The AP Top 25: A Decades-Long Tradition of Ranking Excellence

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In the world of collegiate sports, few things capture the excitement and anticipation of fans quite like the weekly release of the AP Top 25 rankings. The Associated Press (AP) Top 25 is a time-honoured tradition that dates back to 1936. It has become a defining feature of American sports culture, a conversation starter, and a source of pride for college football and basketball teams across the nation. In this article, we explore the history, significance, and impact of the AP Top 25 rankings.

The Origins of the AP Top 25

The AP Top 25 rankings were born out of a desire to provide clarity and excitement to college football. Prior to their introduction, there was no standardised system for ranking teams, which often led to confusion and debate about which team deserved the title of the best in the nation. In response to this need, the Associated Press decided to conduct a weekly poll of sportswriters and broadcasters to determine the top college football teams.

The First Rankings

On October 19, 1936, the AP released its inaugural college football rankings. Minnesota claimed the top spot, and the rankings were an instant hit. Fans, coaches, and players eagerly awaited each week’s release to see how their teams fared. Over the years, the system expanded to include college basketball, and the AP Top 25 became a fixture of both sports.

Impact on College Sports

The AP Top 25 rankings have had a profound impact on college sports. They provide a measure of recognition and prestige for teams that perform well, serving as a source of motivation for players and coaches. Being ranked in the top 25 is an honour that signifies a team’s success and places them in the national spotlight.

Furthermore, the rankings play a crucial role in postseason play. In college football, they help determine which teams are invited to prestigious bowl games and the College Football Playoff. In college basketball, they influence tournament seedings and at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament. As a result, the rankings have a direct impact on a team’s postseason opportunities and the financial rewards that come with them.

The Weekly Ritual

For sports fans, the weekly release of the AP Top 25 rankings is a ritual. It sparks debates, discussions, and predictions about upcoming games and the overall landscape of college sports. Fans eagerly tune in to see if their favourite team has climbed the ranks or if a major upset has occurred.

Controversy and Subjectivity

The rankings are not without controversy. They are determined by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters, making them inherently subjective. Disagreements and debates about the rankings are common, as fans and experts often have differing opinions on which teams deserve to be ranked higher.

However, this subjectivity is also part of what makes the AP Top 25 rankings so engaging. It generates passion and interest in college sports, and it keeps fans engaged throughout the season.


The AP Top 25 rankings have evolved from a simple idea in 1936 to a cultural phenomenon in the world of college sports. They provide recognition, excitement, and a touch of controversy that make college football and basketball even more captivating for fans. Whether you love them or question them, there’s no denying the lasting impact and tradition of the AP Top 25 rankings in the world of collegiate athletics.

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