Ask Johnny O: Who's Number One?

Nov. 21, 2005

By John O'Keefe


Our first question was tough to ignore because it simply asks the most basic college sports question. Who's number one? This time though it's not in the BCS, preseason men's basketball, or the Baseball America rankings. It's in everything.


How many NCAA Championships have the top 3 universities/colleges won? - Tom Carbonar, Los Angeles


Tom, it's UCLA, Stanford, USC and everybody else. These three California programs tower over the rest of college sports in terms of national championships won at the Division 1 level. The Bruins have won  titles in 17 sports, Trojans in 16 different sports, and Stanford 16. Who's won the most? UCLA with 97 titles from its first, a 1949-50 Men's Tennis title, to its most recent,yet another Men's Tennis title last spring. They Bruins are followed by Stanford with 90 titles and USC with 83.  Football titles are not under the NCAA so for the purposes of this only AP and UPI titles were counted on the gridiron.


Now that we know what the numbers say, Tom's question starts the discussion of who has the best overall athletic program in NCAA history.


I know that Stanford has won 11 straight Directors' Cups (awarded annually to the nation's top athletic program) and captured an amazing 71 national team titles since 1980, but I say the numbers don't lie. The nation's best athletic program resides six hours south of Palo Alto at UCLA. Both John Wooden (Basketball) and Al Scates (Volleyball) are the undisputed coaching icons of their sport, while Glenn Bassett (Tennis) probably shares that mantel with Stanford's Dick Gould. Their athletes have earned or gone on to earn 95 Olympic gold medals. The program continues to dominate today across the board. This past year they won national titles in Men's Water Polo, Women's Water Polo and Men's Tennis and finished second in Women's Soccer, Men's Volleyball, Women's Golf and Softball.


(Mad props to freelancer Eric Mirlis for helping compile the research on this.)


Is Ernie Kent really saying anything when he cups his hands together and yells onto the court? Here's my question ... who puts on the most interesting coaching sideline acts in college basketball? - Dan Walsh, Layfayette, CA.


Dan, I mentioned last week that I love this question. I have long maintained that the antics of college basketball coaches should be considered performance art. I'm guessing that you may have watched current Oregon Coach Ernie Kent when Kent was coaching Saint Mary's College from 1991-97 in nearby Moraga. Yes, the 6-5 Kent puts on quite a show cupping his hands megaphone style as he charges up and down the sideline, but he has a long way go to match some of the games all-time greats.


There's Jerry Tarkanian gnawing on a towel like he hasn't eaten for days, while Georgetown's John Thompson had his draped over his shoulder like a boxing trainer. Former Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins' face would turn as red as a vine ripe tomato when yelling at one of his players or an official. The Master of the Universe suits of Rick Pitino used to make him look like Gordon Gecko from Wall Street and the bow tie of former Mount St. Mary's coach Jim Phelan conjured up thoughts of an Ivy League dean. The carnation of Notre Dame's Digger Phelps, the multi-colored sweaters of Lou Carnesecca at St. John's, or the plaid coat of Alabama's Wimp Sanderson were all memorable.


Still, can anybody really top the side show of Bobby Knight? The slamming of his fist on the scorer's table in 1987 NCAAs, causing a phone to go airborne. The head butting (Knight claimed it was unintentional) of guard Sherron Wilkerson on the bench during a 1994 game, and of course the infamous incident during a Feb. 25, 1985 Indiana home game. Upset over a call during the Hoosiers game against Purdue, Knight hurled a chair clear across the court and into the wheelchair section at Assembly Hall. You can't write material like that. He seems to have toned it down at Texas Tech since leaving Indiana, but like any movie with Jack Nicholson, each of his performances still demand attention.


Which five players will be invited to at Heisman Trophy ceremony this year? - Tom Danville, CA.


Tom, we can only assume that five will get the call to New York City. Although five went last year, only four have gone in the recent years. This much we know. Matt Leinart of USC, Vince Young of Texas, and Reggie Bush of USC should make sure they are free Saturday evening Dec. 10 when the award is announced on ESPN. Let's say there will be two more spots, who should at least start thinking about the possibility that they will get called to the Big Apple?  Notre Dame's Brady Quinn, who in his junior year has destroyed just about every single season Irish passing record, and UCLA Senior Drew Olson, whose touchdown to INT ration of 30 to 3, is the best in the nation.


Who's going to win the women's volleyball national championship? - Erin Pryor, Los Angeles, CA.


Erin, I really think that this is the year that Washington breaks through. The Huskies entered last year's tournament at number three in the country, but were only given the seventh overall seed. They made it all the way to the national semi-finals before losing to the eventual national champion Stanford. Why so little respect last year by the tournament committee for the Huskies? People are still getting used to the fact that Washington is now a women's volleyball powerhouse.


Just look at the job Coach Jim McLaughlin has done in his fifth year on the job. McLaughlin inherited the last place team in the Pac-10 when he took over in Seattle in 2001. In his fourth season he had them in the final four and now in his fifth (with six seniors and four All-Americans returning) he has them poised to win it all. Yes, undefeated Nebraska and Penn State have strong teams, but these Huskies have been rolling through the Pac-10 all season having suffered their first loss of the year just last Saturday against UCLA. Remember McLaughlin has coached a national champion before. He led the USC Trojans men's team to the crown in 1990. A battle tested team, a tough schedule, and an experienced big match coach are going to give these Huskies the edge to win it all in San Antonio.


If Colorado played Georgia Tech in a bowl game in 1990 who would have won? They were co-national champs.  Mike Burkart - Boulder, CO.


Mike, let me guess. You are a Colorado fan who wishes it was the good old early `90s again. Long before Rick Neuheisel, Gary Barnett, and Katie Hnida, the Buffaloes were a Big Eight power. Yes, 1990 was one of the three times in the last 15 years that we have had a split national football champion. Back then there was no BCS, but Colorado won the AP title while Georgia Tech took the UPI.


Colorado finished 11-1-1 led by quarterback Darian Hagen and running back Eric Bieniemy on offense and linebacker  Kanavis McGhee and defensive back Deon Figures on defense. Still, their 10-9 Orange Bowl victory over Notre Dame is best remembered for a play that didn't even count. The electrifying 91-yard punt return by Raghib "Rocket" Ismail with 35 seconds left that was nullified by clipping penalty against Greg Davis that wasn't even seen by the two officials closest to the play. Also in their Oct. 6 33-31 victory over Missouri, the Buffloes scored in the final seconds on a controversial five down series in what has be one the most egregious college football refereeing errors in the last 25 years.


The Yellow Jackets didn't lose a game in 1990 going 11-0-1 culminating in a 45-21 Citrus Bowl route over Nebraska. Coached by Bobby Ross and quarterbacked by Shawn Jones, Georgia Tech didn't have the star power of the Buffaloes but seemed to know how to win late in games. Scott Sisson's 37-yard field goal beat No. 1-ranked Virginia (Yes, Virginia was ranked number 1 for a part of the 1990 season) and there was a narrow last minute 6-3 victory over Virginia Tech the following week.


Georgia Tech won an ACC that didn't include Florida State or Miami, which explains how they were undefeated and yet only invited to the Citrus Bowl. Colorado certainly had better personnel, but they had a knack for playing down to their competition that season (see the 23-22 loss to Illinois and the above mentioned Missouri game). I think it would have cost them against the Yellow Jackets.


Sorry, Mike, I'd take Georgia Tech. CU's best team was actually the year before when they went into the Orange Bowl undefeated and ranked No. 1, only to lose 21-6 to Notre Dame.


Send your questions to Johnny O.

 John O'Keefe is Chief of Research for CSTV.



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