Has the door been closed on the college football national title fraternity?

The CFP National Championship.
Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, I came across a tweet that piqued my interest.

My answer felt a little presumptuous at the time.

Then I started thinking: Could we actually see something like this happen?

Are the days of programs winning their first national championship in college football gone? I decided to dig deeper.

Since 1936, 33 college football programs have won at least one national championship, NCAA.com shows. I chose 1936 because that’s when The Associated Press poll was introduced; it’s the most accepted starting point to use in conversations such as these.

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So this means in the past 80 years of crowning college football champions (1936-2016), we’ve seen 33 different winners.

From 1936-59, 17 different programs won or shared a national championship. From 1960-91, 14 programs that hadn’t previously won a national championship did so. But from 1992-present, only two programs, Florida and Florida State, were first-time championship winners.

We haven’t seen a newcomer hoist a championship trophy since Florida won its first in 1996.

While 33 seems like a small number, smaller still would be the number of teams with any legitimate chance at joining their fraternity.

Think about the math. Let’s just use Power Five conference teams (we’ll include Notre Dame) as a base since we haven’t seen a Group of Five team make the College Football Playoff yet.

That comprises 65 teams, and 34 have failed to win a national championship since 1936. Eight of those teams are in the ACC, six in the Big Ten, seven in the Big 12, eight in the Pac-12 and five in the SEC.

Power Five membership isn’t an absolute requirement when it comes to winning a national championship today, but it might as well be and only 31 Power Five schools have won a national title in football since 1936 (Army in 1944-45 and BYU in 1984 are the only non-Power Fives to win since ’36). Common sense tells you that if you haven’t done something in 80 years, you’re unlikely to do it now.

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The two most recent “new” champions, Florida and Florida State, took advantage of a huge demographic shift in this country, which ballooned the population of the Sunshine State, turning it into a recruiting hotbed. Access to top talent, along with the resources and prestige of Power Five conference membership, obviously would be a huge consideration when considering if a “new” program could win a title.

Who possesses Power Five resources and prestige plus top recruiting turf? Look to the ACC.

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