Collective noun "team"

Which is preferable in American English:

“The team were Big Ten Champs in 1951.”
“The team was Big Ten Champs in 1951.”

Hmmm. . .

Also from America’s dairyland.

I’ve seen that rule before, though. Depends on whether you’re referring to them as a unit or as individuals.

The team was the conference champion.
The Falcons were the conference champions.
The University of Somesuch was the conference champion.

I agree with FatBaldGuy: I think the fact that you’re using the plural “champs” means that the plural “were” is correct.

He’s also using the plural “Falcons.” I run into confusion with team names like “The Jazz.”

But that isn’t relevant, because “the Falcons” is synonymous with “the team.” The agreement needs to be with “champions,” not “team.”

OK, you’re right, but they all need to match.

I disagree. I think “champion/s” would end up agreeing with the form of the team name. Nobody would say “the Canadiens were the champion” or “the Canadiens was the champion.” They would say “the Canadiens were the champions.” But they might well say “Montreal was the champion.”

Look at it another way; picture these headlines.

Canadiens win
Montreal wins
Lightning win OR Lightning wins
Montreal team wins

However, although singular team names can take the singular, plural city names can’t:

Trois-Rivières wins NOT Trois-Rivières win

Rule of thumb: teams with singular names (Utah Jazz, Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild) still take plurals.

Just don’t ask me what you call a member of the Jazz. I guess you’d call him a “Note.” A Colorado Avalanche player is called an Av, since the team is referred to as the Avs a lot of the time.

All the above does definitely only apply to American English - in Britain, team names are generally treated as plurals. From today’s sports pages:

“Plunkett plunders as England catch fire”
“Walcott a bright spark but England are embarrassed by 10-man Belarus”
“St Helens have made an approach for Newcastle Knights Matthew Gidley”
“Melbourne Storm have expressed an interest in the Great Britain centre Chev Walker”