Dickinson System

The Dickinson System was a mathematical point formula that awarded national championships in college football. Devised by University of Illinois economics professor Frank G. Dickinson, the system crowned national champions from 1925[1] to 1940. Dickinson also compiled retroactive rankings for 1924.

The system was originally designed to rank teams in the Big Nine (later the Big Ten) conference. Chicago clothing manufacturer Jack Rissman then persuaded Dickinson to rank the nation's teams under the system, and awarded the Rissman Trophy to the winning university.[2]

The Dickinson System was the first to gain widespread national public and media acceptance as a "major selector", according to the NCAA Football Records Book[3] prior to the establishment of the Associated Press poll in 1936.


Rissman Trophy

The original Dickinson System prize was the Rissman Trophy, named after Chicago clothing manufacturer Jack F. Rissman.[4]

The Rissman Trophy was permanently awarded to Notre Dame following their third Dickinson title in 1930.[5]

Rockne Trophy

Following the retirement of the Rissman Trophy and the death of Knute Rockne in early 1931, the second Dickinson trophy was named the Knute Rockne Intercollegiate Memorial Trophy.

Minnesota retired the Rockne Trophy after winning their third Dickinson title in 1940.[6]


An explanation for the mathematical calculations was usually given as part of the story of the season ending rankings. In 1927, the AP story about the "national football championship" for that year noted that "Scores of 96 football teams were compiled by Dr. Dickinson in seven football conferences, including an Eastern group of 25 leading teams regarded for convenience as a conference...

"The Dickinson system awards 30 points for a victory over a strong team, and 20 for victory over a weak team. Defeats count half as much as victories [15 pts vs. strong team, 10 pts vs. weak team], and ties are considered as games half won and half lost [22.5 points vs. strong, 15 vs. weak]. Dividing this total by the number of games played gives the final rating."[7] Professor Dickinson later added another variable, a "sectional rating" which provided for different points in games where the teams were from different sections of the country.[8]

Annual rankings

SeasonNo. 1No. 2No. 3No. 4No. 5No. 6No. 7No. 8No. 9No. 10No. 11No. 12Source
1924Notre DameCaliforniaYale[9]
1925Dartmouth (20.00)Tie:
Michigan (19.38)
Alabama (19.38)
--Colgate (18.75)Missouri (16.25)Tulane (15.00)Washington (14.75)Tie:
Wisconsin (13.75)
Stanford (13.75)
--Pittsburgh (12.50)Lafayette (11.88)[9][1]
1926Stanford (22.50)Navy (21.88)Tie:
Michigan (21.25)
Notre Dame (21.25)
--Lafayette (20.00)USC (17.50)O.N.K. (16.67)Ohio State Line, California (17.50)Alabama (16.77)Ohio State (16.25)Army (14.38)[10]
1927Illinois (21.50)Pittsburgh (21.42)Minnesota (20.88)Notre Dame (20.83)Yale (20.00)Army (18.75)Michigan (18.33)Georgia (17.50)Nebraska (17.42)USC (16.35)Texas A&M (15.00)[11]
1928USC (24.13)California (22.50)Georgia Tech (20.00)Tie:
Stanford 19.17
Wisconsin (19.17)
--3-way tie:
Carnegie Tech (18.33)
Illinois (18.33)
Iowa (18.33)
----Army (17.50)NYU (16.25)Penn (15.00)[12]
1929Notre Dame (25.00)Purdue (23.60)Pittsburgh (22.00)California (20.00)Illinois (18.70)USC (17.75)Nebraska (16.80)TCU (16.51)SMU (16.31)Tulane (16.27)Penn (15.00)[13]
1930Notre Dame (25.13)Washington State (20.44)Alabama (20.18)Northwestern (18.63)Michigan (18.34)USC (17.98)Stanford (17.92)Dartmouth (17.11)Army (16.66)Tennessee (16.15)Tulane (16.05)[14]
1931USC (26.25)Tulane (24.85)Tennessee (23.10)Northwestern (22.45)Saint Mary's (22.23)Georgia (21.25)Harvard (19.50)Yale (18.79)Pittsburgh (17.50)Purdue (16.58)Notre Dame (16.17)[15]
1932Michigan (28.47)USC (26.81)Pittsburgh (26.49)Purdue (26.33)Colgate (25.00)Ohio State (23.60)Notre Dame (20.44)Army (20.00)Tennessee (19.16)TCU (19.12)Wisconsin (18.80)[16]
1933Michigan (28.53)Nebraska (24.61)Minnesota (23.87)Pittsburgh (23.01)Ohio State (22.79)USC (22.61)Princeton (22.50)Oregon (22.36)Army (22.16)Purdue (21.88)Stanford (20.34)[17]
1934Minnesota (23.51)Pittsburgh (24.19)Navy (23.00)Illinois (22.01)Rice (21.97)Alabama (21.70)Columbia (21.67)Ohio State (21.51)Colgate (21.06)Stanford (20.34)Tulane (21.03)[18]
1935SMU (28.01)Minnesota (27.35)Princeton (26.00)LSU (24.03)Tie:
Stanford (23.11)
California (23.11)
--Ohio State (22.21)TCU (22.01)Notre Dame (21.66)UCLA (21.25)Fordham (20.89)[19]
1936Minnesota (23.77)LSU (22.59)Pittsburgh (22.28)Washington (21.34)Alabama (20.01)Northwestern (20.87)Notre Dame (20.18)Duke (20.04)Penn (20.00)Nebraska (19.82)Duquesne[20]
1937Pittsburgh (22.84)Fordham (22.54)Dartmouth (22.50)Alabama (21.97)Nebraska (21.12)Yale (21.07)California (20.82)LSU (20.75)Santa Clara (20.36)Notre Dame (19.85)[21]
1938Notre Dame (27.72)Duke (27.10)Tennessee (26.68)USC (23.71)Oklahoma (23.69)Michigan (23.02)Minnesota (22.71)TCU (22.67)Alabama (22.63)Carnegie Tech (22.62)Pittsburgh (22.54)[22]
1939USC (25.73)Texas A&M (25.43)Cornell (25.26)Tulane (23.61)Tennessee (22.97)Notre Dame (22.50)Duke (22.34)Missouri (22.29)UCLA (21.91)Iowa (21.02)[23]
1940Minnesota (29.55)Michigan (26.16)Stanford (25.84)Tennessee (25.76)Texas A&M (25.74)Penn (24.78)Mississippi State (24.28)SMU (23.82)Texas (23.33)Nebraska (23.12)Northwestern (22.51)Boston College (22.14)[24]



