Notre Dame Remains Near Top In All-Time Winning Percentage
For most of the past two decades, Michigan and Notre Dame have taken turns at the top spot in all-time winning percentage among Division I football schools.
As a new decade commences, a third Midwest-based school, Ohio State, is now at the summit, thanks to a remarkable eight-year record of 99-10 (.908 winning percentage) from 2012-19.
Meanwhile, Boise State, which has played less than half the football games of almost all the top programs, has slinked into the No. 2 position.
No. 3 Michigan remains one slot ahead of Notre Dame, but the Fighting Irish have picked up a two-game advantage each of the past three years versus the Wolverines: 10-3 to 8-5 in 2017, 12-1 to 10-3 in 2018, and 11-2 to 9-4 last year.
Notre Dame’s 33-6 record the past three years is the sixth best in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Unfortunately, an asterisk element from earlier this decade remains in play for the calculations.
By NCAA regulations, Notre Dame officially is at 908 victories. That’s because on Feb. 13, 2018, the NCAA denied the university’s appeal to not have to vacate its 21 total victories from the 2012 (12) and 2013 (nine) seasons due to academic misconduct from the inadvertent use of ineligible players during those two seasons that the school self-reported.
Minus the NCAA-imposed vacancy of the 21 wins from the 2012-13 seasons, the Fighting Irish record would be 929-326-42 for a .73246 winning percentage, ahead of Ohio State’s current No. 1 pace of .72497.
As it stands now, there is merely .00393 separation between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 6 Oklahoma.
In NCAA parlance, “vacating” a victory is not the same as “forfeiting” one. It affects only the victor of the game, not the loser.
For example, USC had to vacate its last two wins in 2004 (and thereby the national title) and all 12 wins from the 2005 season. However, that did not mean that the 34-31 win at Notre Dame in 2005 was now a “victory” for the Irish. Notre Dame’s final record remained 9-3 that year even with the loss to the Trojans. It counted neither as a win nor a “non-loss.” The losing team retains the defeat.
Likewise, when USC was stripped of the 2004 national title, unbeaten Auburn was not named the national champion. Neither was Oklahoma, which lost 55-19 to the Trojans in the title game. Hence, the word “vacated.” A vacated win affects only the penalized team’s season records, all-time records and the head coach’s record.
This means that although head coach Brian Kelly is 92-37 (.713 winning percentage) in actual games played on the field, the NCAA and Notre Dame have to recognize it as 71-37 (.657) with the 21 vacated wins.
Division I Football Bowl Subdivision All-Time Won-Lost Records By Percentage. This is calculated by dividing the number of wins plus half the ties into the number of games played. For example, with Notre Dame it would 929 (908 wins plus 21, which is half of the 42 ties) divided into 1,276.
1. Ohio State 1,303 games: .924-326-53 Up 1 — .72947
2. Boise State 632 games: 460-170- 2 — .72943
3. Michigan 1,344 games: 962-346-36 — .72917
4. Notre Dame 1,276 games: 908-326-42 — .72806
5. Alabama 1,290 games: 916-331-43 — .72674
6. Oklahoma 1,288 games: 908-327-53 — .72554
7. Texas 1,324 games: 916 375 33 — .70431
8. USC 1,252 games: 847-351-54 —.69808
9. Nebraska 1,337 games: 902-395-40 — .68960
10. Penn State 1,333 games: 898-393-42 —.68942
• Tennessee (.67427) moved ahead of Florida State (.67208) for the 11th spot, while 2019 national champion LSU (.65580) edged past Georgia (.65496) at No. 13.
• Ohio State had 12 victories vacated by the NCAA during the 2010 season
• Alabama had eight victories and one tie forfeited by the NCAA during the 1993 season, plus 21 victories vacated by the NCAA for the 2005-07 seasons
• USC had 14 victories vacated by the NCAA during the 2004 and 2005 seasons.