Don’t fall into the trap.
It’s tempting to make history by vacating Southern Cal’s 2004 national title and awarding the Grantland Rice Trophy to another school.
It’s tempting to do something the BCS and Associated Press either won’t do or appear reluctant to do. Imagine the attention the FWAA will get.
At the very least, the FWAA will remind fans who forgot — or inform those who didn’t know — that it has crowned a college football champion since 1954.
And there’s no more fertile ground for an unprecedented move than the controversial 2004 season, which saw three teams from BCS conferences plus Utah unbeaten at the time bowl matchups were decided.
Only two can play in the BCS national championship game, and those spots went to Southern Cal and Oklahoma. USC won convincingly, 55-19, and Oklahoma fell to third in the final polls, behind Auburn.
Though USC and Oklahoma started that season No. 1 and No. 2 and never lost before the BCS matchup was set, Auburn and SEC fans raised hell. How could an SEC team go unbeaten through the regular season, win the SEC title and not play in the BCS game?
Rarely will we see three unbeaten teams from BCS leagues, and that circumstance leaves an inviting controversy. Writers love controversy, which might partly explain why the FWAA will discuss relitigating 2004 next week.
It’s also tempting to grab an opportunity for attention, now that the NCAA has vacated USC’s victory over Oklahoma as a result of the Reggie Bush scandal.
“We can create (history),” FWAA executive director Steve Richardson told CBSSportsline.com senior writer Dennis Dodd. “We can do whatever we want.”
Don’t do it.
The press has long operated by a code of reporting the story and not becoming the story. That code resonates even in today’s race-to-the-bottom media culture.
That’s why the AP eventually removed its poll from the BCS formula. Thanks to published ballots, writers were becoming the story they covered. The AP looked over the edge, saw the approaching abyss and pulled out.
The FWAA risks falling over the cliff by relitigating 2004.
Should the association go there, it risks hypocrisy by giving the 2004 national title to the wrong team. If any team is to receive a vacated 2004 national title, it should be Oklahoma.
Nothing against the 2004 Auburn team. The Tigers finished the year No. 2 in every major poll and made a strong argument for that ranking.
A team with four eventual first-round draft picks would have made a better showing than the embarrassment Oklahoma suffered in the Orange Bowl, though neither team would have beaten USC.
There’s just one problem. Auburn was not on the field against USC. Oklahoma, the team that held the No. 2 ranking from preseason through the pre-bowl polls, did play the Trojans.
One can argue that Auburn started the 2004 season grossly underrated, but then the 2003 Tigers proved to be grossly overrated. Poll voters have memories.
Had Auburn handled expectations better in 2003, then who knows?
The bigger point is that writers and fans have long advocated for major college football championships to be settled on the field. No doubt that many FWAA members have.
Oklahoma was the team on the field, the team directly affected by a USC player that would be ruled ineligible almost six years later.
If the FWAA goes there, then it should go for the Sooners.
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 235-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org.