1996 NCAA Division I-A football season


1996 NCAA Division I-A football season

The 1996 NCAA Division I-A football season ended with the Florida Gators crowned National Champions, but not as unanimously as the Bowl Alliance would have hoped.

Florida defeated Florida State in the Sugar Bowl, which was the designated National Championship that year. Florida had faced Florida State earlier in the year, when they were ranked #1 and #2, and lost. Were it not for Texas beating Nebraska, then #3, in the first ever Big 12 championship game, Florida wouldn't have even been in the title game.

And even once they were there, it wasn't certain a victory would mean a national championship. The Rose Bowl game featured #2 Arizona State and #4 Ohio State. Florida St. and Arizona St. were the only unbeatens going into bowl season, so a Rose Bowl victory would give the Sun Devils a legitimate chance on winning the title. This scenario looked plausible as Arizona State's Jake Plummer scored with 1:40 left to play in the game, making the score 17-14. But Ohio State's backup quarterback Joe Germaine marched down the field to pull out a heart stopping 20-17 win.

On the one hand, this meant the national title game the following night would produce an incontrovertible champion. On the other hand, it left doubt to whether or not Ohio State deserved a stake in the national title, as evidenced by the team's 1½ first place votes in the final AP poll. The Pac-10 and Big 10 could no longer afford to hold onto tradition while the rest of the country wanted a clear national champion. Reading the writing on the wall, they would soon join the national championship series with the other major conferences.

The Big 12 (Big 8 + 4 SWC members in Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Baylor) would begin play as a two division conference, with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State joining the South Division, breaking up the classic Oklahoma-Nebraska rivalry, but renewing the Texas-Oklahoma rivalry, known as the Red River Shootout.

A new conference, Conference USA, formed from a combination of the Metro Conference and the Great Midwest Conference, neither of which had sponsored football. The conference champion has a tie in with the Liberty Bowl. The conference included SWC refugee Houston, as well as Louisville and Southern Miss, two solid independents.

The Western Athletic Conference gained three members from the defunct Southwest Conference in TCU, SMU, and Rice, as well as UNLV, San Jose State, and Tulsa. The now 15-team conference split into a Pacific and Mountain division and played a championship game.There was a large controversy when #5 BYU was robbed of a spot in a BCS game, as they were snubbed in favor of lower ranked teams from BCS conferences. This would spur Congress into action, and would eventually be a reason the BCS polls were created.

The Big West Conference lost several schools. Pacific stopped sponsoring football, as of 2006 the last Division I-A school to do so. Arkansas State, Louisiana Tech, Northern Illinois, and Southwestern Louisiana (now Louisiana-Lafayette), all which collectively joined the Big West in 1993, left to become independents. UNLV and San Jose State left to join the WAC. However, the conference gained three schools which just jumped from Division I-AA to Division I-A, namely Boise State, North Texas and Idaho.

Bowl Coalition First and Seconds

The Bowl Coalition did not include the Pacific 10 and Big 10 conferences, whose champions were played in the Rose Bowl. Thus, Arizona State and Ohio State (who met in the Rose Bowl) were excluded from the Bowl Coalition championship.

Bowl Games

Final AP Poll

#Florida (65½)
#Ohio St. (1½)
#Florida St.
#Arizona St.
#BYU
#Nebraska
#Penn St.
#Colorado
#Tennessee
#North Carolina
#Alabama
#LSU
#Virginia Tech
#Miami-FL
#Northwestern
#Washington
#Kansas St.
#Iowa
#Notre Dame
#Michigan
#Syracuse
#Wyoming
#Texas
#Auburn
#Army

Others receiving votes: 26. West Virginia; 27. East Carolina; 28. Southern Mississippi; 29. Stanford; 30. Wisconsin; 31. San Diego St.; 32. Virginia; 33. Clemson.

Final Coaches Poll

#Florida (58)
#Ohio St. {4)
#Florida St.
#Arizona St.
#Brigham Young
#Nebraska
#Penn St.
#Colorado
#Tennessee
#North Carolina
#Alabama
#Virginia Tech
#Louisiana St.
#Miami (FL)
#Washington
#Northwestern
#Kansas St.
#Iowa
#Syracuse
#Michigan
#Notre Dame
#Wyoming
#Texas
#Army
#Auburn

Heisman Trophy Voting

"The Heisman Memorial Trophy Award is given to the Most Outstanding Player of the year"
Winner:
Danny Wuerffel, Florida, Quarterback (1363 points)
*2. Troy Davis, Iowa St., RB (1174 points)
*3. Jake Plummer, Arizona St., QB (685 points)
*4. Orlando Pace, Ohio St., OT (599 points)
*5. Warrick Dunn, Florida St., RB (341 points)

Other Major Awards

*Maxwell Award (College Player of the Year) - Danny Wuerffel, Florida
*Walter Camp Award (Back) - Danny Wuerffel, Florida
*Davey O'Brien Award (Quarterback) - Danny Wuerffel, Florida
*Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (Senior Quarterback) - Danny Wuerffel, Florida
*Doak Walker Award (Running Back) - Byron Hanspard, Texas Tech
*Fred Biletnikoff Award (Wide Receiver) - Marcus Harris, Wyoming
*Bronko Nagurski Trophy (Defensive Player) - Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
*Dick Butkus Award (Linebacker) - Matt Russell, Colorado
*Lombardi Award (Lineman or Linebacker) - Orlando Pace, Ohio State
*Outland Trophy (Interior Lineman) - Orlando Pace, OT, Ohio State
*Jim Thorpe Award (Defensive Back) - Lawrence Wright, Florida
*Lou Groza Award (Placekicker) - Marc Primanti, N.C. State
*Paul "Bear" Bryant Award - Bruce Snyder, Arizona St.


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