10 Powerhouse College Football Programs That Have Lost Their Luster

David Luther@@davidrlutherFeatured ColumnistMarch 22, 2012

10 Powerhouse College Football Programs That Have Lost Their Luster

0 of 10

    College football is full of ebbs and flows.

    As if Sir Isaac Newton himself was in control, even in the world of college football it seems that what goes up must eventually come down.

    Or at least when it comes to these 10 once-powerful teams.

    We're going to take a look at 10 powerhouse college football programs that have lost their luster since their glory days of yesteryear.


1 of 10

    There was a time when Army was the best of the best in college football.

    In fact, between 1944 and 1950, Army posted a record of 57-3-4, which included three national championships (1944, 1945 and 1946).

    But the Army football team has fallen on hard times since. In fact, Army has attended just five bowl games in its history, and just two since 1989.

    If that wasn't enough, 10 straight losses to Navy from 2002-'11 is a quick way to lose a good deal of luster.


2 of 10

    Since the football program at UCLA began in 1919, the Bruins have had numerous successful seasons, including at least a share of 19 conference championships.

    The Bruins have played in an impressive 32 bowl games, including 12 Rose Bowls.

    With all of that success, it's easy to understand the angst displayed by UCLA administrators and Bruins fans over the complete lack of success the program has had over the past decade.

    After UCLA's Pac-10 championship in 1998, the Bruins began a slide that hasn't seen much relief since.

    The Bruins were just 4-7 in 1999 and 6-6 in 2000. While UCLA was able to put together 10 wins in 2005, that was the only time since 2003 the Bruins have won more than seven games in a single season—UCLA still finished third in the Pac-10, highest finish of the decade.

    UCLA did get a nice consolation prize in 2011, with a trip to the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game, but only as a 6-6 team (and because USC was ineligible). A loss in that game and the following Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl left the Bruins with a 6-8 record, and head coach Rick Neuheisel without a job.

    In 2012, Jim Mora takes over a program that has definitely seen better days.


3 of 10

    Decades ago, Minnesota was a proud program in the Big Ten with national championship aspirations.

    Today, the Golden Gophers are about as close as one can get to a guaranteed conference win.

    After yet another dismal season, finishing 3-9 in 2011, the Golden Gophers are on the verge of becoming a laughing stock in the Big Ten—and perhaps the entire FBS.

    We're all used to teams from the MAC, Sun Belt or Conference USA being no good, but when a once-powerful program from a “power conference” sucks it up on the field each and every week, we can't let it slide without mention.

    Minnesota is 0-2 against FCS programs over the past two seasons, for goodness sake. One of those programs (South Dakota) is a recent FCS addition from Division II—making the jump in 2008 before beating Minnesota in 2010.

    This from a program with six claimed national championships and 18 Big Ten titles?


4 of 10

    It might be hard to imagine today, but there was a time not that long ago that Washington was one of the top teams in the Pac-10, winning Rose Bowl Games and national championships.

    What happened?

    Since that magical 2000 season, which saw the Huskies win 11 games—including the Rose Bowl against Purdue—Washington has won more than seven games in a season just once (2001, 8-4), and hasn't come within spitting distance of a conference title.

    Washington even suffered through an 0-12 season in 2008, removing the last of any residual swagger the program still carried from its glory days of a decade earlier.

Texas A&M

5 of 10

    There's a lot of excitement in the Texas A&M program right now.

    And why not? The program is moving to the SEC with a brand new coach, and the way things are set up now, a simple conference title will pretty much guarantee a trip to the BCS National Championship Game.

    But Texas A&M has had more than a Texas-sized heap of trouble winning in the “lesser” Big 12, so what makes anyone think the Aggies will fare better in the SEC?

    The Big 12, for the most part, has been the Texas-Oklahoma show for the better part of the last decade. The Aggies haven't won a conference title since 1998, and their recent history has been anything but impressive.

    Since 2000, A&M has won eight or more games just three times, and has a combined record of 79-69. Compare that with Oklahoma's 133-28 or LSU's 123-34 over the same span.

    Texas A&M fans are proud of their football team, but the hard truth is the Aggies haven't seen any real, sustained success since the 1990s under head coach RC Slocum.


