Notre Dame, ranked fifth before crushing previously unbeaten and top-ranked Texas in the Cotton Bowl, 38-10, was named the No. 1 college football team in the country yesterday by both Associated Press and United Press International.
The Irish, one of five teams in the top five with an 11-1 record, beat out once-beaten Alabama and Arkansas in the close voting for the top spot and mythical national championship.
The Associated Press poll is a nationwide survey of selected sportswriters and broadcasters. UPI's a poll of 39 college football coaches.
Notre Dame received 37 1/3 firstplace votes in compiling 1,180 points of possible 1,280 in the AP poll. Alabama had 19 1/3 first-place votes and 1,132 points, while Arkansas was third with 1,011 points and 5 1/3 first-place votes. Texas fell to fourth in the AP poll (but recieved two first-place votes), and to fifth in the UPI poll.
The Irish received 23 first-place votes from UPI's coaches for 365 points, to Alabama's 13 first-place votes and 354 points. Arkansas had two first-place mentions and 310 points.
Two other groups concurred with the wire-service polls. The Football Writers Association of America named Notre Dame the Grantland Rice national collegiate champion and the National Football Foundation early yesterday picked the Irish as recipient of the MacArthur Bowl, emblematic of the national championship.
Although Notre Dame was preseason pick to win the national championship, the achievement capped a long, uphill climb for the Fighting Irish. Their hopes for a national title were almost dashed in the second game of the season when they lost to Mississippi, 20-13.
"It's beeb such an emotional experience," said Notre Dame coach Dan Devine. "After the loss to Mississippi I knew it wouldn't be an easy job. It was an uphill fight. When things went a little bit bad we closed ranks and had faith enough in what we trying to do not to panic. I t would have been easy to get into a second-guessing situation."
Alabama coach Bear Bryant admitted his disappointment at the final voting.
"Naturally, I'm disappointed for our players and our staff because they did an outstanding job this year and we came so far during the season, but Notre Dame has our congratulations," said Bryant.
Six coaches from each of the seven geograhical areas of the nation compromise the UPI ratings board. Each week they vote on the top 10 teams and points are awarded on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis for votes from first through 10th.
The AP voting is based on points awarded on a 20-18-16-13-12-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis for votes from first throught 15th place.
Rounding out the top 10, according to AP, were Penn State, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, Michigan and Washington.
Ohio State, routed by Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, 35-6, was 11th. The remainder of AP's second 10: Nebraska, Southern Cal, Florida State, Stanford, San Diego State, North Carolina, Arizona State, Clemson and Brigham Young.
Members of UPIs coaches poll tapped Penn State fourth, followed by Texas, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, Michigan, Washington and Nebraska.
UPI's second 10 was comprised of Florida State, Ohio State, Southern Cal., North Carolina, Stanford, Brigham Young, North Texas State, Arizona State, San Diego State, and North Carolina State.
Maryland, 3-4 and winners over Minnesota in the Hall of Fame Bowl Dec. 22, did not crack either top 20, but did get some points in AP voting.
Kentucky, 10-1, did not play in a bowl game because it is on NCAA probation. For this reason the Wildcats were not eligible for consideration by UPI's poll.
It was the closest balloting in years, thanks to Monday's stunning bowl results that saw Texas plumment from its top perch; Oklahoma jolted, 31-6, from second place by Arkansas, and Michigan knocked from fourth, 27-20, by Washington, which moved up from 13th to 10th in AP and 13th to ninth in UPI.