Passion is at the center of college football, and with that passion comes hate. While every team has its detractors, some draw hatred from large swaths of the college football community.
While the hatred shared by Ohio State and Michigan, or Alabama and Auburn fans is special, some big teams draw it from fans of programs that they have nothing to do with. Whether it is due to constant success, overexposure, extreme personalities, or scandal, there are some teams that just get under the skin of the college football fan base at large.
A program's own fan base can play a major part in this, especially in the age of social media, which amplifies everything.
Ahead of the 2017 season, we've identified the 10 programs that are the most hated in the sport right now.
The Ducks run the risk of falling off of this list if Willie Taggart doesn't bring the program back from the 4-8 hole that it fell into under Mark Helfrich last season.
Oregon's success through the Aughts isn't the main reason that the program is so divisive, however. It is the Ducks' unique, Nike-backed branding, and most notably the program's ever-changing set of jerseys. Thanks to the school's relationship with alumnus and Nike founder Phil Knight, it has almost limitless resources, and the football program rolls out new, often gaudy uniforms every week.
Many college football fans are all about tradition. Oregon is anything but traditional, and that drives some people nuts.
If Taggart can't bring the Ducks back, it will all be for naught—the jerseys only really drive people nuts when they're on national television every week and competing for national championships. Phil Knight's wallet remains open, however, so we wouldn't expect the Ducks to struggle for long.
9. Florida State
A few years ago, Florida State would have been right near the top of this list. The 2013 Seminoles were an absolutely dominant team, led by an extremely polarizing figure: quarterback Jameis Winston. Winston led the 'Noles back to national prominence with a national championship, but was caught up in controversy after controversy along the way.
National hatred has waned for Florida State since Winston left the school after two years as starter. However, Florida State was already a big brand after a torrid run in the 1990s. Winston brought them back to prominence, after some lean years. We may be a few years removed from the sexual assault allegations, crab legs heist, paintball incident, and everything else that came with Winston's years in Tallahassee, but those who hate the 'Noles certainly aren't forgetting them.
Clemson captured its first national championship since 1981 in January. With the win over Alabama, revenge for the previous season's title game, the Tigers likely had most of the neutral supporters watching, since there probably weren't a ton of people outside of SEC country dying to see Nick Saban and Alabama win again.
Now that Clemson is on the mountaintop, the Tigers are not long for that support.
Winning at high levels will always draw ire and jealousy, but head coach Dabo Swinney also has his serious detractors. When he wasn't dabbing and dancing last season, he was often found making some pretty controversial statements about the role of the student-athlete. The Nation's Dave Zirin penned a scathing takedown of Swinney a few days after his Tigers took home the title.
Swinney was asked about the idea of actually paying players, given the dramatically transformed economic landscape of the game, and he said that if players are ever paid, “I’ll go do something else because there’s enough entitlement in this world as there is.” To call the desire to end this rank exploitation “entitlement” is Orwellian in the extreme. He might as well write “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” on the locker-room walls.
If anyone has expressed an obscene amount of entitlement, it’s Swinney. Here is someone working on a refurbished plantation who makes millions of dollars off the sweat and head injuries of overwhelmingly black, unpaid labor, and yet when asked about the Black Lives Matter movement in September, he said, ”Some of these people need to move to another country.”
Zirin certainly isn't alone in that criticism.
7. Penn State
Penn State's inclusion here is no mystery. The Sandusky scandal rocked the Nittany Lion fan base, and while the program has bounced back in a big way as of late, winning the Big Ten and making the Rose Bowl last season, there hasn't been much of a shift in the way the program is viewed.
The Sandusky scandal, and the fans' continued reaction to every new piece of evidence that legendary head coach Joe Paterno was aware of it before it broke in 2011, has made it hard for many to support the program. While there are certainly plenty of PSU fans that want to move forward and focus on James Franklin's team, there is still a strong contingent focused on Paterno's legacy.
If the Nittany Lions continue to excel on the field, and their cries are further amplified, Penn State is going to continue to be among the most hated teams out there.
While SEC programs hate one another during the season, you'll often see their fan bases band together come bowl season to support the conference as a whole against teams from other leagues.
The Big 12 is largely not the same way, and it is mostly because of Texas.
Despite struggles on the field, Texas is the most influential program in the Big 12, and has used its stature in the football crazed state, and a national brand, to launch its own network with ESPN. Critics believe that the Longhorn Network is one of the things holding the Big 12 back, and could ultimately make the league incredibly unstable. Oklahoma fans hate Texas, like rivals in other leagues hate each other, but we don't think Michigan fans are dying to get out of the same league as Ohio State. If, once the Big 12 grant of rights expires, Oklahoma gets an invite to another power five conference, the Sooners may very well bolt, like Texas' other main rival, Texas A&M, already did.
