8 Underappreciated Undefeated Seasons
By now, you're probably aware that the Detroit Lions just completed a "perfect" 0-16 season. Rather than kick the team when they're down, let's instead celebrate some of history's underappreciated undefeated seasons.
1. 1948 Cleveland Browns
Coached by their namesake, Paul Brown, the Cleveland Browns were the model franchise of the All-American Football Conference. The Browns compiled a 52-4-3 and won all four titles during the league's existence, including a perfect season in 1948 that was capped by a 49-7 win over Buffalo. (Apparently the Bills' inability to win the big game wasn't just an early 90s fad.) The Browns' dominance actually helped contribute to the downfall of the AAFC, as the team was so good that Cleveland fans stopped coming to games.
An afterthought because: The NFL doesn't recognize the Browns' perfect season, or any other AAFC records.
If you remember nothing else, remember this: Fittingly, Cleveland's first AAFC game was against the franchise from the city associated with pro football perfection since 1973. The Browns stomped the Miami Seahawks, 44-0.
2. 2007 Bronx Gridlock
The Queens of Pain rolled into the City College gym seeking a third-straight Gotham Girls Roller Derby championship, but members of the Bronx Gridlock weren't about to let a royal pain get in the way of their quest for perfection. According to this incredibly detailed account of the game, the Gridlock held off a fierce rally, as the Queens of Pain made up 31 points in four jams. Ultimately, the loss of Greta Turbo, who fractured her tibia and fibula in practice, was too much for the Queens of Pain to overcome, and Beatrix Slaughter's 32 points carried the Bronx to victory. [Photo courtesy of Derby News Network.]
An afterthought because: For most people, jam is something you put on toast or do with a guitar.
If you remember nothing else, remember this: How physically brutal is roller derby? The Bronx Gridlock's perfect season consisted of exactly four bouts.
3. 1986 Texas Women's Basketball
Jody Conradt's Texas Longhorns completed the first perfect season in women's college basketball history with a 97-81 win over Cheryl Miller and Southern California in the championship game. The Longhorns also defeated Missouri, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, and Western Kentucky en route to the title in the 40-team tournament. Texas freshman Clarissa Davis was named the "Most Outstanding Player" after registering 56 points and 32 rebounds in two Final Four games.
An afterthought because: In addition to the fact that women's basketball had even fewer casual fans at the time, Geno Auriemma's UConn Huskies have attained perfection two times within the last 13 years.
If you remember nothing else, remember this: Clarissa Davis, who later became Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil, was ejected from the inaugural American Basketball League all-star game in 1996 for punching Cindy Brown.
4. 1939 LIU Brooklyn Men's Basketball
Legendary head coach Clair Bee led the Long Island University Blackbirds "“ or Busy Bees, as they were more often called "“ to a 31-0 record in 1939. LIU capped its perfect season with a win over Loyola of Chicago in the championship game of the NIT, which was then the premier college basketball postseason tournament. After LIU cruised to yet another win at Madison Square Garden midway through the season, Arthur J. Daley wrote in The New York Times, "The last lingering doubts about the sheer class of the Long Island University basketball team fled like chaff before the wind on Wednesday when Coach Clair Bee's Busy Bees turned back Marquette in a game of such superlative mechanical excellence that court fans are still talking about it."
An afterthought because: It's hard to shake the stigma that the NIT has developed since 1939.
If you remember nothing else, remember this: Bee led LIU to a 43-game winning streak from 1935-1936. The streak was snapped at Madison Square Garden, as Stanford's Hank Luisetti introduced a "strange new maneuver" to the sport of basketball "“ the jump shot.
5. 1992-2003 De La Salle Football
The Concord, Calif., high school won an absurd 151 straight games and was named national champion by USA Today five times from 1992-2003 before losing to Bellevue (Wash.) 39-20. The Spartans' undoing in defeat? They couldn't stop the run, as Bellevue rushed 54 times for 463 yards. Afterward, De La Salle head coach Bob Ladouceur told reporters it was time for his team to lose: "I'm all for there being a lot of king of the hills, not just one." Can you imagine Bill Belichick uttering those words?
An afterthought because: It's high school football.
If you remember nothing else, remember this: De La Salle graduates in last year's Super Bowl include New York Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer and New England Patriots backup quarterback Matt Gutierrez, who is pictured above.
6. 1951 University of San Francisco Football
After punctuating their perfect regular season with a 20-2 win over Loyola of Los Angeles, the 9-0 Dons waited anxiously for a bowl invite that never came. While some bowl officials claimed they passed over the team because the Dons weren't well enough known to draw fans to their games, San Francisco sportscaster Ira Blue reported that Gator Bowl President Sam Wolfson said his bowl, and at least two others, wanted to avoid teams with "Negro" players. USF boasted two African-Americans, Ollie Matson and Burl Toler, and the Dons refused to accept invites that came with the stipulation that Matson and Toler had to stay home.
An afterthought because: Without the money that a trip to a bowl game would've brought in, USF dropped football after the 1951 season.
If you remember nothing else, remember this: Nine players from the 1951 USF team went on to play in the NFL, including future Hall of Fame inductees Gino Marchetti, Bob St. Clair, and Matson. Toler suffered a career ending injury in 1952, but later became the first African-American official in the NFL.
7. 1993 Buffalo Bandits
One year after winning a championship in their inaugural season, the Buffalo Bandits defeated Philadelphia 13-12 in the championship game of the Major Indoor Lacrosse League to cap its 10-0 season. Buffalo remains the only team to finish a season undefeated in the history of the league, which later became the National Lacrosse League. The general manager of that team, Johnny Mouradian, will be elected into the National Lacrosse League Hall of Fame later this month.
An afterthought because: You probably can't name another team in the National Lacrosse League.
If you remember nothing else, remember this: Darris Kilgour, Buffalo's first ever draft pick in 1992, now coaches the Bandits.
8. 1998 Raleigh Wings
Women's national soccer team captain Carla Overbeck and fellow UNC graduate Robin Confer helped lead Raleigh of the W-League to a 17-0 record in 1998. Confer had two goals in the tournament and garnered MVP honors for Raleigh, which defeated the Boston Renegades in the championship game.
An afterthought because: The franchise is now defunct, among other reasons.
If you remember nothing else, remember this: Overbeck would go on to play every minute of every game for the U.S. National team in the 1999 World Cup. She scored the first goal of the penalty kick shootout that ended with teammate Brandi Chastain's memorable game-winner in the final against China.