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Unless you've been living in a cave, you've already heard the sanctions handed down to USC by the NCAA, following the five-year investigation into the Trojans' football, basketball and women's tennis teams. The verdict: four-year probation, two-year bowl ban, a reduction of 30 scholarships and an order to vacate any wins in which ineligible players participated.
That last part should pique the interest of Auburn fans, because that means that the Trojans must vacate their 2005 Orange Bowl victory over Oklahoma – a game that crowned USC the 2004 BCS national champions. Does that mean that Auburn, a team that finished the season 13-0 and ranked No. 2, will be awarded the national championship?
According to BCS executive director Bill Hancock, that won't happen. The BCS presidential oversight committee will soon meet to discuss whether USC will be stripped of its title. If they are, the title will be left vacant.
Okay, so the BCS is out. But what about the Associated Press? Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tubervill, who was the head coach at Auburn in 2004, wants a revote.
"If they were ineligible, I think they should have a revote and let people vote on it and decide who they think was the best team that year." said Tuberville. "If everybody thinks it was Oklahoma, that's fine. If everybody thinks it was Auburn, that's fine."
My question is: does it even matter?
2004 was a very dysfunctional season. Auburn was left out of the BCS championship game for one reason and one reason alone – preseason rankings. It had nothing to do with media bias or agenda. It had nothing to do with The Citadel. It had everything to do with the fact that Auburn started the season down in the rankings at No. 17, while USC and Oklahoma started the season No. 1 and No. 2 and never lost. That's it and that's all.
I saw Auburn play several times in 2004, and there's not a doubt in my mind that they were the best team in college football throughout the entire season.
The Tigers blasted through the SEC schedule, beating five top 15 teams by an average of 11.2 points. USC and Oklahoma COMBINED to beat three top 15 teams, and one of those games was USC beating Oklahoma in the bowl game.
Would Auburn have been able to topple USC in the Orange Bowl? Who knows. USC certainly picked a fantastic time to play their best game of the season. At this point, that question doesn't even matter.
2004 is already viewed as the single biggest debacle the BCS has ever seen. You can't read the story of the 2004 season without mentioning Auburn's omission from the Orange Bowl. The three-team quagmire at the end of the regular season, USC's subsequent woodshed beating of Oklahoma and the sanctions that have now been levied on USC make the muddled situation crystal clear – Auburn was the best legitimate team in college football in 2004.
But will the title of "national champions" really make things right? Retroactively awarding Auburn the title of "national champions" certainly won't change the story. Title or not, 2004 will always be a dysfunctional season.
"That's the first time in history No. 1 and 2 never lost during the year, said Tuberville. It's just one of those unfortunate years."
He's right, it just was one of those "unfortunate years." In the end, the team that deserved it most is getting the last laugh – whether they have the title of "national champions" or not.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @BarrettSallee
Off-Season Column Archive:
Auburn Gets The Last Laugh – June 10, 2010
Realignment – What Should The SEC Do? – June 9, 2010
SEC Roundtable Discussion Part I – June 7, 2010
Richt On The Hot Seat? – June 3, 2010
Auburn Dismisses Redshirt Freshman RB – May 21, 2010
SEC Hires of the Decade – The Bottom Five – May 14, 2010
Top 5 SEC Hires of the Decade – May 5, 2010
Georgia In A Gray Area – April 26, 2009
Taunting Rule Goes Too Far – April 16, 2009
Memorable SEC Press Conferences – February 20, 2009
2010 Early SEC Picks, Part 2 – February 18, 2009
2010 Early SEC Picks, Part 1 – February 16, 2009
Florida Reaches For DC – February 12, 2009
Vols Go West For New DC – February 3, 2009
Early 2010 SEC Predictions – January 31, 2010
Chizik Doing It Right – January 21, 2010
Georgia's DC Debacle – January 12, 2010
SEC Bloggers: Do Over – January 8, 2010
Trouble In Baton Rouge – January 2, 2010
Meyer Calls A Reverse – December 27, 2009
Urban Meyer's SEC Legacy – December 26, 2009
End Of The Season Accountability – December 26, 2009
Ranking The SEC Bowl Games – December 18, 2009
2009 SEC Superlatives – December 13, 2009
Click here for the 2010 Three & Out archive