College football’s season ends with a series of bowl games, but there is no playoff system. A national champion is declared by the sportswriters, but not through a championship tournament. The term “mythical national champion” has been cited since at least November 1920 and “mythical national championship” since at least November 1923.
“MNC (mythical national championship)” was cited in print in September 1986.
Wikipedia: Mythical national championship
A mythical national championship (sometimes abbreviated MNC) is national championship recognition that is not explicitly competitive. This is often invoked in reference to American college football because the NCAA does not sponsor a playoff-style tournament or recognize official national champions for the Football Bowl Subdivision. The relevant recognition comes from various entities, including coach polls and media ballots, which have attempted to recognize their own national champions.
“Mythical national champion” is a term used since at least 1921 for a championship won by a NCAA Division I football team, especially for titles won before the current Bowl Championship Series (BCS) system began in 1998. Before the BCS, polls in which coaches and/or sportwriters voted, such as the AP, UPI, and USA Today polls, awarded championships. This led to seasons in which two or even more teams could claim to have won a national championship.
30 November 1920, Baltimore (MD) American, “Looking Backward at Past Grid Season,” pg. 5, col. 4:
Not even a mythical national champion can be established or claimed.
10 October 1921, New York (NY) Tribune, “Navy’s Eleven And Syracuse In Title Chase: Two Teams Take Place in Battle for Championship After Fine Showing” by Ray McCarthy, pg. 9, col. 4:
Two teams took their places well up in the line of the aspirants for the mythical football championship on Saturday.
12 November 1923, The Evening Repository (Canton, OH), “Yale-Princeton Big Battle On Eastern Card Saturday"(AP), pg. 11, col. 4:
It is likely that this contest will furnish argument as to the mythical national championship.
26 September 1986, Providence (RI) Journal, “TV/Radio Sports: CBS hopes to bowl them over early” by Sean McAdam, pg. B-11:
Before October even rolls around, Miami and Oklahoma may be playing for the MNC (mythical national championship) and CBS has the good fortune to televise it.
OCLC WorldCat record
“Acclaim is received through sports writers” : regionalism and college football’s “mythical” national championship in 1938 and 1939
Author: David Charles Turpie
Dissertation: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Memphis, 2004.
Edition/Format: Thesis/dissertation : Thesis/dissertation : Manuscript Archival Material : English
Mythical National Champion - It refers to the fact that College Football needs a playoff system and until that happens, there will be no real “Champion”, just a “Mythical National Champion”.
by ChrisDeacs Dec 7, 2006
The Devil’s Dictionary of Sportswriting
From ‘adviser’ to ‘winner’
By Bryan Curtis on March 6, 2013
M.N.C. (slang) — college football’s “Mythical National Championship” — these days, the BCS title.