The 1922 NCAA football season had a number of unbeaten and untied teams, and no clear-cut champion, with the Official NCAA Division I Football Records Book listing California, Cornell, Iowa, Princeton, and Vanderbilt as national champions. California, Cornell, and Princeton were all picked by multiple selectors.
Andy Smith's Pacific Coast Conference champion "Wonder Team" at California continued on its streak since 1920. Eastern power Cornell was coached by Gil Dobie and led by one of the sport's great backfields with George Pfann, Eddie Kaw, Floyd Ramsey, and Charles E. Cassidy. Bill Roper's Princeton team was dubbed the "team of destiny" by Grantland Rice after defeating Chicago 21–18 in the first game nationally broadcast on radio. Today, college football on radio is common for nearly every game in every division. On the same day, Cal defeated USC at the dedication of Rose Bowl Stadium.
The Southern Conference would begin its first season of football in 1922. Vanderbilt tied with North Carolina and Georgia Tech for the conference championship. The Commodores tied Michigan 0–0 on October 14 at the dedication of Dudley Field, the South's first permanent college football stadium. On the same day, Big Ten champion Iowa upset Yale.
The 1923 Rose Bowl at season's end was the first called the "Rose Bowl" and was held in the newly constructed stadium. In the first bowl appearance for either team, USC beat Penn State 14–3.
The 1922 season included the new "try for a point" rule. One was allowed to either kick an extra point after a touchdown as usual, or to place the ball anywhere beyond the five yard line and try to score either by touchdown or by a kick, and receive the one point if successful. On the "try for a point," any foul by the defense awarded the offense the point, and any foul by the offense made the try no goodSix new conferences began play in 1922:
California Coast Conference – active until 1924
Indiana Intercollegiate Conference – active until 1950
Midwest Collegiate Athletic Conference – an active NCAA Division III conference
North Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference – an NCAA Division II conference active through the 2007 season; later known as just the North Central Conference
South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference – an NAIA conference active through the 1999 season; later known as the South Dakota-Iowa Athletic Conference
Southern Conference – an active Division I FCS conference; its 20 members broke away from the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA) and South Atlantic Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SAIAA) in 1921 and 1922
September 30 Harvard beat Middlebury 20-0, Princeton beat Johns Hopkins 30-0, and Cornell beat St. Bonaventure 55-6. Vanderbilt opened its season with a 38-0 win over Middle Tennessee Normal (now MTSU). Baylor beat North Texas 55-0 California beat Santa Clara 45-14.
October 7 Princeton defeated Virginia 5-0, Harvard beat Holy Cross 20-0, and Cornell beat Niagara 66-0 Vanderbilt beat Henderson-Brown College 33-0 North Carolina lost to Yale at New Haven, 18-0. Iowa beat Knox College 61-0, and Michigan defeated Case 48-0. Chicago beat Georgia 20–0 Drake opened its season with a win over Cornell College of Iowa, 16-0 Baylor beat Hardin-Simmons 42-0 In a meeting with the visiting Mare Island Marines service team, California routed them 80-0.
October 14 Princeton beat Colgate 10-0, Harvard defeated Bowdoin 15-0, and Cornell beat New Hampshire 68-7 At New Haven, Iowa defeated Yale 6-0. In the first game between Eastern and Western teams of the college football season, Iowa dominated Yale. Yale lost to a Western team for the first time ever.
In Nashville, Michigan and Vanderbilt played to a 0-0 tie at the inaugural game for Dudley Field, the first dedicated football-only stadium in the South in the style of the Eastern schools. After beating Duke 20-0 in a Thursday game, North Carolina beat South Carolina, 10-7. Centre gave VPI its only loss of the season. Drake defeated Kansas 6-0. California beat St. Mary's 41-0.
October 21 Harvard had been shocked the year before in a 6-0 upset by the "Prayin' Colonels" of Centre College of Danville, Kentucky. In the rematch, the Crimson beat Centre 24-10. Princeton recorded another shutout, blanking Maryland 26-0. Cornell defeated Colgate 14-0.
In Dallas, Vanderbilt and Texas, both unbeaten, met at the State Fair, with the Commodores winning 20-10. In Houston, Baylor defeated Rice 31-0. North Carolina won at NC State, 14-9. Georgia beat Tennessee 7–3.
Iowa won at Illinois 8-7, and Michigan won at Ohio State 19-0; In St. Louis, Drake beat Washington University, 31-7 Baylor beat Arkansas 60-13 California shut out the Olympic Club team, 25-0.
October 28 In the first football game ever broadcast nationally on the radio Princeton (4-0-0) traveled to the University of Chicago (3-0-0) for a rematch of Chicago's 1921 win. The game was witnessed by 32,000 fans, and listened to on New York's WEAF radio station. John Thomas ran for three touchdowns and Chicago's Maroons led 18-7 as the fourth quarter began, but a 40-yard fumble return closed the gap. In the closing minutes, Princeton back Harry Crum was buried under a pile of players as he plunged toward the goal line, and when the mass was untangled, it was a touchdown. With the help of a superior kicking game, Princeton won 21-18.
