The Badgers National Championship you’ve never heard of

You know how the fine folks from Michigan and Ohio State love to needle Badger fans and tell us that we aren't even in their stratosphere because we haven't won a national title? Well, apparently that's not exactly true. I know, you're probably thinking… What the heck is this idiot writing about, right?

Well, according to an article by Andy Baggot of the Wisconsin State Journal, the Badgers were actually named national champions in 1942 – I know, wait… what? I thought Badgers football didn't exist before 1993, right? Believe it or not Wisconsin was actually pretty damn good at football back in the day, contrary to many fans belief. 

The fact that Wisconsin was pretty damn good back in the day wasn't lost on me, being a history buff and all, but this national championship claim was something I wasn't personally aware of either.

Baggot notes that Wisconsin was named the 1942 national champion by the Helms Foundation (one of 15 organizations with polls at the time) and I'm betting this is either the first time you're hearing about this or if you actually read the article earlier this week, it's probably the 2nd time. 

Why doesn't Wisconsin claim the national title in it's records? That's a heck of a good question if you ask me. After all, they did beat the AP No. 1 in Ohio State and had an 8-1-1 record, tying Notre Dame (who finished 6th in the final AP Poll) and losing to Iowa (who wasn't very good).

So, who does claim the 1942 championship? Ohio State does (AP poll and a few others) and Georgia (Billingsley and 6 others). OSU went 9-1 that season and Georgia was 11-1. I have no issues at all with Georgia claiming a national championship because of the lack of inter-regional play like we see more of now.

However, if Ohio State – a team Wisconsin beat – can stake a claim to that national championship, why doesn't Wisconsin? After all, they did beat the Buckeyes and finished the season 4-1 in conference play to OSU's 5-1. Let's also remember that this was still an era where teams weren't playing the same amount of games in conference play let alone close the same type of schedules. 

To date it's still the Badgers' highest season ending ranking as they ended the year ranked No. 3 by the AP poll. Again, that just points to the validity of Wisconsin making the claim. Especially when it was OSU, Georgia, and Wisconsin as 1, 2, 3 in the final AP poll. I say claim it – it's going to be a money maker and something we can shut Ohio State and Michigan fans up with. 

Baggot does bring up a great point in using Alabama as a great example of over-inflating your records, as they claim 15 national championships – never mind the fact that one of those years they weren't ranked higher than 20th by any other of the nearly 15 national rankings out there. 

So, why doesn't Wisconsin go back and correct the records? 

Heck, even East Dakota Uni… err the University of Minnesota went back in it's record books and added a 7th national championship to it's claims. 

Perhaps that's the exact reason – do we as fans really want the UW to be anything like what's going on across the Mississippi river? 

All of this points out just how crazy and idiotic things were back in the day and how little things have actually changed to this day. We've all longed for the day of a true playoff and a true national champion decided on the field and thankfully that's just one more season away from happening. Let's just hope Wisconsin can claim one of those pesky national championships by actually earning it on the field of play and not because some arbitrary organization named them national champions. That way no one can dispute it!

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy has been covering college football for nearly half a decade and is the Managing Editor of He's also a featured columnist covering college football for Bleacher Report.