We often write epic thinkpieces about the true greats of college football and how they have single-handedly changed the paradigm of the sport for the next decade (at least until next year, when a new guy wins.)
We recall the great teams of the past, including the Bear Bryant Crimson Tide, the Bobby Bowden Seminoles, the Jimmy Johnson Hurricanes, et al. We compare legacies and trophies and argue about that crazy little thing called Program Tradition as if it is the end all, be all of a college football program's national relevance.
But, we don't really talk about those programs that underperformed.
It could be because of the cultural attachment to American Exceptionalism, which dictates that we must be the best at all times in public and in private and that any slight mistake is a failure of the utmost embarrassment that must be treated as such.
Well, r/CFB bit the bullet, and oh boy is it an amazing read.
If you're too lazy to click the link, we've provided the chart from the article for your perusal.
A few observations:
- UTEP is easily one of the most-mentioned out of all the teams on the list, earning the dubious "worst team" moniker five times since 1906. UTEP was also named the worst team of the decade for the 1970's, putting up a woeful 23-87 record.
- The Mid-American Conference is top-heavy on this list, as Ohio (6,) Kent State (5,) EMU (3,) and Miami/Buffalo (2) make multiple appearances. Ball State also had two "honorable mentions."
- 9 of the 14 members of the American Athletic Conference are members of this list, including Memphis (4,) Cincinnati/Temple/SMU (3) and Louisville/Tulsa/Tulane/Houston/UCF (2.)
- CUSA actually fares pretty well in the list, with only Marshall/Rice (4) and FIU (2) finding a spot on the list.
- The Sun Belt only gets two members on the list with soon-to-be independent New Mexico State (4) and Louisiana-Monroe (2) making appearances.
- The Mountain West only sees Colorado State (4) and New Mexico (3) on the list as well.
- The chart itself skews to "underdogs." 17 teams from Power Five conferences make multiple appearances, while 28 G5/indy/FCS or lower teams make multiple appearances.
- The 1909 Temple Owls were terrible. They did not score a single point in five games. Despite that, they finished 0-4-1.
- The 1910 Tulane Green Wave was perhaps even worse. Tulane scored two field goals over an entire season, finishing with a 0-7 record.
- Memphis was the first program to go back-to-back. The 1925-1926 Tigers went 1-14-2.
- Cincinnati was the first team to ever lose double digit games, going 0-10 in 1937.
- Marshall narrowly avoided consecutive appearances in 1968, going 0-9-1. If the Herd would have lost that game, they would have joined a plethora of other teams at 0-10, including New Mexico, Wisconsin and Wichita State.
- SMU has some strange history on this list; in 1995, SMU's only win came against eventual SEC West Champ Arkansas. In 2014 SMU scored 12 points in their first 4 games on the way to 1-11.
- 2002 was the year of the Transitive Worst Team. Buffalo beat Rutgers, Rutgers beat Army, Army beat Tulsa, and Tulsa beat UTEP to all end at 1-11 on the season.
- George O'Leary and UCF have a unique distinction. The Golden Knights finished 0-11 in 2004 in their last year of MAC play (O'Leary's first at UCF) and then finished 0-12 in 2015 (O'Leary's last season).