A fair amount of research has gone into identifying the All American selection procedure and we still may not have it completely accurate, but based on the information obtained we think we got a lot of this correct.
The first All-American list we could discover was in the 1911 Spalding’s Athletic Almanac for the 1910 season. Athletes were selected based on their performances for that year by an officer of the AAU and we’ve been able to find these AAU lists up to 1967.
In 1921 the NCAA begins its reign* as the governing body of college track & field and would begin its own process of selecting All-Americans. From 1921 to 1924 no NCAA All-American awards were conferred. In 1925, the NCAA began a Collegiate Honor Roll award recognizing athletes for their best performances for the year. Times and marks were submitted by coaches and the NCAA T&F Rules Committee would select an Honor Roll team based on these submitted marks. This Honor Roll selection process would last until 1962.
*(Up until this time, the IC4A Championships was considered the national collegiate championships of the United States. The IC4A meet started in 1876 and continues to this day.)
In 1941 an All-American College Team was created (selection was by the same rules committee). Initially suggested to replace the Honor Roll Team, there would be years when both an Honor Roll and an All-American Team selected. 1974 was the last year this All-American College Team was chosen.
In 1975, All-American Team ‘selection process by committee' would change criteria to a 'meet results' based protocol. Athletes would now be awarded All-American status by placing in the top 6 places at the National meet (including up to the top 6 American athletes if they were displaced by a foreign athlete competing at an American school). This criteria would run from 1975 to 1981.
1982, 83, and 84 introduced a scoring format that was quite generous as the top 12 places scored in the National meet and as such (it is assumed) the top 12 places were awarded All-American honors. If you look at the results from those years, you'll see how bizarre it was. (MY GUESS: 1982 was the first year the women came under the guise of the NCAA and the championship meet being combined with the men for one big meet, hence this scoring format.) (Quick overview re: women's athletics)
From 1985 to 2010 scoring and All-American status was expanded to the top 8 places (along with any displaced American athletes up to the top 8).
In 2011, a new All American criteria was introduced and that is where we're at today.
1st Team (places 1-8) | 2nd Team (places 9-16) | Honorable Mention Team (places 17-24)
Presently, USC's All American number (Indoor and Outdoor) is 1547. (This number is still a bit fluid as we're still discovering past information.)
If you run across any errors or omissions in this narrative, please drop us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Spalding's Official Athletic Almanac (1902 - 1968)
- Spalding's NCAA T&F Rules • T&F Guide (1922 - 1941)
- Official NCAA T&F Guide (1944 - 1979)