Many Alabama football fans and even those fans who detest the Tide agreed with coach Nick Saban when he took a shot at Central Florida’s ridiculous claim of being the national champions last football season.

“If you honor and respect the system that we have, [despite] some of the imperfections that you understand that the system has, then you wouldn’t do something out of respect for the system that we have,” Saban said recently. “I guess anybody has the prerogative to claim anything. But self-proclaimed is not the same as actually earning it. And there’s probably a significant number of people who don’t respect people who make self-proclaimed sort of accolades for themselves.”

Saban spoke the 100 percent truth. But in doing so he proved why defense lawyers don’t allow their clients to speak to the media: Saban might as well have placed the ball on the tee for detractors of the Alabama program.

Scott Frost, who is now at Nebraska but coached Central Florida to that perfect season, didn’t hesitate to take the first swing.

“If you look at the history of college football, there are a lot of cases where multiple teams have claimed national championships,” Frost said. “Alabama’s probably got one or two championships they claim that weren’t necessarily recognized by everybody.”

And there it is. As long as Alabama continues to insist on claiming it won a national championship in 1941, nobody associated with the Tide program has any legitimate right to complain about any national championship claim.

If you’re not familiar with the folly of Alabama’s 1941 claim, here are the basics. Alabama finished with a record of 9-2 overall and 5-2 in the SEC. After beating Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, the Tide was ranked 20th in the final AP poll. That made Alabama the fifth highest-ranked SEC team.

But because some organization called the Houlgate System selected Alabama as its national champion, the Tide claims 1941 as one of its 17 championship seasons.

Now that Alabama is winning titles at such a regular clip, it would be easy to simply hold firm at 17 once the Tide wins another title and quietly remove 1941 from its list of championship seasons. That way, when somebody like Scott Frost says “Alabama’s probably got one or two championships they claim that weren’t necessarily recognized by everybody,” it can be dismissed as sour grapes.

Yes, Alabama has had other teams, such as the undefeated 1966 team, that could have been crowned national champions. But they weren’t. That’s the point. Central Florida, as the only undefeated team this season, could have been crowned national champions. But based on the system in place, they weren’t.

As a public service — and to ensure we’re all speaking the same language when bragging about national championships — I’ve put together the definitive list of national champions in college football. This list includes only one national champion for each year, except during the period when the AP and UPI were both considered equally valid organizations for crowning a champion.

First, the easy part. Four champions have been crowned on the field since the College Football Playoff began. That count looks like this:

• Alabama 2
• Clemson 1
• Ohio State 1

An additional 16 teams have won the title since the Bowl Championship Series national championship game was instituted. Add those to the CFP and the list looks like this:

• Alabama 5
• Florida State 2
• Florida 2
• LSU 2
• Ohio State 2
• Tennessee 1
• Oklahoma 1
• Clemson 1
• Miami 1
• Auburn 1
• Texas 1
• USC 1

Before Tennessee won the first BCS title on the field in 1998, it gets a little more dicey. But it’s still not that difficult to identify a champion from the period 1936-1997, the years in which the AP and the poll called the UPI or USA Today were the authoritative and recognized voices on the subject. So, adding all the teams who won AP or UPI titles to the list above, here’s the count of national championship teams from 1936 until the present.

• Alabama 12
• Notre Dame 8
• Oklahoma 7
• USC 6
• Ohio State 6
• Nebraska 5
• Minnesota 4
• Miami 4
• Texas 4
• LSU 3
• Florida 3
• Florida State 3
• Auburn 2
• Pittsburgh 2
• Clemson 2
• Penn State 2
• Army 2
• Michigan 2
• Tennessee 2
• Michigan State 2
• TCU 1
• Texas A&M 1
• Georgia 1
• BYU 1
• Georgia Tech 1
• Colorado 1
• Syracuse 1
• Maryland 1
• UCLA 1
• Washington 1

There’s no doubt that both Alabama and Auburn had some great teams before 1936, but to retroactively crown any of those teams national champions when there was no consensus for how to award the title seems silly and open to great debate. If you feel compelled to dive into that, then have at it.

The point is you can argue how many national championships every team has legitimately won. For Alabama fans, the answer shouldn’t be the claimed 17 or 11 or any other number. It should simply be, based on every objective analysis, this: More than anybody else.

Randy Kennedy writes a weekly column for Lagniappe and is co-host of “Sports Drive” every weekday from 3-6 p.m. on WNSP 105.5 FM, the country’s first all-sports FM station.