USC Claims ’39 Football Title

Times Staff Writer

It seems that winning half of last season’s national championship only made the USC football program hungry for more.

The Trojans have gone back through the record books and are now laying claim to a portion of the 1939 title.

That season’s undefeated team, though finishing No. 3 in the young Associated Press poll, ranked first in the Dickinson System, a now-defunct formula that was among the recognized polls of the era.

“It was brought to our attention by various individuals that we should be claiming the 1939 Trojans among our national champions,” Athletic Director Mike Garrett said Monday. “We took this matter seriously, did significant research and determined this to be true.”


USC is not alone in its assessment; the NCAA also lists the team among three champions named by 13 polls in existence that season. Texas A&M;, at 11-0, ranked atop 10 of the polls. Cornell, 8-0, won two.

Legendary USC coach Howard Jones, with three previous titles, called the 1939 squad his best in terms of depth.

The Trojans shut out six teams and allowed only 33 points, still a school record. They defeated No. 7 Notre Dame and No. 11 Oregon State, but tied Oregon and No. 9 UCLA.

A 14-0 victory over No. 2 Tennessee in the Rose Bowl left USC at 8-0-2.

Frank G. Dickinson, an Illinois economics professor and football analyst who created the ranking, said at the time, “The Trojans were the best team in the best section ... and the nation’s other top teams did not play as strong a schedule as USC.”

By USC’s count, that brings its number of national football titles to 10. Five of its other teams ranked first in at least one poll but are not considered champions because none of those polls were considered as prominent as Dickinson’s.

Surviving members of the 1939 team will be honored at the 0ct. 16 home game against Arizona State.