  1. "National Dickinson Football Ratings". The Honolulu Advertiser. January 24, 1926. Retrieved January 19, 2023. Places Dartmouth at the top of the column
  2. Herschel Nissenson Tales From College Football's Sidelines (Sports Publishing LLC, 2001), p93.
  3. USC Now Will Recognize Its 1939 Football Team As A National Champion :: Trojan have 10 national champs in the sport
  4. Wallace, Francis (1960). Knute Rockne. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc. pp. 171–173.
  5. Kiener, John A. (February 7, 1930). "Highlights of Football Season" (PDF). The Notre Dame Scholastic. Vol. LXIV, no. 11. South Bend, Indiana: University of Notre Dame. Retrieved May 19, 2022. the Fighting Irish received the Jack F. Rissman national Intercollegiate football trophy for the year 1930. Not only did they receive it for the present season but for all time; three times a winner within the same decade means permanent possession of the trophy.
  6. "Irish National Championships". University of Notre Dame Athletics. Archived from the original on January 17, 2018. Retrieved May 19, 2022. The annual Dickinson ratings were emblematic of the national championship and the basis for awarding the Rissman Trophy and the Knute K. Rockne Intercollegiate Memorial Trophy. Notre Dame gained permanent possession of the Rissman Trophy after its third victory in 1930. Minnesota retired the Rockne Trophy after winning it for a third time in 1940.
  7. "ILLINOIS BEST FOOTBALL TEAM OF YEAR," The Syracuse Herald, Dec. 4, 1927, p23
  8. "Dickinson Discovers Gophers Are Nation's Best Football Eleven," The Vidette-Messenger (Valparaiso,IN), Dec. 3, 1940, p6
  9. Dickinson, Frank G. (January 8, 1926). "Dickinson Football Rating System: Dartmouth Declared National Champion". The Pantagraph. p. 11 via Newspapers.com.
  10. "Stanford Eleven Adjudged Best: Navy Ranks Second Under Dickinson System of Rating Teams". The Morning Post. Camden, N.J. December 17, 1926. p. 23 via Newspapers.com.
  11. "Illinois Rated As America's Champs: Dr. Dickinson of Illinois Devises Rating System for Grid Teams". The Morning Call. December 4, 1927. p. 12 via Newspapers.com.
  12. "Trojans Rated as Leading College Team in Country". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. December 9, 1928. p. 42 via Newspapers.com.
  13. "National Trophy to Notre Dame". The Miami Herald. December 2, 1929. p. 10 via Newspapers.com.
  14. "Notre Dame Wins National Title by Dickinson System". Messenger-Inquirer. December 7, 1930. p. 13 via Newspapers.com.
  15. "Dickinson Gives Title to Trojans". Monroe Morning World. December 13, 1931. p. 8 via Newspapers.com.
  16. "Michigan Gets Rockne Trophy as U.S. Champ". The Daily Argus-Leader. December 11, 1932. p. 9 via Newspapers.com.
  17. "Dickinson Picks Michigan: Trojans Rated Sixth In Grid Title Listings". The Pasadena Post. December 10, 1933. p. 11 via Newspapers.com.
  18. "Dickinson Rates Minnesota Team As Best in U.S." The Salt Lake Tribune. December 9, 1934. p. 24 via Newspapers.com.
  19. "So. Methodist Rated No. 1 by Dickinson". Chicago Tribune. December 10, 1935. p. 21 via Newspapers.com.
  20. "Gophers Get No. 1 Rating". The Wilkes-Barre Record. December 9, 1936. p. 19 via Newspapers.com.(Dickinson made his ratings before Santa Clara played TCU, noting that Santa Clara would drop out of the top 11 if it lost to TCU, with Duquesne climbing into the No. 11 spot.)
  21. "Dickinson Rates Pitt Greatest". The Pittsburgh Press. December 12, 1937. p. 41 via Newspapers.com.
  22. "Notre Dame Rated First". The Baltimore Sun. December 6, 1938. p. 16 via Newspapers.com.
  23. "Southern Cal Is Rated First". The Billings Gazette. December 12, 1939. p. 9 via Newspapers.com.
  24. "Dickinson Likes Minnesota, Too". The Hastings Daily Tribune. December 3, 1940. p. 4 via Newspapers.com.
  25. "Dickinson System National Championship Selections". College Football Data Warehouse. Retrieved 2009-10-27.
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