There are plenty of stories of triumph and of failure in college sports history. Young kids are experiencing a big stage, better athletes, and higher stakes. Throughout college sports history, there have been winners and losers. But in this post, we’re focusing on the losers.
In no particular order, we’re going to look at some of the biggest disappointments in the history of college sports. Now, there are a couple of ways to measure disappointment. You could think about the biggest losses by the numbers. But some of these games are going to be teams that probably knew that they were going to lose. So we’re also going to look at some of the biggest upsets in college sports history. These might be teams that lost close games, but were heavily favored to win.
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College Sports Biggest Disappointments in History: Losses
Biggest College Basketball Loss
Unlike the college football losses that we’ll look at below, which happened in the early 1900s, the worst college basketball loss in history occurred in 2019. When the Delta Devils went to play Utah in Salt Lake City, they probably thought they were going to lose. And they also probably thought they would lose by a lot.
They probably didn’t dream of losing by 94 points. When Utah started running up the score, they didn’t stop. And since Mississippi Valley State put up 49 points—a decent amount—that means that the Utah team went for 143 points. It was brutal, and it happened in 2019.
100+ Point College Football Wins
The rowdiest college football conferences and teams have regularly blown people out over the years, but you almost need a vendetta against a particular team to beat them by more than 100 points. What might come as a surprise to some fans of college football is that there have been a ton of teams to win by more than 100 points, such that we can’t even really list them all here. You can find a complete list of 100-point games and you’ll see that tons of different teams have managed to find some opponent to beat by over 100. In fact, to get into the nitty-gritty of college sports history, you have to go to 200 points.
There have been three teams to win by over 200 points in the history of college football, and it hasn’t been done since 1922. In 1916, St. Viator beat Lane College 205-0, and in 1922, King beat Lenoir 206-0.
The Georgia Tech v. Cumberland Game
Well known as the biggest loss in the history of college football, the Georgia Tech team destroyed the Cumberland team 222-0. Led by the legendary John Heisman of the Heisman trophy, Georgia Tech was playing for a lot more than just a score in this game. Cumberland canceled its football program the year before and was trying to back out of the game on the schedule, which Georgia Tech thought could cost them revenue. Additionally, Cumberland’s baseball team had defeated the Georgia Tech baseball team 22-0 amidst speculation that Cumberland has brought on some pro players as ringers. So Georgia Tech was playing for far more than just pride—they were playing to avenge a humiliated baseball team.
It is even speculated that the 222-0 score was intentional, as it is exactly 10 times as much as Cumberland put up.
Biggest Blowout in College Soccer History
Howard beat Duke 9-0 for the worst blowout in the history of D1 men’s college soccer. Now, that might not sound bad to football and basketball fans, but a 9-0 loss in soccer is an absolute blowout.
College Sports Biggest Disappointments in History: Upsets
UMBC v. Virginia
It was an often-repeated statistic for sports commentators that a no. 16 seed had never beaten a no. 1 seed in the history of the March Madness tournament. It was like a law of the universe, written into basketball. 16 seeds did not advance. They were the safest non-pick in the entire bracket. Which is why the 2018 game between Virginia, a no. 1 seed, and UMBC, a no. 16 seed, was a shockwave in the college sports history world. UMBC toppled Virginia by a full 20 points and became the first No. 16 seed in history to advance past the first round of the March Madness tournament.
Oregon State v. University of Washington
The 1985 season opener of the University of Washington didn’t quite go as planned. The Huskies started the season ranked #2 overall, playing at home against an Oregon State team that had lost most of its games in the previous season. Oregon State had been outscored by opponents 97-0 in the final two games of the last season, and they were the 38 point underdog in the game.
But Oregon State played well all game, tossing long passes and playing lockdown defense. In the final minutes of the game, the defense blocked a punt cleanly which flew 20 yards into the back of the endzone and was recovered by an Oregon State player to take the lead and seal the victory. Regardless of the college football colors that you love, you have to respect the orange that day.
Appalachian State v. Michigan
The beginning of Michigan’s 2007 season basically began with a publicity stunt that went horribly wrong. Michigan was a powerhouse team that opened the season ranked #5. They wanted an interesting season opener and to play against a team that would draw attention, so they signed up to play Appalachian State. Appalachian State is not an FBS program, it is an FCS program. The best FCS program, at the time. Appalachian State had won the last 2 FCS National Championships in a row and was a great team.
So Michigan pays $400K to Appalachian to get them to agree to come to a season opener in Ann Arbor. The premise is simple: great FCS team is supposed to get torched by a great FBS team, and Michigan gets a bunch of press and ratings by playing an FCS team. It is interesting. And they make back way more than the $400K in the single game.
But it seems that more than a few Michigan players forgot their college gameday rituals. And things start going wrong right from the beginning when it becomes clear that Appalachian State is not going to lose by a lot. The game is close all the way through, and with some spectacular plays in the closing seconds, Appalachian State punches in a 24-yard field goal to go up on the home team by a score of 34 to 32. Michigan can do nothing with the final 26 seconds of the game. And Appalachian State, an FCS team, takes Michigan’s money and humiliates them in the season opener in their own house (one of the most popular college football stadiums).
Get Gameday Ready
Of course, the blowouts are exciting, and the college sports history remembers the big wins. But it’s the fans who carry the day when things are close. Grab your team t-shirt and support the team, wherever you’re at.