Rivalries often bond teams and conferences together, while Texas may very well push its most successful Big 12-mates away.
5. Ohio State
The Buckeyes have been one of the best teams in the country pretty consistently since Urban Meyer took over the program after the ouster of Jim Tressel following the team's tattoo scandal, which seems quaint considering what has happened with other programs since. That type of success will drive fans of pretty much any other team nuts.
Ohio State has dominated the Big Ten, which is enough to get it on the bad side of the rest of that league. It gets on the nerves of the SEC as well, with its recent domination of the NFL Draft, and a huge win over Alabama in the College Football Playoff that still has to burn Crimson Tide fans, even after Alabama bounced back to win a title the following year. Urban Meyer leaving Florida and taking over the Buckeyes after a brief break is also a factor. Meyer still takes heat for some of the controversial figures that he coached at UF.
Throw in one of the most rabid fan bases in the sport, and you have all the ingredients for a truly hated program.
Michigan has not had the success that archrival Ohio State, which I just covered, has. The Wolverines haven't defeated the Buckeyes in over 2,000 days, haven't won a Big Ten title since 2004, when Lloyd Carr was head coach, and haven't come close to a national championship in recent memory.
The Wolverines do have one factor which may make them more hated than the Buckeyes, for now at least: Jim Harbaugh.
Harbaugh hasn't taken Michigan all the way to the top of the sport, but he's significantly improved his alma mater in short order. More important, for our purposes here, he's been very loud in doing so. Harbaugh is all about pushing boundaries and getting attention for his program, and he is completely unafraid of rubbing others the wrong way in the process.
Other coaches aren't trying to host camps in the heart of SEC country, or taking his team to Rome, or making quick, highly-publicized jaunts to Australia, or delivering high school graduation speeches at schools that he recruits. There are few figures in college football as 'love or hate' as Jim Harbaugh. Meyer may win more, but Harbaugh dominates headlines for 12 months.
We'd prefer if everything on this list boiled down to play on the field. For Baylor, it is entirely predicated on the things that have transpired off of it. Over the last year, it was revealed that under Art Briles, the football program became embroiled in a large-scale sexual assault scandal. Briles, and much of the school's leadership, has been fired, but the we're still wading through the fallout of the Baylor scandal.
The scandal also cost athletic director Ian McCaw and Baylor president Ken Starr their jobs. The school faces seven Title IX lawsuits, the most recent of which comes from a former Bears volleyball player who says she was raped by multiple Baylor football players. As of February, 31 former Baylor football players had been connected to 52 separate rape allegations, a number which has grown consistently since the scandal broke a year ago.
New head coach Matt Rhule joins the program from Temple, and has no involvement with what has happened in Waco under Briles, but the program will face down this stigma for a long time.
Ubiquity doesn't often breed casual fans, and that's exactly what Alabama has had since Nick Saban took over. The Crimson Tide was already one of the strongest programs in college football history, and Saban's tenure has taken things to a new level. Alabama is involved in the national championship picture every single season, plays virtually every game on national television, and every loss is treated as a sizable upset.
'Bama claims 16 national titles, though three of these aren't officially recognized by the NCAA, and has another four unclaimed championships. The inflated number of titles is a major bone of contention for those who dislike Alabama.
Crimson Tide fans are both fanatical in their devotion for the team, and also hold it to the highest possible standard. Anything less than a national championship is truly a failure, and Alabama is probably the only program that can say that with some legitimacy.
Alabama is a true heel. In all likelihood, if you aren't an Alabama fan, you love to hate the Tide.
1. Notre Dame
Here's what separates Notre Dame, even years removed from its status as a national championship contender, from the rest of college football. Depending on where you live, you may never meet a real Alabama, or Michigan, or Penn State fan. Virtually everyone knows a Notre Dame fan, and as a result, has had to hear all about the Four Horsemen and Touchdown Jesus, and Rudy, and Lou Holtz, and every other piece of Fighting Irish lore out there.
Even as the program has fallen off as a national power, Notre Dame remains supremely relevant due to its unique independent status, its television deal with NBC, and the fact that it has never been tied to a specific area of the country. Notre Dame is in Indiana, and factors prominently in the Chicago area, but there is an abundance of Fighting Irish fans in basically every major metropolitan area of the United States.
Notre Dame can't go forever without capturing another national title, and eventually it may be forced into a conference full time. For now, though, Notre Dame remains the college football equivalent to the Yankees, Lakers, or Cowboys, and it is very easy to hate people who glom onto teams like that.