Penn State’s ring of honor already pays tribute to the undefeated 1994 season, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this fall. That season the Nittany Lions finished second in the major polls behind Nebraska, but the New York Times crowned Penn State as the national champion. The only problem is the New York Times national champion will never receive the same praise as Nebraska will with the AP and Coaches Poll crowns. That’s just the way things go, unless you are Auburn.
Auburn padded its national championship résumé recently by laying claim to the national championship during the 1993 season. The Tigers went undefeated that season but were ineligible for postseason play due to a postseason ban issued by the NCAA. Auburn finished fourth in the Associated Press poll that season, behind top-ranked Florida State, Notre Dame and Nebraska. That did not stop Auburn from suggesting it won the national title that season.
For a program to claim a national championship in a year it served postseason probation is beyond humorous. What is the point, exactly? To try and keep pace with an in-state rival (Alabama) constantly claiming national titles it may or may not have won? Perhaps. Whatever the case, Penn State seems to be staying far away form this little game.
The official timeline of the program’s history accurately notes the 1983 Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia as the first national championship in program history despite previous undefeated seasons and political interference. The second, of course, came in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl against Miami. That was Penn State’s last recognized national championship. Penn State does make note of the New York Times computer ranking that gives the program the edge over Nebraska (thanks to strength of schedule), but the school still only recognizes two legitimate national championships.
The debate over the 1994 season will always be a good one. As it stands now, it is one Penn State is willing to concede to the Huskers.