Harvard defeated Dartmouth 12-3. Iowa beat Purdue 56-0, and Michigan beat Illinois 24-0 Baylor beat Mississippi College 40-7
Vanderbilt beat Mercer 25-0 North Carolina defeated Maryland 27-3
California was 4-0-0, and USC was 5-0-0, when the teams met in Pasadena. Cal had a 2-0 lead at halftime, and held off USC on two goal line stands, before scoring a touchdown and a field goal to win 12-0.
November 4 Princeton beat Swarthmore, 22-13. Cornell (5-0-0) trounced Columbia, which had been 4-1-0, by a score of 56-0. Harvard beat the visiting Florida Gators 24-0. In the Gators' first ever game against a traditional northeastern college football power, the Gators stopped in Washington, D. C. and were greeted by President Warren Harding. The 1922 Spalding's Football Guide ranked Florida as the best forward passing team in the country. The 1922 Florida freshmen won the southern crown for freshmen squads.
The Alabama Crimson Tide had its first intersectional victory, 9–6 over John Heisman's Penn. Alabama coach Xen C. Scott resigned due to cancer at year's end. Vanderbilt won at Tennessee, 14-6. In New Orleans, North Carolina defeated Tulane 19-12.
Michigan beat Michigan State 63-0, having outscored its opponents 154-0 in its first five games. Drake defeated Iowa State 14-7
Baylor beat Texas A&M 13-7. California defeated Washington State, 61-0.
November 11 Princeton and Harvard were both unbeaten(6-0-0) when the Tigers travelled to Cambridge to face the Crimson. Princeton had not won on Harvard's home field since 1896, and 54,000 turned out to watch. Although both teams were unbeaten, Harvard was heavily favored to overcome the young Tiger team, and led 3-0 early in the game. On the 18 yard line, though, the Tigers outsmarted Harvard with a triple pass that set up Harry Crum's touchdown run, and went on to win 10-3. Grantland Rice wrote the next day, "Crimson shadows around Cambridge way were thicker tonight than the Chinese wall and as deep as the darkness of Stygia itself..."
At the Polo Grounds, Cornell beat Dartmouth, with the Big Red overcoming the Big Green, 23-0. In Boston, Baylor lost to Boston College, 33-0.
In Seattle, California (7-0-0) faced Washington (5-0-0) in a battle of unbeatens, and handed the Huskies their first defeat, 45-7.
Iowa beat Minnesota 28-14, and Michigan beat Wisconsin 13-6; Drake beat Colorado State, 19-6 Vanderbilt beat Kentucky 9-0 North Carolina beat VMI 9-7 at Richmond.
November 18 Princeton beat Yale, 3-0, to close a perfect season. Cornell beat Albright, 48-14 Harvard lost its second straight game, falling 3-0 to Brown Iowa won at Ohio State 12-9 to stay unbeaten. Drake defeated Grinnell College. 21-0 Baylor beat Oklahoma State, 10-0 Vanderbilt won at Georgia 12-0. Auburn upset Centre 6–0. The 1922 Tigers are considered one of Auburn's greatest football teams. At Charlotte, NC, North Carolina defeated Davidson 20-6. California defeated Nevada, 61-13.
November 25 Harvard won at Yale, 10-3. California closed its season with a 28-0 win at Stanford. Iowa closed its season at 7-0-0 with a win over Northwestern 37-3, Michigan won at Minnesota 16-7; Drake won at Mississippi State in Starkville, 48-6
November 30 was Thanksgiving Day in 1922. In Philadelphia, Cornell defeated Penn 6-3. In Dallas, Baylor defeated SMU, 24-0, to win the Southwest Conference title. The following week, Baylor lost to the Haskell Indians team, 21-20. North Carolina closed its season with a 10-7 win at Virginia, to finish at 9-1-0. Vanderbilt beat Sewanee, 26-0, to close at 8-0-1.
Though it had a record of 9-1-0 overall, USC was actually the fourth best team in Pacific Coast Conference play, behind California, Oregon and Washington, having been defeated by PCC champion California. Penn State had won its first five games, then only one of the next five, and had a 6-3-1 record at season's end. USC defeated Penn State 14-3.San Diego Christmas Classic
Three different "retro polls", taken years later and based on opinions drawn from historical research, reached different conclusions. The Helms Athletic Foundation, founded in 1936, declared retroactively that Cornell University (8-0-0) was the best, while the College Football Researchers' Association (CFRA) recognized shared between Drake University (7-0-0) and Princeton University (8-0-0); and the National Championship Foundation (NCF) cited the University of California (9-0-0) as best. The Princeton team was dubbed the "team of destiny" by Grantland Rice after defeating Chicago in the first game nationally broadcast on radio. Today, college football on radio is common for nearly every game in every division.
The other unbeaten and untied team was the University of Iowa (7-0-0), which canceled its game with unbeaten Drake University that year. Other teams that had no defeats in 1922 were West Virginia University (10-0-1), Vanderbilt University (8-0-1), the University of Michigan (6-0-1), and the United States Military Academy (Army), which had an 8-0-2 record. Clyde Berryman retroactively selected Vanderbilt as a national champion, which tied Michigan.
The following is a potentially incomplete list of conference standings:
The consensus All-America team included:Team scoring most points: California, 398 (including mid majors, King College, 498)
Team giving up least points: Vanderbilt, 1.8 per game