No matter your favorite college football team, you’ve taken an embarrassing loss. Even perennial juggernaut Alabama (Roll Tide) has taken some shameful Ls. I witnessed a few of them in person. However, you can take comfort in the fact that no matter who you root for, they have not, and likely will never, take the biggest loss in college football history. That is, unless you’re a Cumberland University Phoenix fan. In 1916, they caught the biggest ass whupping ever.
Georgia Tech Engineers vs Cumberland College Bulldogs
On October 7, 1916, the Georgia Tech Engineers beat the Cumberland College Bulldogs 222-0. The previous year, Cumberland had suspended their football program. Who could really say if this football thing was going to take off? Nevertheless, they were contractually obligated to play some games they had agreed to. Georgia Tech coach John Heisman* refused to allow the Bulldogs out of their contract. If they failed to appear for the game, they would have owed Georgia Tech $3,000 ($71,000 in 2020). John Heisman even went so far as to offer $500 to Cumberland to entice them to play.
It’s not clear why Coach Heisman wanted so badly to play a team that didn’t even have a football team. It’s likely because sports reporters at the time ranked teams partially based on how many points they scored, regardless of the opponent. So, if you scored seven points against Yale (a powerhouse at the time) you would dip below a team that scored 70 points against Northwestern Louisiana A&M at Hoboken. So maybe Coach Heisman just wanted a cupcake he could run wild on.
Whatever the case, Cumberland enlisted its baseball team manager to put together a team. He assembled a squad of his fraternity brothers and went to Atlanta. Reporting on the game is all over the place. Some reports say Georgia Tech scored on every play they ran. It’s likely they just scored on every set of downs. Other reports say that Cumberland didn’t gain a single yard, but they probably actually gained about 14 (let’s go, Bulldog Phoenixes!).
Georgia Tech scored 32 touchdowns. Coach Heisman even agreed to shorten the second half from 30 minutes to 24. They could’ve easily scored about five more touchdowns if they had that six minutes back.
The Crimson Tide in 1916
The 1916 college football season has two official co-champions. Sadly, for Cumberland’s pride, neither of them are Georgia Tech. According to the Official NCAA Division 1 Football Records Book, Army and Pitt share the title that year. Considering the United States was only months away from entering World War I, it’s probably good they had some athletic cadets on the team. Interestingly, 1916 is the only year in college football history that Alabama did not win the national championship.
The Alabama Crimson Tide played the 1916 season as members of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA). The Good Guys finished that season with a 6-3 record. Also, Bama lost 13-0 to Georgia Tech that year. We held a 222 to 13; that just shows you the power of the Crimson Tide. Alabama was also shut out against Tulane and Georgia. I think it’s fair to say all those teams cheated. Roll Tide.