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The annual debate over the best way to crown college football’s national champion is nothing new. Bowl games and playoffs were the subjects of a poll of the nation’s sports editors as the 1938 season came to a close. Under the headline, “Writers Against ‘Bowl’ Contests,” a syndicated article appeared in the December 21, 1938, issue of the Nebraska City News-Press.

Ninety percent of the editors queried did not favor a postseason playoff to decide the national championship. However, sixty-six percent voted “no” when asked if they favored the existing bowl games. Eight percent said they didn’t care one way or another, while the remaining twenty-six percent approved bowl games. Even editors who favored bowl games had reservations: “They are okay if we don’t get any more.” “Two or three are all right, but too many of them cheapen the sport.” “Personally, I dislike the hypocrisy connected with the games, but they do help liven up the sport pages during the dull holiday season.”

The University of Omaha football team in the huddle during a game. 1935.

The University of Omaha football team in the huddle during a game. 1935.

Although a postseason playoff struck some editors as a good idea, they felt it was impossible to conduct such a tournament. “Besides,” said one editor, “there’d still be many arguments over who to invite to such a tournament, and the fighting would continue long after the tournament had ended. Anyway, it’s more fun just speculating on the national champion.”

The editors probably would be shocked by the number of bowl games now, but they would not be surprised that “speculation” continues to play a part in determining the national champion.