The Worst College Football Programs in America

portrait of Staff Writers
by Staff Writers

Published July 27, 2021

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Millions of Americans attend college football games each autumn, ready to cheer on teams that boast winning records and provide hours of excitement. NCAA Division I Football Bowl Series (FBS) favorites like University of Michigan, University of Alabama, and University of Southern California rank among the most winningest teams. The prestige of these victorious teams contrasts heavily with the frustration and defeat experienced by schools that have never been able to garner that level of success -- or much success at all.

The worst college football programs go beyond the occasional bad season or rough few years of games; these schools maintain losing records year in and year out, never able to develop what it takes to triumph on the football field. Despite their best efforts, the worst college football programs in American lose consistently.

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The Worst College Football Programs in America

  1. Kent State University at Kent
    Location

    Kent, OH

    Kent State University offers its more than 28,000 students undergraduate and graduate programs that emphasize teaching, research, and experiential excellence. Founded in 1910, the Kent State football tradition began four years later, although attempts to maintain a football team failed until 1920. The Kent State Golden Flashes did not win their first game until 1925 (outside of a forfeit in 1920). For their first 14 games, the Golden Flashes remained scoreless and did not have a winning season until 1928.

    After a hiatus during World War II, the Golden Flashes returned to the field with more success but only won one conference championship during the 20th century. Their Mid-American Conference championship in 1972 was accompanied by a trip to the Tangerine Bowl that same year, although they lost to the University of Tampa, 21-18. Kent State's only other bowl appearance during the 20th century was in 1954 when they lost the Refrigerator Bowl against the University of Delaware, 19-7. In 2012, the Golden Flashes made their third trip to a bowl game, losing the GoDaddy.com Bowl to Arkansas State, 17-13. Overall, Kent State's record is 321-500-28.

  2. Florida International University
    Location

    Miami, FL

    Florida International University opened in 1972 on a revamped, abandoned airfield. The school now has more than 57,000 students. The football program began in 2002, but FIU did not become a Division I contender until 2004.

    In their first six seasons, the FIU Panthers suffered losing records; they didn't win a single game during the 2006 season. The team's crosstown rivalry with the University of Miami began the same year when a fight broke out during their game. FIU lost the match-up and two players were later kicked off of the team. In 2010, the Panthers won the Sunbelt Conference and played in the Little Caesar Bowl against the University of Toledo but lost their game against Marshall University at the Beef O'Brady Bowl the following year. In 2017, FIU lost against Temple University in the Gasparilla Bowl. During its short tenure, the FIU football program's overall record was 61-118.

  3. Eastern Michigan University
    Location

    Ypsilanti, MI

    Founded in 1849, Eastern Michigan University offers more than 350 undergraduate and graduate programs to its student body. The EMU Eagles enjoy state-of-the art football facilities, including an indoor practice field and Rynearson Stadium. With an overall record of 431-530-47, the EMU Eagles appear strong but have only won 148 out of their 488 games since 1975.

    The EMU Eagles, previously known as the Normalites and the Hurons, experienced varying degrees of success during the twentieth century, vacillating between winless and undefeated seasons regularly. Despite ten conference wins and a California Bowl victory over San Jose State in 1987, EMU has never been ranked on a national poll and holds one of college football's longest losing streaks thanks to 27 losses in a row during the 1980-1982 seasons.

  4. University of Louisiana at Monroe
    Location

    Monroe, LA

    The University of Louisiana at Monroe Warhawks started playing football in 1931, although they were playing for Ouachita Junior College at the time. Renamed ULM in 1999, Monroe's football teams have had many names throughout its history but the losing football tradition remained more or less consistent.

    When the Warhawks (then known as the Indians) began Division I football in 1975, they brought with them weak Division II records of 88-137-4. As a Division I-A FBS team, the Warhawks have had only three winning seasons. Between 1982-1993, ULM stepped down to Division I-AA Football Championship (FCS) status where the Warhawks won the Division I-AA National Championship title in 1987.

    After returning to Division I-A FBS games in 1994, the Warhawks have faced an uphill climb. ULM earned a bowl game in 2012, although they lost the Independence Bowl to Ohio University, 45-15. Currently, the Warhawk's record stands at 392-447-21.

