Kentucky's "lost" basketball championships


We don’t do “repeats” a lot on the Wildcat Blue Nation, but in honor of tonight’s Kansas/Kentucky game, I wanted to re-share a post that I originally posted on March 16, 2010.  Consider it a guide if you are talking to a Kansas fan today and they are bragging on “all their national titles””

 In the course of running this blog, I have had the misfortune of getting bizarre e-mails from members of other school’s lunatic fringe. The other day I received an email from a Kansas fan who boasted that when “the Jayhawks kick UK’s ass, they are just one national title behind“. After reminding him that his Jayhawks only have three NCAA titles, he replied back “to not forget 1922 and 1923″. Of course. Who can forget those teams. North Carolina fans are the same way. They claim six national titles rather than the five they are recognized as. Who can forget those 1924 UNC Tar Heels?

It’s amusing of course, that Jayhawk and Tar Heel fans cling to their Helms Foundation “National Championships” the same way a NRA member clings to his guns whenever liberals are in power. Kansas and Jayhawk fans have a motto:

“They will take our Helms Titles when they pry them from our cold dead hands”

To add leverage to the Helms Title discussion, Kentucky is the winner of the 1933 “National Championship” that was awarded by the Helms Foundation, so technically Kentucky could claim EIGHT banners. Since we are not quite as delusional as the UNC and KU fans, we go with the modern definition of a national title – the NCAA version. If we wanted to nitpick, we could claim the early NIT titles as banner years as well since the NIT Tourney used to be the equivalent of the NCAA Tourney back in the day.

Note I said “equivalent of” and “back in the day”

So what is the deal with the Helms Championships? Well, back in 1936, The Helms Foundation was founded in Los Angeles by Paul Helms and Bill Schroeder. In 1939, they put together a panel of experts to retroactively go back and “award national titles” to College Basketball teams from 1901 to 1939 which was the year the NCAA Tournament started. Kentucky and Kansas were honored once and the Jayhawks received two of the mythical awards.

Once the NCAA Tournament started, it became the true standard of determining the national champion, but Tar Heel and Jayhawk fans like to live in the past and celebrate those Helms title as true national titles. If you look at Rupp Arena, there is no signage or any reminder of 1933 – which was Kentucky’s mythical national title. Adolph Rupp’s team went 21-3 that season.

If we really want to be extra-delusional, Kentucky fans can claim the 1954 Helms National Title as well. Kentucky did not play the 1952-53 season due to a point shaving scandal, but in 1954 posted a perfect 25-0 record. The NCAA declared some of UK’s players ineligible and Adolph Rupp skipped the NCAA Tournament that year. La Salle won the 1954 NCAA Title, but the Helms Foundation awarded Kentucky their national title for that season. That would make NINE banners. Watch out UCLA!

Kentucky football could also claim a mythical national title for the 1950 season. Bear Bryant’s Wildcats went 11-1 and defeated the #1 Oklahoma Sooners in the Sugar Bowl 13-7. Oklahoma is generally acknowledged as the National Champion for the 1950 season due it’s finishing number one in the AP and UPI polls. Kentucky finished ranked #7 in the coaches and the AP polls, but it should be noted that these polls were taken before the bowl games were even played. In retrospect, Kentucky was ranked #1 by the Sagarin rankings. As a matter of fact, four schools ended up being named 1950 National Champion by assorted medias. And you thought the BCS was a mess!

In 2005, the NCAA did start recognizing Kentucky as co-National Champion on it’s Past Football Bowl Subdivision National Champions Web site, but it is really just a title for the record books as far as Kentucky is concerned, same as the Helms Titles.

It just seems that Kentucky prefers the national titles won on the field as opposed to the paper ones our rivals tout. So keep on bragging those faux banners … the Cats will keep winning them on the court and have an excellent chance at Banner number 10 number 8 this April.

Tags: Helms National Titles Kentucky 1933 Helms Championship Kentucky 1954 Helms Championship.

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