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National titles: Who decides? Mostly, the schools

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National titles: Who decides? Mostly, the schools

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Quick, name the college football team that has won the most national championships. Alabama? Notre Dame? Princeton?

If you gave any of those answers, and maybe a few others, you might be right. Because over the years there have been a lot of organizations using different methods to determine who they think is national champion.

No wonder ``mythical'' is the word that often precedes national title.

``There is no official standard because there is no official national champion,'' said Kent Stephens, historian at the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend. ``It all depends on the standard the school wishes to utilize. The national champion is in the eye of the beholder.''

This explains how Princeton can claim 28 national championships, starting with the first one in 1869. The Tigers went 1-1 that season against Rutgers in the only two games played in college football that year. They were retroactively crowned champion by several ranking organizations.

Among more traditional powerhouses, Alabama claims the most national championships with 14, followed by Notre Dame with 11, which is the same number Southern California and Michigan say they deserve.

The Fighting Irish and Crimson Tide are tied at eight for the number of times they have been declared national champions by The Associated Press since the wire service started its poll in 1936. One of the teams will be awarded its ninth AP title in the wee hours of Jan. 8, after the BCS title game.

The biggest difference between the number of overall national championships Alabama and Notre Dame claim is the way they add up their titles.

Notre Dame senior associate athletic director John Heisler said the school only counts seasons when it feels as if most of the rating services agreed the Fighting Irish were the champs.

``When there isn't any debate, that Notre Dame would be considered the consensus national champions,'' Heisler said.

Alabama associate athletic director Doug Walker said The Tide feels its claim is just as solid.

``We acknowledge that some question one of our claimed national championships, the title from 1941, but we do claim 14 football national championships,'' he said.

Here are some of the national championships involving Alabama and Notre Dame.

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1924 - Notre Dame, led by the famed Four Horsemen, finished 10-0. There was no national champion declared at the time, but two years later University of Illinois economics professor Frank Dickinson devised a mathematical point system to determine a national champion, Stephens said. Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne persuaded Dickinson to retroactively determine a national champion for the 1925 (Dartmouth) and 1924 seasons. Others also were retroactively declared national champions.

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1930 - Alabama, coached by Wallace Wade, posted a 10-0 record, shutting out eight of its opponents, including a 24-0 win over Washington State in the Rose Bowl. Alabama is named the national champion by College Football Researchers. Notre Dame, in its last season under Knute Rockne, also went 10-0, including wins over Army and Southern California in the final two games. The Fighting Irish were named national champion by multiple organizations. Parke Davis calls Alabama and Notre Dame co-champions.

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1941 - Alabama posts a 9-2 record, finishes ranked No. 20 in the AP Poll but is ranked No. 1 by Houlgate. Minnesota (8-0) is ranked No. 1 by AP and several other groups. Notre Dame (8-0-1) finishes the season ranked No. 3.

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1964 - Alabama (10-1), led by Joe Namath, is named No. 1 in both the AP and coaches poll at the end of the regular season. Notre Dame was ranked No. 1 for the last month of the season, but was upset in the season finale by Southern California 20-17 when Craig Fertig completed a 15-yard TD pass to Rod Sherman with 1:33 left. The Irish finish No. 3 while Alabama then loses 21-17 to Texas in the Orange Bowl when the officials rule Namath didn't make it into the end zone on a quarterback sneak.

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1966 - Notre Dame (9-0-1) was ranked No. 1 by the AP and coaches at the end of the regular season, the only blemish on its record was a 10-10 tie against No. 2 Michigan State. Some criticized Irish coach Ara Parseghian for settling for a tie instead of going for the victory. Defending national champion Alabama (11-0) finished No. 3. Berryman named Alabama national champion, but the school does not count it.

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1973 - Alabama (11-1) finishes the regular season undefeated and is declared the national champion in the coaches poll, where the Irish were ranked No. 4. Notre Dame (11-0) then beats Bear Bryant's Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl after Bob Thomas kicked the game-winning field goal with 4:26 remaining. The AP names Notre Dame national champion.

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1977 - Notre Dame (11-1), after losing 20-13 to Mississippi in the second game of the season, wins the rest of its games, including a 38-10 rout of Texas in the Cotton Bowl, and is ranked No. 1 by in the AP and coaches poll. Alabama (11-1), after losing 31-24 to Nebraska in the second game, wins the rest of its games, including a 35-6 win over Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. The Tide winds up No. 2.

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New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft charged with soliciting prostitution

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New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft charged with soliciting prostitution

JUPITER, Fla. -- Police in Florida have charged New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft with misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution, saying they have videotape of him paying for a sex act inside an illicit massage parlor.

Jupiter police told reporters Friday that the 77-year-old Kraft hasn't been arrested. A warrant will be issued and his attorneys will be notified.

The charge comes amid a widespread crackdown on sex trafficking in the area surrounding Palm Beach County. About 200 arrest warrants have been issued in recent days and more are expected.

The Patriots won the Super Bowl earlier this month in Atlanta. The team did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Update: A spokesperson for Robert Kraft issued a statement, denying Craft's involvement. "We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity," a spokesperson said, via Michael Del Moro. "Because this is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further. 

