Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images (left), Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images (right)

Georgia Isn't the Only Team to Break White House Tradition, But It's Incredibly Rare

Citing a schedule conflict, the Georgia Bulldogs football team has declined an invitation from President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden to visit the White House months after winning a second consecutive national championship. If that feels like news, that's because it sort of is — at least, based on history and tradition.

College football has been sending its national champion — or, in some cases, champions — to the White House for at least three decades, dating back to President Ronald Reagan. According to ESPN, it was Reagan who made these invitations to championship teams a regular occurrence, including the time New York Giants linebacker Harry Carson dumped a cooler full of popcorn on him in 1987.

After I scoured the internet, the earliest college football champion I could find that traveled to Washington, D.C., was the 1981 Clemson Tigers. In 1982, Clemson head coach Danny Ford and a couple players, as well as the school's athletic director and president, met Reagan at the White House. As Billy Davis, a member of that 1981 squad, said, "It wasn't very common in those days. Until the Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl after the 1983 season and Ronald Reagan invited the entire team, it just wasn't a big deal."

After some extensive research, I found that Georgia is breaking a longstanding tradition. That being said, the last two seasons' winners — Georgia in 2021 and Alabama in 2020 — were not invited because of COVID-19 precautions. The last college football champs to visit the nation's capital were the 2019 LSU Tigers, who danced their way through the wings of the building.

Here's the rest of what I found:

A Decades-Long Tradition of College Football Teams Visiting the White House

Obama and Alabama football.

President Barack Obama takes a picture with the Alabama Crimson Tide football team on March 2, 2016, in the East Room of the White House. (Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

What I found is that every team since 2000 visited the White House except the 2013 Florida State Seminoles, who also cited a schedule conflict. Maybe White House officials were afraid of a photo op with President Barack Obama and Jameis Winston, or that Winston would do something stupid inside, such as steal crab legs. Regardless, FSU at that point was the first national championship team in more than two decades to not visit D.C.

Here are the teams that have visited each year, as far back as I could find. Bolded are years that either a team never went to the White House or I couldn't find any evidence of a team attending. Also, the year listed is the year the team visited the White House, not the year of the specific season:

  • 2020: The 2019 LSU Tigers visit President Donald Trump at the White House.
  • 2019: The 2018 Clemson Tigers visit Donald Trump and are promptly served a fast-food feast of McDonald's, Wendy's, Domino's and Burger King.
  • 2018: Alabama visits Trump.
  • 2017: Clemson visits Trump.
  • 2016: Alabama visits while Obama is in office. At this point, the Crimson Tide have visited so much that Obama refers to himself as O'Bama. It's the fourth time Nick Saban's team has visited Obama to that point.
  • 2015: Ohio State visits Obama.
  • 2014: Florida State does not visit the White House.
  • 2013: Alabama visits Obama.
  • 2012: Alabama visits Obama.
  • 2011: Auburn visits Obama.
  • 2010: Alabama visits Obama.
  • 2009: Florida visits Obama.
  • 2008: LSU visits President George W. Bush.

President George W. Bush poses with members of the Louisiana State University Tigers football team, including (from left) quarterback Matt Flynn, defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, head coach Les Miles and running back Jacob Hester, after he received a team jersey as he hosts the team at the South Lawn of the White House on April 7, 2008. The Tigers were the NCAA football champions in 2007. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

  • 2007: Florida visits Bush.
  • 2006: Texas visits Bush.
  • 2005: No articles from the USC Trojans visiting, if they did visit. 
  • 2004: The 2003 co-champions, LSU and USC, both visit the White House. President Bush struck the Heisman pose and even quipped that "the South Lawn is pretty good sized" if the two teams wanted to play there.
  • 2003: Ohio State visits Bush.
  • 2002: Miami visits Bush.
  • 2001: Oklahoma visits Bush and is the first college football team Bush celebrates in office.
  • 2000: Florida State visits President Bill Clinton, who refers to FSU as the "team of the decade" in the '90s.
  • 1999: Tennessee visits Clinton.
  • 1998: Michigan and Nebraska both visit Clinton.
  • 1997: Florida visits Clinton.
  • 1996: Unconfirmed whether the 1995 champion Nebraska Cornhuskers visit the White House.
  • 1995: Nebraska visits Clinton.
  • 1994: Florida State visits Clinton.
  • 1993: Alabama visits Clinton.
  • 1992: The 1991 co-champions, Miami and Washington, both visit President George H.W. Bush. Apparently, things got chippy.

The 1992 Alabama Crimson Tide football team meets with President Bill Clinton in March 1993. (Photo by Larry Downing/Sygma via Getty Images)

Looking back further, I found that the 1988 Notre Dame Fighting Irish made a trip to see Reagan after winning a national title. It was fitting considering Reagan played Notre Dame football player George Gipp in the 1940 film "Knute Rockne, All American," which is how he got his "Gipper" nickname.

As you can tell, a national championship team not visiting the White House isn't all that common. The 2013 Seminoles are an exception, obviously. And though I couldn't confirm USC in 2005 or Nebraska in 1996, an article from the Tallahassee Democrat claims FSU was the first team in more than two decades to not attend the presidential mansion.

This means the 2022 Georgia Bulldogs and 2013 Florida State Seminoles are the only teams since 1991 to not have visited the nation's capital. Regardless of the reason, and politics aside, it's a shame when a college football champion doesn't get the unique experience of walking the historic halls of the White House.

MORE: The 10 Sitting Presidents Who Attended the Army-Navy Game