Over the weekend, Scout.com published a series of posts creating a historical ranking of the the top NCAA Football programs. The posts use the results of the season-ending AP polls to rate each D-1 football program on a decade-by-decade basis as well as overall since the poll was created during the 1936 season. Scout's methodology for the ranking is as follows.
CFN came up with a scoring system to compare and contrast how the programs finished over the decades. Every time a team finished No. 1 in the final poll, it got 25 points. The No. 2 team got 24 points, No. 3 got 23 points, and so on with the No. 25 team getting one point. Through the decades, the AP ranked the top ten teams for a few years before going back to the top 20 rankings, and eventually, it went to the top 25 system it's at now.
According to the scoring system, consistent production isn't necessarily rewarded. For example, if a team finished 17th for four straight years, it would get a total of 36 points (No. 17 gets 9 points). A team that finished the beginning of the decade No. 2 (24 points) and the end of the decade ranked tenth (16 points), but wasn't ranked any year in between, would get a total 40 points.
We have talked about the history of UCLA Football quite a bit on this blog over the years, including discussion of how - until recent years - UCLA has been a "perennial top-15 football program" with a tradition of bowl success. Scout's findings back us up rather well, rating UCLA as the nation's 15th best football program from 1936-present. The Bruins place just a hair behind Auburn, Georgia and Miami in the 12th-14th spots, and ahead of Florida and Florida State in 16th and 17th.
More detail on where we fit into the Pac-12's overall football heirarchy, along with the rise and fall in the fortunes of UCLA Football after the jump.
Since 1936, 125 schools/football programs have finished at least one season ranked in the AP poll's top-25, including all of the members of the modern Pac-12 Conference. This is where the programs rate in the all-time AP ranking:
Rank Team AP Points
So, we see that Southern Cal leads the Pac-12 programs, and places 6th among all programs. No shock there. But the Bruins are right there behind them, closer to the Trogans than the 3rd place Huskies are to us. That is how things look when you throw together 76 years worth of AP polling. Scout also broke down their rankings on a decade-by-decade basis. Let's see how UCLA and the conference shake out.
- 1930's: UCLA - 26th (tied) overall; 3rd Pac-12
- 1940's: UCLA - 28th (tied) overall; 4th Pac-12
- 1950's: UCLA - 9th overall; 1st Pac-12
- 1960's: UCLA - 10th overall; 2nd Pac-12
- 1970's: UCLA - 16th overall; 3rd Pac-12
- 1980's: UCLA - 5th overall; 1st Pac-12
- 1990's: UCLA - 19th overall; 3rd Pac-12
- 2000's: UCLA - 53rd (tied) overall; 10th (tied) Pac-12
A note on UCLA's "Pac-12" rankings above. In attempting to keep the ranking consistent, in each decade I rated UCLA against the other schools that are members of the modern Pac-12 Conference, rather than attempt to rate against its conference-mates in each year or decade. In the 1970's, UCLA rated 3rd behind Southern Cal and Arizona State - ASU did not join the then-Pac 10 Conference until 1978. In the 1990's, UCLA rated 3rd behind Colorado and Washington - the Buffs did not join the conference until last summer. The lesson: The Bruins have - until the last decade - been one of the top-two programs in its own conference.
Earlier on in this post, I mentioned the "rise and fall" of UCLA Football. The "rise and fall" framing is not entirely fair to the state of UCLA Football in the early years of the AP Poll. In the early years of the university, the football program had a long way to go on the path to relevance, with already well-established competitors at Cal, Stanford, Southern Cal and Washington.
Despite that competition, the program was able to build up through those early years, allowing the program to reasonably establish itself heading into the 50's, when the Bruins began a 50-year span in which it was one of the top-2 teams in the conference and top-15 or 20 teams in the nation. There were some ups and downs through those years - as was true for everyone else - but over the medium-to-long term, UCLA Football was one of the consistently strong programs in College Football. That is, until the last decade.
What happened in the last decade that could have affected the success of the UCLA Athletics, the Football program in particular? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?