Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football And The All-Time Winning Percentage Race
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Notre Dame And The All-Time Winning Percentage Race

Through recent decades, Michigan and Notre Dame had mostly taken turns at the top spot in all-time winning percentage among Division I/Football Bowl Subdivision schools.

The good news is that because Notre Dame has fashioned a 43-8 record the past four years compared to Michigan’s 29-16, the Fighting Irish have once again moved ahead of the Wolverines (see the data below).


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Alabama's dominance the past 12 years has vaulted it to nearly the top in all-time winning percentage.
Alabama's dominance the past 12 years has vaulted it to nearly the top in all-time winning percentage. (Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press)

Unfortunately, over the past decade Alabama and Ohio State have established such dominance nationally and/or in their respective leagues, they have ascended to or near the top with no signs of slowing down, based on their recent recruiting results.

At the start of the 2020 season, Ohio State was the new program at the summit — and still remains there thanks to a remarkable nine-year record of 106-11 (.906 winning percentage) from 2012-20.

Meanwhile, Alabama has compiled an astounding 163-17 ledger (also .906 winning percentage) since 2008 under head coach Nick Saban, and likewise inched past the Irish this past season while capturing its sixth national title in the past 12 seasons.

Finally, Boise State, which has played less than half the football games of almost all the top programs, has slinked into the No. 3 position.

By NCAA regulations, Notre Dame officially is at 908 victories and in fourth place in winning percentage. 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.

As it stands now, there is merely .00403 winning percentage 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.

Division I FBS All-Time 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 be 939 (918 wins plus 21, which is half of the 42 ties) divided into 1,289.

These are the eight schools at .700 (when rounded off in the final case) in all-time winning percentage.

1.Ohio State 1,311 games: 931-327-53 — .73036

2. Alabama 1,303 games: 929-331-43 — .72947

3. Boise State 639 games: 465-172- 2 — .72926

4. Notre Dame 1,289 games: 918-329-42 — .72847

5. Michigan 1,350 games: 964-350-36 — .72741

6. Oklahoma 1,299 games: 917-329-53 — .72633

7. Texas 1,334 games: 923-378-33 — .70427

8. USC 1,258 games: 852-352-54 —.69873

• 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.

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