Its time to get defensive and justify, once and for all, BYU’s 1984 National Championship.
1.WON-LOSS RECORD. In 1984, BYU was 13-0 and the only undefeated team in the country. Why the controversy? Not only did the University of Washington have a loss (11-1), the Huskies were not even Pac-10 champions; therefore, why would they be the national champion? (Fun fact: BYU beat Washington 31-3 in 1985.) The University of Florida (9-1-1) had two blemishes on its record. Why would they be considered the champion over a team with no blemishes? Florida actually had three blemishes—NCAA rules violations. Even if they had been voted number 1, any reputable poll would have stripped Florida of the title, just as the Southeastern Conference (SEC) did.
2.CONSENSUS NUMBER 1. More recently (2003, 1997, 1991 and 1990) the major college football polls could not agree who was number 1. BYU, however, was a consensus number 1. The Associated Press, the United Press International (UPI), Sports Illustrated, CNN-USA Today, the Football Writers of America all voted BYU number 1. Why should we dispute a championship that so many experts agreed on?
3.BEAT THE NUMBER 3 RANKED TEAM. To start the year, BYU went on the road to Pittsburgh, the number 3 ranked team, and won. Critics like to point out that Pittsburgh finished the year a disappointing 3-7-1, but they forget to point out that 11 Pitt players were drafted in the next three NFL drafts, including Bill Fralic (second overall pick, 1985) and Chris Doleman (fourth overall pick, 1985). Why wouldn't you rank a team with so much pro talent number 3? On opening day in 1984, the Pitt team (known then as “the Beast in the East”) believed that it was number three and played with that confidence. By losing, that confidence was shattered. College football is largely based on players’ mental psyche. An opening game upset loss can damage that psyche for an entire season, or at least bruise it and cause the season to be a disappointment. (For example, Michigan started 2007 season losing to Appalachian State, followed by a blowout loss to Oregon.) The mental psyche factor is also seen yearly come bowl season when teams who were dominant during the season play flat and lose to inferior competition. If anything, this Pittsburgh game is a testament to BYU’s superior mental psyche. They were on the road, playing the number 3 team, the game was a live, nationwide telecast on ESPN, the game was the first start for quarterback Robbie Bosco. Plus, BYU’s win exposed Pitt’s weaknesses and gave every other Pitt opponent confidence that they could win.
4.WON ITS BOWL GAME. BYU played Michigan in the Holiday Bowl. Critics argue that this was a 6-5 Michigan team that BYU beat only 24-17. Well, Michigan was ranked number 3 earlier in the year. Then injury struck. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan’s starting quarterback broke his arm. This goes a long way in explaining Michigan’s poor won-loss record. (Fun fact: Michigan ended 1985 ranked number 2.) While the Michigan offense was mediocre, the Michigan defense was strong (only two opponents scored more than 21 points). During the game, BYU lost its quarterback Robbie Bosco to injury for a series. He returned and played the rest of the game with an injured knee. In the game, BYU committed 6 turnovers, including a fumble at the goal line. You are not supposed to win when you commit 6 turnovers (the popular explanation for Florida losing to Ole Miss in 2008 was Florida’s THREE turnovers). Yes, BYU could have made a statement by winning 38-3, but it didn’t. However, what it did do—win despite playing with its star QB injured and despite turning the ball over 6 times—may be just as impressive, and it exemplifies what makes a team a champion: to overcome all obstacles and find a way to win no matter what. Kind of like the 2002 Ohio State National Championship team; they didn’t win pretty, but they didn’t lose either.