by Travis Normand
I am not exactly sure when the “internet” noticed that Texas A&M had added two national championships (1919 and 1927) and two conference championships (1997 and 2010) to their total count. However, when it did notice, the word traveled around the inter-webs like wildfire.
The initial reports (posted by RantSports.com, USAToday.com, Barrett Sallee – SEC Lead Football Writer for BleacherReport.com, and others on/or around 7 September 2012) offered no explanation directly from Texas A&M as to why these championships were added and only speculated as to why A&M decided to claim the 1919 and 1927 national championships.
While I have no idea if the above listed sources actually contacted anyone at Texas A&M regarding the newly added championships, I would guess that they did not. At best, they each decided that speculation was enough and merely cited the RantSports.com article as their source for information and photo credit.
Fortunately, the speculation involving the 1919 and 1927 national titles appeared to be based on historical information that is readily available (as well as at least one writer who did contact A&M).
However, the speculation as to why A&M was claiming the 1997 and 2010 Big 12 Conference Championships left everyone guessing. Was A&M trying to pass off these two years as outright Big 12 Conference Championships? Were they hoping no one would notice? Did they plan on adding an asterisks, or other explanation, to these years?
I don’t know about everyone else, but making the assumption that A&M was trying to deceive the public and then reporting it as such, should be something that normally costs a writer his job. This is especially true when Texas A&M (as well as every school in the country) has a media relations department that is fairly easy to reach by phone or email.
While some reports merely stated the fact that A&M had listed the years 1997 and 2010 under the heading “Conference Champions,” others (like BleacherReport.com’s SEC Lead Writer, Barrett Sallee) said that “claiming the 1997 and 2010 ‘conference titles’ is a joke.“
Sallee also said: [emphasis added]
In addition to retroactively being awarded the game’s ultimate prize, the Aggies also awarded themselves Big 12 titles in 1997 and 2010.
If I didn’t know any better, Mr. Sallee’s comments could easily lead me to believe that A&M has, in fact, claimed these years as outright conference titles.
Unfortunately for Mr. Sallee, this is not what happened. According to A&M, they are not claiming the years 1997 and 2010 as outright conference titles, nor did they award these division titles to themselves (as Mr. Sallee and others claim).
Sallee’s comments would not be completely without merit had he contacted A&M to get the full story before writing. However, it doesn’t appear that Sallee contacted anyone. If he had, I am sure he would have posted what the A&M representative had told him.
If any of these writers had taken a minute to do their due diligence and research this issue before writing, they might have noticed that A&M was posting the championship years as they appeared on the Big 12 Conference’s official website. If you look at the conference website (link), you will see that A&M is listed as having three Big 12 Championships in football.
Jerry Hinnen, CBSSports.com College Football Blogger, noticed the Big 12’s championship recording method and mentioned it in his 7 September 2012 article:
So at least the Aggies have company when it comes to claiming titles like 1919’s and 1927’s, and if hanging up dates of shared Big 12 divisional titles alongside all their old Southwest Conference crowns seems insane, well, at least the Big 12 media guide backs them up for some reason.
For the rest of this article, click HERE.
In the end, one would think that all of these writers should have at least mentioned this as a possible reason for why A&M decided to add the years 1997 and 2010 to its list of conference championships.
It is also important to point out that had any of these writers taken the time to contact A&M for comment, they would have learned that A&M claims to have planned from the beginning on adding the words “South Division” under the years 1997 and 2010.
How do I know this was A&M’s plan? Because some responsible journalists actually took the time to look into this story before reporting it. Their actions may have prevented them from being the first to report the story, but in exchange, it allowed them to be the first to report the complete and accurate story.
Alan Cannon, A&M’s associate athletic director of media relations, offered the following explanation:
The references to conference titles from 1997 and 2010 were supposed to include the word “South” in conjunction with the year. Cannon said plans are in place to add “South” to those years.
Keep in mind, contacting Alan Cannon and obtaining his explanation doesn’t mean you can’t then question what he says. Just as I said above, even Mr. Sallee’s comments would not have been without at least some merit had he taken the time to contact A&M.
For example, while it is highly possible that A&M had always planned on adding the words “South Division” under the years 1997 and 2010, it seems odd to me that A&M would add the years (’97 and ’10) a month before adding the words “South Division.” In fact, when A&M had their work crew out at Kyle Field hanging up the years ’97 and ’10, why not go ahead and hang the words “South Division” at the same time?
Now, notice I didn’t state the above paragraph as fact. I simply stated that it “seems odd to me.” Every writer is allowed to express his opinion.
I also ended the paragraph with a question. I could have said that A&M didn’t really plan on hanging the words “South Division,” and that they only decided to do so as damage control after the initial reports on this matter started circulating. However, I didn’t say that because that would be a presentation of fact without a source from A&M willing to confirm it. It would be speculation, at best. For all I know, A&M ordered the lettering and numbers at the same time but the letters didn’t arrive until almost a month after the numbers.
