while the two human polls in the system had ranked USC at #1. As a result, USC did not play in the BCS' designated national championship game. After defeating another highly ranked team, Michigan, in its final game, the AP Poll kept USC at #1 while the Coaches Poll was contractually obligated to select the winner of the BCS game, Louisiana State University (LSU), as the #1 team. The resulting split national title was the very problem that the BCS was created to solve, and has been widely considered an embarrassment.
In 2004, a new controversy erupted at the end of the season when Auburn University and University of Utah, who both finished the regular season 12-0, were left out of the BCS title game in favor of Oklahoma who also was 12-0 and had won decisively over Colorado in the Big 12 Championship game. USC went on to a win easily over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl while Auburn and Utah both won their bowl games, leaving three undefeated teams at the end of the season. Also, in that same year, Texas made up late ground on California (Cal) in the BCS standings and as a result grabbed a high-payout, at-large spot in the Rose Bowl. Previous to that poll, Cal had been ranked ahead of Texas in both human polls and the BCS poll. Going into their final game, the Golden Bears were made aware that while margin of victory did not affect computer rankings, it did affect human polls and just eight voters changing their vote could affect the final standings. Both teams won their game that week, but the Texas Coach, Mack Brown, had made a public effort to lobby for his team to be moved higher in the ranking. When the human polls were released, Texas remained behind Cal, but it had closed the gap enough so that the BCS Poll (which determines placement) placed Texas above Cal, angering both Cal and its conference, the Pac-10. The final poll positions had been unchanged with Cal at #4 AP, #4 coaches, and #6 computers polls and Texas at #6 AP, #5 coaches, and #4 computer polls. The AP Poll voters were caught in the middle because their vote changes were automatically made public, while the votes of the Coaches poll were kept confidential. Although there had been a more substantial shift in the votes of the Coaches Poll, the only clear targets for the ire of fanatical fans were the voters in the AP Poll. While officials from both Cal and the Pac-10 called for the coaches' votes to be made public, the overtures were turned down and did little to solve the problem of AP voters.
Many members of the press who voted in the AP Poll were upset by the fiasco and, at the behest of its members, the AP asked that its poll no longer be used in the BCS rankings. The 2004 season was the last season that the AP Poll was used in the BCS rankings, it was replaced in the BCS equation by the newly created Harris Interactive College Football Poll.
In Division I men's and women's college basketball, the AP Poll is largely just a tool to compare schools throughout the season and spark debate, as it has no bearing on postseason play. Generally, all top 25 teams in the poll are invited to the men's and women's NCAA basketball tournament, also known as March Madness. The poll is released every Monday.
1939—— Texas A&M
1942—— Ohio State
1943—— Notre Dame
1946—— Notre Dame
1947—— Notre Dame / Michigan
1949—— Notre Dame
1952—— Michigan State
1954—— Ohio State
1966—— Notre Dame
1968—— Ohio State
1973—— Notre Dame
1977—— Notre Dame
1982—— Penn State
1983—— Miami (FL)
1986—— Penn State
1987—— Miami (FL)
1988—— Notre Dame
1989—— Miami (FL)
1991—— Miami (FL)
1993—— Florida State
1999—— Florida State
2001—— Miami (FL)
2002—— Ohio State
UW GARNERS NO. 4 RANK IN AP POLL THE BADGERS' ROSE BOWL SUCCESS AND RETURNING STARTERS LEAD TO THEIR HIGHEST PRESEASON RANKING IN SCHOOL HISTORY.(Sports)
Aug 06, 2000; Expectations have never been higher for the University of Wisconsin football team. That became official Saturday when the Badgers...