6 of 10

    It doesn't take a mathematical genius to figure out that Tennessee has fallen off the proverbial cliff in college football.

    Tennessee was once the king of not only the SEC, but of much of the nation, and the Volunteers have the distinction of winning the very first BCS National Championship.

    But since that time, Tennessee hasn't won a conference title, much less come close to winning another national championship.

    While Tennessee is a program certainly capable of a quick turnaround, it's clear there's no one afraid of facing the Vols on Saturday any longer.

Penn State

7 of 10

    When it comes to sustained success over the long haul, there weren't many coaches in the history of the game that could match the legendary Joe Paterno.

    JoePa guided the Nittany Lions to two national titles over his 45-plus seasons as head coach, and the program has been invited to 43 bowl games—only seven without Paterno as coach.

    Beyond the impressive numbers put up by Paterno's Nittany Lions, the fact remains that Penn State without JoePa looks like just another run-of-the-mill Big Ten football program.

    Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993 and by the following season had won a conference title and accompanying trip to Pasadena.

    But then Penn State went on a decade-long drought before returning to the top of the conference standings.

    Now, with the recent off-the-field struggles of the program, it's truly difficult to see how Penn State can count itself among the Big Ten powers.

    Like every other program on this list, it's entirely possible Penn State will see a resurgence in the program. With the power of the Nittany Lions, it may be sooner than most.

    Even if Penn State was still at the heights of its success, the loss of a great coach like Joe Paterno would have its own massive effect on the program.  How happy can Happy Valley truly be without Joe Paterno?

    Only time will tell.


8 of 10

    Maybe Urban Meyer saw the writing on the wall.

    Maybe the Gators just momentarily lost their way without Meyer's guidance.

    Whatever the reason, it's clear that the Gators have lost quite a bit of their swagger from the amazing run in Gainesville from 2005-'09.

    In those five seasons, Florida won 58 games while losing just nine, not to mention a pair of SEC and BCS titles. In the following two seasons, Florida has lost 11 games while winning just 15, and obviously without any titles.

    Florida was the cream of the crop in the SEC for a good while, but it's clear to even the most casual of observers that the Gators have since been replaced at the top of the food chain by LSU and Alabama.


9 of 10

    It doesn't take long, does it?

    After nine straight years of 10-or-more wins, the Texas Longhorns went from playing the BCS National Championship Game at the end of the 2009 season to missing a berth in any bowl in 2010 after a 5-7 campaign.

    Texas rebounded a bit in 2011, at least qualifying for a bowl with a 7-5 regular season mark, but the Longhorns are still a faint echo of what they once represented in the Big 12.

    Even the 27-time champion of the Southwest Conference has had trouble finding its way through the Big 12. Since the conference was created out of the merger of what was left of the SWC and the Big 8 in 1996, Texas has just just three Big 12 titles.

    We don't want to cause a dust-up, but we'll just point out that Oklahoma has won seven conference titles.

    Based just on those facts, it seems as if it's Oklahoma—not Texas—that the rest of the nation is concerned with these days.

Notre Dame

10 of 10

    When we talk about powerhouse programs that have lost their luster, it's impossible to not talk about Notre Dame.

    Funny enough, the Irish begin every season with incredibly high expectations. Then they predictably fall short.

    One has to wonder about the reasons surrounding those perpetually high expectations in South Bend.

    Yes, Notre Dame is one of the most storied programs in history. Sure, the Irish have at least as much history and tradition as any other great program in the sport. Okay, the name Notre Dame is synonymous with the golden era of college football.

    But what does that get Notre Dame today?

    Some of the top names in coaching are attracted to South Bend, mainly because of that tradition that seems to ooze from every blade of grass in Notre Dame Stadium. But not every coach has been able to restore the luck of the Irish. In fact, since Lou Holtz, none have.

    Brian Kelly is the latest to give it a go, and the jury is still out on how successful he'll be with the Golden Domers.

    So while a fan could easily lose himself walking amongst the bronze statues and by the historic facade of the stadium the once saw the shadows of Rockne and Leahy and Parsegian and Bertelli, and Lujack, and Gipp, it's clear that—for the moment—the years where those famous gold helmets shone the brightest are in the past.