This is a developing story. Visit NBC Sports Boston for the latest Robert Kraft news and updates. 

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Radio silence from Bryce Harper hasn't quieted Mark Lerner's confidence in Nationals

Radio silence from Bryce Harper hasn't quieted Mark Lerner's confidence in Nationals

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Fans on the sidewalks at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches are held back by wire fence, just a few feet away from players clicking past in spikes on concrete. It emulates two priorities: access and the idea the team’s managing principal owner, Mark Lerner, had when he was a kid at spring training.

“You want to be able to see your favorites,” Lerner said Friday.

When Lerner, 65, comes to West Palm Beach, he still does that. He stops in the clubhouse to distribute handshakes and hugs. Running into Anthony Rendon on a crosswalk near the fields really lit up Lerner, who is still using a cane following an amputation of his lower left leg in 2017 necessitated by the diagnosis of spindle cell sarcoma, a rare form of cancer.

Not in West Palm Beach is a player Lerner had a close relationship with. On the day Manny Machado was introduced in San Diego, Bryce Harper remained, to the astonishment of many, unemployed. 

Lerner last addressed Harper’s free agency when he sat for radio interviews, Dec. 10, the day Patrick Corbin was introduced. He said the Nationals were no longer in the mix for Harper. The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract which had an expiration date: when free agency began, it would be retracted. Harper declined, vaulting the baseball world into a months-long saga filled with tension, misinformation and growing exasperation.

“Nothing’s certainly changed on our end; we’ve moved on, as I said back then,” Lerner told NBC Sports Washington. “We had to. There was no way we could wait around. Bryce I’m sure will make his decision, hopefully in the next few days. But, we filled out our roster and like I said, we wish him nothing but the best. There’s always that -- the door’s cracked a little bit. I have no clue at this point what they’re up to. I mean, we really haven’t heard from them in a couple months.”

The prospect of a wait was of prime concern before the season ended. Washington used its personal window to negotiate with Harper, producing a lucrative baseline offer, with the aforementioned end date. Not long after, Corbin received a six-year, $140 million from the organization, which stood throughout the offseason as the benchmark in both length and total value prior to Machado’s decision. If Harper accepted the Nationals original offer, they would not have been able to pay Corbin, according to a source.

The organization moved forward plugging holes at catcher, second base and in the bullpen. It deemed the current outfield foursome as more than satisfactory. Also looming was the possibility of another year over the competitive balance tax, something that prompted the team to start shuffling finances late last season when it was clear the playoffs were not an option.

“It’s a pretty severe penalty if you go over and it’s been our goal all year to stay under that,” Lerner said.

Which complicates the future. Anthony Rendon is entering the final year of his contract. Rendon and the team are open to an extension, which has been discussed here and there for 18 months. Rendon reiterated his position when speaking with reporters earlier this week. Lerner turned his visual affection for Rendon into words Friday. 

“We love Tony to death,” Lerner said. “He’s certainly one of the greatest players in the game today. He’s an even finer person. His activities with the youth baseball academy back in D.C. are phenomenal. He does it under the radar. It’s very important to him. Just a great example of the way a professional athlete should conduct himself. Like I said, he’s one of my favorites for a reason.”

Washington rose perennial losers upon coming to Washington to an organization with annual prominent expectations. It chose not to retain manager Dusty Baker, instead hiring Dave Martinez in an attempt to push the team beyond the first round. Martinez’s arrival came with the edict that something more than division titles and first-round bow outs were now necessary for the team. The Nationals finished 82-80 last year during a season filled with injuries, under-performance and often mediocre fundamental baseball. Lerner suffered through with the irritation of a typical fan.

“I have my routine [following losses]. I go into a closet and scream a little after,” Lerner said with a laugh. “No, no. That’s one thing that’s good about baseball. You’re going to play the next day. But I go home. I’m totally depressed. I won’t turn on the sports news or anything and get up the next morning, it’s a new day, get up and go after it again today. When I’m sitting down there, I’m very passionate as a fan. I’m yelling at the umpires like everybody else. I want to win. I hate losing exhibition games let alone regular-season games.”

Enter 2019. The Nationals are amid the favorites in a taught National League East. Short-term fixes frame the team’s mainstays. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Corbin possess the three long-term commitments in the clubhouse. Rendon may be next. The Nationals want to retain that talent level, avoid the tax and put together a team with a chance to win the division or more. Harper’s talent made that possible when here. His price made it difficult going forward. They decided to try it without him. 

“Our goal every year is certainly to make the playoffs,” Lerner said. “In reality, we look back where we are in the world and where our needs are. It’s not just…certainly, we don’t want to go crazy with free agency. But we said when we first got the team, we’re going to build up the minor leagues, we’re going to get to a point where we can start to dabble in free agency, which we did with Jayson Werth, and when we find a need or a special player, we’re going to go after that player if it makes monetary sense for us. Our philosophy has never changed but, certainly, our goal is to make the playoffs and hopefully deep into the playoffs.”
 

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