The important thing to note is that I didn’t say “A&M awarded themselves a few extra conference titles that they didn’t earn.” That, would be an incorrect statement presented as being factually correct. I can’t make such a claim if I haven’t contacted a Texas A&M representative that is willing to confirm my claim.
And so why is this important now?
It is important now because reports are starting to circulate that show A&M has added the words “South Division” to the years 1997 and 2010.
One of the first reports I saw was this one, dated 26 September 2012 from College Football Blogger Matt Hinton at CBSSports.com. Mr. Hinton not only falls victim to the same lack of common sense that Mr. Sallee did, but he also goes a step further in making his accusation. [emphasis added]
A&M’s only legitimate claim to a conference crown in the Big 12 era came in 1998, when it won the South and upset No. 1 Kansas State in the championship game.
In response to the ridicule that followed, the university has now appended the words “South Division” below the ’97 and ’10 claims on the wall to signal to passersby that they don’t actually count and should be ignored. A fan who noticed the change during Saturday’s game against Texas Southern sent in photos of the fine print to the website Deadspin.
Mr. Hinton is right that A&M’s only outright conference crown came in 1998, but he must have missed the Big 12’s web page where they too listed A&M as having three conference football championships.
Pointing out that A&M’s only outright conference title came in 1998 is redundant considering the fact that he posts a photo showing that A&M has added the words “South Division” under the years 1997 and 2010. Is Hinton under the impression that his readers can’t see the words “South Division,” or is he making the claim that despite adding the words “South Division,” A&M is actually still trying to claim the 1997 and 2010 Big 12 Division Titles as outright conference crowns?
Why not simply report that A&M has added the words “South Division” under the years 1997 and 2010? Why is there a need to explain A&M’s history of legitimate Big 12 Conference Championships? If I had to guess, it would be because without such an explanation, Hinton would have a hard time trying to claim that A&M only added the words “South Division” after first trying to add the years ’97 and ’10 without them.
Mr. Hinton even goes so far as to insinuate that A&M added the words “South Division” in response to the ridicule that followed the original reports earlier in the month. I guess Mr. Hinton not only missed Alan Canon’s comments but also didn’t take the time to contact A&M for comment. Hinton also apparently didn’t take the time to run a quick Google search in order to see if there were any other articles on this topic. If he had, I doubt he would have missed Mr. Canon’s comments, not to mention the fact that A&M played South Carolina State that Saturday and not Texas Southern (see kids, research is always a good thing).
On the other hand, maybe Hinton did know what Alan Canon said. Maybe he actually spoke to Alan Canon himself? If that is the case, then Mr. Hinton is calling Alan Canon a liar.
In other words, while writing his article, IF Matt Hinton knew that (1) Alan Canon had said A&M planned on adding the words “South Division” to the years 1997 and 2010, AND (2) despite this knowledge Hinton still wrote that A&M appended the words “[i]n response to the ridicule that followed;” what other conclusion can one logically reach other than that Hinton is claiming that A&M did not originally plan (from the beginning) on adding the words “South Division” and that Canon’s claim of doing so isn’t true.
So, how did something like this happen? How did someone report a story, only to have others reiterate it as fact with complete disregard for any truth or accuracy?
Well, let’s go back to the original article that apparently started all of this mess (or is at least sourced and credited as being the first). I am referring to the article posted by Marian Hinton at RantSports.com. Her post was titled “Texas A&M Aggies ‘win’ two additional football national titles this summer.”
In her article, Marian Hinton writes: [emphasis added]
To commemorate the event [moving to the SEC], the Texas A&M sports marketing department decided to frivolously add two additional NCAA football national championships to their resume over the summer without even playing a game. . . . Yet the Aggies have now decided that, in order to better fit in with their new conference foes, that they will also claim national titles from 1919 and 1927 as well.
Wow, where do I start with this?
First: I am fairly sure that A&M didn’t add two additional “NCAA football national championships” to their resume. This may come as a shock to Marian Hinton, but the NCAA doesn’t award national championships to FBS schools. In other words, there is no such thing as a NCAA National Championship for any school playing at the FBS level. In fact, A&M’s 1939 title isn’t an NCAA title either — it’s an AP title.
Should someone who isn’t aware of this very basic and simple fact be writing about college football? Does RantSports.com not check the quality and knowledge of its writers? Further, despite this mistake, why did all of those other writers think it was alright to cite back to Marian Hinton’s article as their primary source of information without contacting anyone at A&M?
If you notice, the word NCAA (in her article) is hyper-linked. I figured that upon clicking it, it would take me to a list of national title winners, but no such luck. Instead, the link takes me to a blank RantSports.com page that says “The page you were looking for was not found.” This is more than fitting, considering one could not create a list of NCAA National Champions for the FBS level. (You can’t link to what doesn’t exist!)
Second: This one is minor but I still feel like addressing it. According to her, it was the Texas A&M sports marketing department that decided to add these championships.
