Ranking the top five underachieving programs of all time

Ole Miss and UCLA should have greater football histories than they do.

Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Stewart Mandel’s Mailbag. Send questions for future Mailbags to stewart.mandel@fox.com.


Stewart, How ’bout your Top 5 underachieving schools of all time? Considering the fact that Texas A&M has not won ANYTHING of note since before World War II, they would surely make your list.

— Kevin Oliver, Texarkana, Texas

Gosh, Kevin, I don’t suppose you’re a fan of the Texas Longhorns? (I checked. He is.)

Sorry, but A&M would not crack my top five, given it ranks in the top-20 nationally in all-time wins and has 10 post-World War II conference championships on its books (albeit none in the 21st century). I’ll give you mine:

1) UCLA. One of the most recognizable brands in higher education, much less college athletics, in the second-largest city in the country, has won exactly one national title (in 1954) and has not won a Rose Bowl — you know, that game played in its home stadium — since 1986. Think about how improbable it would have seemed not long ago that Oregon would become a preeminent West Coast powerhouse before UCLA.


2) North Carolina. Much the same reasons as UCLA. UNC is one of the most recognizable brands in college sports and has enjoyed national preeminence in not only basketball, but in sports like soccer, baseball and lacrosse. Its state is loaded with high school talent. And yet the Tar Heels’ football history is almost entirely underwhelming.

3) Ole Miss. Located in the heart of the most football-crazy region of the country, famous for off-field traditions like the Grove, the Rebels‘ glory years consist of basically one brief period in the late ’50s and early ’60s. I don’t necessarily expect Ole Miss to be Alabama, but it’s crazy that the disparity between the two is as steep as the Tide’s 50-10-2 all-time record.

4) Arizona State. I’ve never understood why the Sun Devils can’t sustain success. First of all, you can get pretty much anyone into school there. It’s easy access to talent in Los Angeles. It’s a warm-weather school with beautiful, um, scenery. But the apathetic fan base doesn’t help.

5) Maryland. The program has history — albeit mostly distant history at this point. It’s located in fertile recruiting territory near a major metropolis. And it’s won one conference championship in the past three decades, a goal that’s only going to become more difficult in its new league.

Obviously a few of these — particularly Ole Miss and ASU — are already showing signs of a potential breakthrough, but that’s where things stand today.

Click here to read Mandel’s full Mailbag.

Stewart Mandel is a senior college sports columnist for FOXSports.com. He covered college football and basketball for 15 years at Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter @slmandel. Send emails and Mailbag questions to Stewart.Mandel@fox.com.