Houlgate System

The Houlgate System, also known as the Deke Houlgate collegiate football rating system, was a mathematical rating system for determining annual college football national championships. The ratings, which rated teams according to the strength of their opponents, were created by Carroll Everard "Deke" Houlgate, Sr., a sports publicist and statistician.[1] Houlgate used his system to select national champions on a current basis from 1927 to 1958. He also applied his ratings methodology retroactively to select national champions for each year from 1885 to 1926.[2] His selections were published in newspapers in the 1930s and 1940s.[3][4][5]

The "Houlgate System" is one of the selectors of historic national champions recognized as a major selector by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in its Football Bowl Subdivision record book.[2][6]

Starting in 1945 Houlgate selected competitors for the Futility Bowl, a hypothetical post-season matchup between the nation's two lowest-ranked teams. This bowl game to determine the country's worst team would be held in Death Valley in an empty stadium.[7]

Houlgate was the author of The Football Thesaurus, a leather-bound compilation of game scores, football history, and team facts.[8] The thesaurus was released in two editions in 1946[9] and 1954.[10] Houlgate released annual supplements for the 1954–1958 seasons until his death in 1959.[10]

Deke Houlgate was born in Peru, Nebraska, on May 8, 1905. He graduated from Ventura High School and attended the University of Southern California. He served in the Air Force during World War II and died at the Wadsworth Veterans Administration Hospital in Los Angeles, California, on July 31, 1959, at age 54.[11][12] Houlgate's wife, Dorothy P. Houlgate, was considered "one of the leading feminine football experts" and assisted with the annual football ratings; she died in August 1959, less than a month after the death of her husband.[13]

In his career in public relations for the American Gas Association, Houlgate is known for coining or popularizing the phrase "Now you're cooking with gas!" and planting the phrase with writers for Bob Hope's radio programs in an early example of product placement.[14]

National championsEdit

Foreman & Clark TrophyEdit

National champions under the Houlgate System were awarded the Foreman & Clark Trophy.[15] The award was sponsored by the Los Angeles department store and given to the No. 1 team in the contemporary pre-bowl final rankings.[16]

Season Trophy Winner Record Notes
1934[17] Stanford 9–1–1
1935[15] SMU 12–1
1936[15][16] LSU 9–1–1

NCAA records bookEdit

The Houlgate System is listed as a "major selector" of national championships in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records book. The NCAA records book lists the following national championship selections by the Houlgate System.

Season Champion[2]
1885 Princeton
1886 Not listed in NCAA record book
1887 Yale
1888 Yale
1889 Princeton
1890 Harvard
1891 Yale
1892 Yale
1893 Princeton
1894 Princeton
1895 Penn
1896 Princeton
1897 Penn
1898 Harvard
1899 Harvard
1900 Yale
1901 Michigan
1902 Michigan
1903 Princeton
1904 Penn
1905 Chicago
1906 Not listed in NCAA record book
1907 Yale
1908 Penn
1909 Yale
1910 Harvard
1911 Princeton
1912 Harvard
1913 Harvard
1914 Army
1915 Cornell
1916 Pittsburgh
1917 Georgia Tech
1918 Pittsburgh
1919 Harvard
1920 California
1921 Cornell
1922 California
1923 California
1924 Notre Dame
1925 Alabama
1926 Navy
1927 Notre Dame
1928 Georgia Tech
1929 USC
1930 Notre Dame
1931 USC
1932 USC
1933 Michigan
1934 Alabama
1935 SMU
1936 Pittsburgh
1937 Pittsburgh
1938 Tennessee
1939 Texas A&M
1940 Minnesota
1941 Alabama
1942 Georgia
1943 Notre Dame
1944 Army
1945 Army
1946 Army
1947 Michigan
1948 Michigan
1949 Notre Dame

Futility BowlEdit

In 1945, Houlgate also initiated his selections for the Futility Bowl matching the two worst college football teams in a fictional football game to be played in Death Valley.[7] His annual picks for the Futility Bowl included: (1) Worcester Polytechnic Institute and College of Wooster in 1945;[7] (2) Kansas State and Carnegie Tech in 1947; (3) Kansas State and Montana State in 1948;[18] (4) BYU and Rhode Island State in 1949;[19] and (5) Davidson and Montana in 1951.[20]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Deke Houlgate Dead at 54". Pasadena Independent. August 1, 1959. p. 9.
  2. ^ a b c National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) (2015). "National Poll Rankings" (PDF). NCAA Division I Football Records. NCAA. pp. 105–106. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
  3. ^ "Houlgate Also Ranks Pitt Tops". San Bernardino Sun. November 30, 1937. p. 17.
  4. ^ "Houlgate Ranks Tulane at Top". Santa Cruz Evening News. December 6, 1939. p. 7.
  5. ^ "Houlgate Football Ratings". Santa Cruz Sentinel. October 17, 1945. p. 4.
  6. ^ "John Houlgate's College Football Ratings". John Houlgate. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
  7. ^ a b c "Futility Bowl Game Is Proposed To Determine Champ Underdog". The Ogden Standard-Examiner. December 18, 1945. p. 12.
  8. ^ "Grid Thesaurus Out". The Waco News-Tribune. November 5, 1946. p. 8.
  9. ^ Deke Houlgate (1946). The Football Thesaurus: 77 years on the American gridiron. Nash-U-Nal Pub. Co. OCLC 1487183.
  10. ^ a b Houlgate, Deke (1954). The Football Thesaurus: 85 Years on the American Gridiron. Los Angeles, California: Houlgate House. In the Huddle with Deke Houlgate: College Football from 1869 through 1953; Annual Supplements for 1954–1958
  11. ^ "Carroll Everard "Deke" Houlgate, Sr". Find a Grave. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
  12. ^ "Grid Expert Houlgate Dies". Independent (Long Beach, CA). August 1, 1959. p. 10.
  13. ^ "Deke Houlgate's Widow Dies". Redlands Daily Facts. August 26, 1959. p. 8.
  14. ^ Alter, Lloyd (June 24, 2020). "The 'Now You're Cooking with Gas' Marketing Never Stops". TreeHugger. Dotdash Meredith. Retrieved November 9, 2022.
  15. ^ a b c Written at Dallas, Texas. "Louisiana State Gets Foreman–Clark Trophy". The Capital Times. Madison, Wisconsin. Associated Press. January 10, 1937. Retrieved January 31, 2023. The Foreman and Clark trophy, emblematic of the National football championship, won by SMU in 1935, will be sent to LSU ... awarded the trophy for the past season under the ratings of Deke Houlgate, Los Angeles, grid statistician.
  16. ^ a b Owen, Kimbrough, ed. (1937). "Athletics — Football". Gumbo 1937. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: The Students of Louisiana State University. p. 206. Rated No. 1 team of the country by the Deke Houlgate system, the Tigers were presented with a beautiful national championship trophy by a Los Angeles firm.
  17. ^ Levandusky, J. F. (January 11, 1935). "Here's a little incident that happened after the Rose Bowl game". Waukegan News-Sun. Waukegan, Illinois. Retrieved January 31, 2023. Last year Stanford was [Houlgate's] choice and the presentation of the trophy was scheduled to take place after the Alabama–Stanford battle.
  18. ^ "Kansas State Selected For 'Futility' Contest". Tucson Daily Citizen. December 21, 1948. p. 13.
  19. ^ "Futility Bowl: Bids Sent to Losingest Teams; No Ducat Worries". Daily Independent Journal. December 16, 1949. p. 9.
  20. ^ "No Crowd, No Teams -- Futility Bowl Billed For Death Valley Site". The Eugene Guard. December 26, 1951. p. 13.