While this is highly possible, she would only know this if she actually contacted A&M and asked them who made the decision. Without doing so, she is simply guessing.
Having followed college football for as long as I have, I would guess that the decision to claim additional football national championships was something that the Athletic Director (and others) would be highly involved in (and not just the sports marketing department).
But who knows? After all, she is the one that contacted A&M in order to figure this out. Right?
Third: She later states that “Texas A&M has decided to go back and rewrite the record books.” I wish she would tell us what record books she is referring too, as I am not sure A&M is rewriting anything. [emphasis added]
Alan Cannon, A&M’s associate athletic director of media relations, offered the following explanation: . . . The national titles listed are included in NCAA record books, Cannon said. But until this season, A&M officials had listed only the 1939 title — the school’s lone title won since the advent of the college football polls, which debuted with the AP poll in 1936. Before 1936, multiple organizations named national champions each year, and A&M was designated by at least one organization in 1919 and 1927.
In case you have the football IQ of Marian Hinton, I will state this another way. The NCAA record books listed 1919 and 1927 as recognized national titles for A&M. A&M is hardly rewriting the record books when the years are already printed in them.
Fourth: Marian Hinton includes some random football history (that may or may not be factual) in her article. In what appears to be a poor attempt at backing up her claim Marian states:
Apparently, Texas A&M has decided to go back and rewrite the record books.
In 1919, Illinois, Harvard, Notre Dame and A&M all received a national championship from at least 1 different publication, but Harvard and Illinois received the 1st place vote in more publications.
In 1927, Texas A&M received a retroactive national championship from the “Poling System”, a ranking method developed by a Mr. Polin in Ohio in 1935, but it was retroactively given to A&M for the 1927 season.
Like I said, she gives no citation as to where this information came from, so we have to just assume it is correct–despite the fact that she has so far made that nearly impossible.
Either way, her apparent reason for providing this information is to back-up her claim that the Aggies are rewriting the record books.
Unfortunately, she fails miserably at the attempt.
Both of her paragraphs actually strengthen the idea that A&M has at least some sort of claim to a national title for the 1919 and 1927 seasons.
In fact, she even states that [emphasis added] “In 1919, Illinois, Harvard, Notre Dame and A&M all received a national championship from at least [one] different publication . . . “ This would be great if she were trying to claim that the 1919 national title had less value than others, but that is not her claim. Her claim is that A&M is trying to rewrite the record books and that A&M has no claim to a 1919 title.
As for her second paragraph, well, it simply doesn’t make any sense. Lets try to take it in pieces, shall we?
“In 1927, Texas A&M received a retroactive national championship . . . ”
So, A&M received a retroactive national championship for the 1927 season. Okay, got it. Wait, that can’t be right!? Is she trying to say that years after the 1927 season A&M received a retroactive championship for the 1927 season? (Which is what I kind of expected her to say.) Or is she saying that we actually got the championship in 1927 (although it was retroactive when we got it)?
If you aren’t sure, go back and re-read what she said. She said that “In 1927, Texas A&M received a retroactive national championship . . . “
” . . . from the ‘Poling System’, a ranking method developed by a Mr. Polin in Ohio in 1935, but it was retroactively given to A&M for the 1927 season.”
Okay, so according to the second part of this sentence, she must have meant that the 1927 title was given to A&M some years after the 1927 season (i.e. retroactively). After all, if it was given to A&M by the “Poling System,” the 1927 title would have had to have been retroactively awarded as Mr. Polin didn’t create this system until 1935.
I’m glad that is all cleared up. Or is it?
According to Wikipedia.com, A&M has not ever received a retroactive title from the Poling System. In fact, according to Wikipedia, A&M’s 1927 title was awarded by Jeff Sagarin (Sagarin Ratings).
How did Marian Hinton miss this? All one has to do is look down the list for the 1927 national title winners, find Texas A&M, and see that the selector listed is “SR” (Sagarin Ratings).
And what about those other facts, like how the Poling System was created by Mr. Polin in 1935? None of that is mentioned on this Wikipedia page, so she must have gotten that info from somewhere else.
I suspect Marian Hinton incorrectly read a very simple spreadsheet and upon doing so (and thinking she discovered that it was the Poling System that awarded A&M its 1927 title) she visited the Poling System’s Wikipedia page.
Having used her “cracker jack” research skills, she began to pull historical information from the Poling System’s wiki page, completely and blissfully ignorant to the fact that she had stuck her head into the wrong rabbit hole.
(Here is another site showing that Sagarin’s system is the one that awarded Texas A&M its 1927 championship.)
So Marian Hinton is ignorant to the fact that the NCAA doesn’t award national championships at the FBS level, and she is clueless as to who actually awarded the 1927 championship to Texas A&M. Yet RantSports.com has no problem using her as a college football writer and it was her article that was cited as the source for all the fuss over A&M’s newly claimed championships.
Moral of the story? Easy. Its one you learned a long time ago. Don’t believe everything that you read because the author might be an idiot.