  5. New Mexico State University
    Location

    Las Cruces, NM

    New Mexico State University was founded as Las Cruces College in 1888, was renamed New Mexico A&M in 1890, and renamed a third time as New Mexico State University in 1960. The football program for the NMSU Aggies began in 1893 and, for the first few decades, the team boasted winning seasons. In 1935, the Aggies tied in the first-ever Sunbowl against Hardin-Simmons.

    By the late 1940s, the Aggies record had shifted and the team experienced losing seasons until 1958. After two Sunbowl wins in 1959 and 1960, the team's performance was once again lackluster, and it was not until the 1970s that the Aggies would see another conference title. The Aggies did not have another bowl berth until 2017 when they bested Utah State at the Arizona Bowl, 26-20. Overall, NMSU has a record of 422-617-30.

  6. University at Buffalo
    Location

    Buffalo, NY

    The University of Buffalo was founded in 1846 and has an enrollment of over 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The football program began in 1894 and lasted until 1970 when the student body voted to stop funding it. Reinstated in 1977, the Buffalo Bulls football team did not have a winning record until 1983.

    Buffalo's first winning season as a Division I football team occurred in 2008. During the same year, the Bulls won the Mid-American Conference and played in the International Bowl against the University of Connecticut. The Bulls lost 20-38 but made another bowl appearance at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in 2013. They lost to San Jose State, 49-24. The Bulls' record currently stands at 370-492-28.

  7. Indiana University-Bloomington
    Location

    Bloomington, IN

    The Indiana University Hoosier football team consistently underdelivers on the field. Founded in 1820 and the flagship school of the Indiana University system, Indiana University Bloomington includes almost 2,000 acres with historic buildings and elaborate athletic facilities throughout. The Hoosiers play home football games at Memorial Stadium, which seats more than 50,000 fans.

    During 120 football seasons, the IU Hoosiers won the Big Ten Conference in 1945 and 1967 -- although the latter was a co-championship with Purdue. The Hoosiers have won three out of their eleven bowl game appearances, most recently defeating Baylor at the Copper Bowl in 1991. The amount of money IU puts into its football program is approximately $5,800,000 per game, but the Hoosiers have not had a winning season since 2007. Overall, their record is 479-672-44.

  8. The University of Texas at El Paso
    Location

    El Paso, TX

    The University of Texas El Paso Miners played their first season in 1914 but did not begin Division I play until 1935. UTEP, also founded in 1914, is the second-oldest institution in the University of Texas System and overlooks the Rio Grande River and the U.S.-Mexico border. UTEP offers more than 170 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs its majority Latino/a population.

    During the late 1940s and 1950s, the UTEP Miners had eight winning seasons and three Sunbowl wins in 1949, 1953, and 1954. The team won the Sunbowl again in 1965 and 1967 but have not won a bowl game since. With only two winning seasons since 2005, the Miners have only earned two conference championships. In 1956, UTEP won the Border Conference and in 2000, they shared the Western Athletic Conference championship with the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs. UTEP's overall record stands at 385-575-28.

  9. University of Alabama at Birmingham
    Location

    Birmingham, AL

    The University of Alabama Birmingham only recently got its football team back after a hiatus in 2014. After a financial audit of the program in 2014, the school cut the UAB Blazer football program, only to reinstate it in 2015 and field a new team in 2017. The UAB began as an extension of the University of Alabama and transitioned to a four-year school in 1966, with Blazer football starting in 1991.

    UAB football began as a Division III program that worked its way to Division I-A FBS play in 1996. The team joined the Conference USA in 1999 but has yet to win a conference championship. The UAB Blazers lost to the University of Hawaii at the Hawaii Bowl in 2014 and to Ohio University at the Bahamas Bowl in 2017. The overall record for the Blazers stands at 125-157.

  10. Rice University
    Location

    Houston, TX

    Rice University held its first classes in 1912, although its history dates back to the Rice Institute founded in 1891. Formally named Rice University in 1960, the school abides by a strict honor code and offers 120 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs. However, Rice University football failed to deliver a strong football program for almost fifty years, leading to declining attendance and apathy among fans.

    The Rice Owls won their first bowl game with a Cotton Bowl victory over Colorado in 1937, an additional Orange Bowl victory in 1946, and two more Cotton Bowl wins in 1949 and 1953 -- but the Owls didn't win another bowl game until 2008. When it comes to conference championships, the Owls won the Southwest Conference several times between 1934-1957, but the next conference title occurred in 1994 when five teams tied for first place. Rice's record stands at 463-582-32.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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