It was 1945 — a time of atomic bombs, the acting of Ronald Reagan, and a version of college football that is quite a bit different from the modern-day edition. Over 70 years later, some changes are coming to college football that differ from the past — except this time, they actually involve the past.
Earlier on Thursday, ESPN’s Jake Trotter passed along word that the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) would be awarding the Oklahoma State Cowboys a title from 1945. Oklahoma State, which was called Oklahoma A&M at the time and until 1957, is the first program to be retroactively awarded a national championship; this championship is for the 1945 season, where the then-Aggies (they wouldn’t officially become the Cowboys until the change in 1957) went 9-0 and defeated Saint Mary’s in the 1946 Sugar Bowl by a 33-13 final score.
AFCA executive director Todd Berry said the following in a statement on Thursday afternoon.
“After gathering all the pertinent information and doing our due diligence, it is the pleasure of our Blue Ribbon Commission of coaches to officially recognize Oklahoma State’s 1945 championship season with the AFCA Coaches’ Trophy.”
While Army was the national AP champion that year thanks to Heisman winner Doc Blanchard, Oklahoma State is getting the championship — for now, that is. Trotter reported that an AFCA spokesman said the coaches association could still pick Army as well, as a “split national champion.”
What may bother some longtime college football fans is that this isn’t a case of a team winning a title after being second or third in the standings, but the Aggies were in fact fifth that year. The Oklahoman reported on Thursday that the four teams ahead of them were Army, Alabama, Navy, and Indiana. For the time being, however, Oklahoma State has their first football title in program history.
Neill Armstrong, a defensive end on the 1945 team, has gone on record in the team’s 2016 media guide as saying the following about the now-championship roster.
“We may have been the best team in the country that year. We had a couple of All-Americans and a group of veterans who kept us in check. In practice, we scrimmaged every day. As hard as those scrimmages were, it’s a wonder that we had anything left for the games, but those scrimmages toughened us and made us better… We had a lot of older guys who had fought in the war and understood that you don’t win anything unless you do it as a team.”
With the retroactive title, Oklahoma State now has 56 national titles in their sports programs, the fourth most nationally among Division I schools behind UCLA, USC, and Stanford. So much for California Love, it seems.
At 4-2 on the 2016 season, Cowboy fans are likely going to have to wait until the start of next year to see Oklahoma State come away with a national title, but the hope remains that Mike Gundy’s team can finish this year strong with a five-game stretch against winnable teams. First up on that list is the Kansas Jayhawks, who the Cowboys will play October 22 in an 11 A.M. CT game in Lawrence; that game will be nationally televised on Fox Sports 1.
Coach Mike Gundy, who has recently come under fire for some of his late game management, said the following in a press conference earlier this week (via the Oklahoman).
“That discussion [about going for yardage in games where the Cowboys have a late lead] could go on forever. There’s been times when we’ve dropped handoffs. When you can run it down to under 15 seconds, basically, and one-step punt — and we have a great punter — the worst-case scenario is he punts it out (of the end zone) and they get it on the 20 and they get two plays. Defensive players are better now than ever at stripping the ball out. That’s just what we want to do.”
Gundy, the team’s coach since 2005, has a 98-49 record in 147 games for the Cowboys. With more and more grumbling about his play-calling and leadership, the former quarterback may want to win a championship at Oklahoma State without there being a need for it to retroactively be added.
[Featured Image by Brett Deering/Getty Images]