Ah, the offseason. That magical time in the college football calendar when questions like “If USC is on the blunt end of the NCAA hammer and if as part of that hammering Reggie Bush is retroactively declared ineligible and USC is forced to vacate their 2004 wins and if that vacation triggers that new BCS bylaw that allows them to strip the Trojans of their 2004 BCS title and if the BCS decides that, yeah, they’re following through with said stripping and if in response the Associated Press, whose title doesn’t actually have any formal ties to the BCS’s in the first place, decides to take a new vote six years after the fact, should they vote Auburn as the new 2004 national champions and should Auburn accept and recognize that as a legitimate national championship?” aren’t just treated seriously by a few random bloggers–they’re worthy of getting entire columns devoted to them by the likes of Tony Barnhart and Kevin Scarbinsky.
Those columns appeared much earlier this week–along with blog posts by the likes of Blutarsky*, Clay Travis, and Jay Coulter–so I’m a little behind, though it’s not like timing matters all that much when you’re discussing an entirely academic, hypothetical question anyways, right? We’re in agreement the AP will bother to re-vote something like this just before a guy in a Smokey costume leads a coup to install our new government of bears, right**? Right.
But for what it’s worth, here’s my opinion: Auburn should not recognize 2004 as a national championship season, no matter what the BCS or the AP decide. For several reasons:
1. The 2004 team doesn’t need their approval; that season doesn’t need any further embellishment. Would I have preferred Auburn to play in the Orange Bowl that year for a crystal football? Yes. Would I have preferred to not spend the last five years wondering how that team would have fared against USC? Yes, yes. If I could somehow go back and kidnap Jason White or whateve else I might have to do to keep the Sooners out of the title game, would I? Yes, yes, yes.
But changing what happened then is not the same as simply throwing a bunch of asterisks around now. The 2004 team was perfect. Their 2004 season was perfect. To try and retroactively award them something today suggests, however subtly, that there was something else left for them to accomplish, some way (other than preseason poll balloting) in which Campbell and Cadillac and Ronnie and Marcus and Carlos were inferior to the teams ahead of them.
They weren’t. I know that, you know that. And I wouldn’t appreciate being told today, even in the kindly manner of “Oh now you’re champions”, that they were. The 2004 season is what it gloriously is, with or without anyone’s approval.
2. This is exactly what the Tide would do. Despite what Jay and K-Scar have argued, that Alabama would embrace the AP re-vote faster than you could say “Dunkel Index” is all the more reason for me to say Auburn shouldn’t have a thing to do with it. They’re the ones who need the cold shower and a lie-down whenever, say, the Lauderdale County Football Fan Club announces their Tandy 3000 has spit out the Tide as the best team from 19-dickety-two, not us.
The opinion of every halfway-rational Auburn fan I’ve ever spoken to has been that if it didn’t happen on the field, OK, it didn’t happen. Since the 2004 teams wasn’t given a fair chance to make it happen on the field, screw it, we’re fine without it. We have the 1957 national championship, and a 2004 season that means just as much without the BCS’s pat on the head. That’s the way it goes. We don’t have to go begging for history revisions or trumpet half-baked statistical nonsense years after the fact to validate the successes of our football team.
3. It wouldn’t help stop it from happening again. Right now, Auburn’s snub in 2004 remains the single biggest and best argument out there for a playoff of some kind. (I maintain that if it would just happen a second time to someone, anyone, from the SEC/Big 10/Pac-10/Big 12, the debate would be over.) If we go back and “fix it” and say all’s well that ends well, we’re just inviting the powers that be to live with the possibility that someone else could receive the same screw-job, since it might turn out all right in the end. Blecch.
4. It would stop this idea that Auburn fans claim 2004 as a title already. Again: I don’t know any lucid Auburn fan who’ll tell you the Tigers have won two national championships. I’m beyond tired of being told that because a “salesman’s sample” ring popped up on eBay once that we’re all running around telling everyone who’ll listen how we won a title that year. We didn’t win a national championship in 2004. We know. We’re OK with that. Really.
5. It’s just stupid. C’mon: we find out Reggie Bush was on the take, so now we’re going to pretend all the things that happened that season didn’t happen? There’s a reason “vacated wins” are a slap on the wrist and punishments going forward are the ones programs really fear. (Unless you’re Bobby Bowden.) What’s done is done.
And what was done by the 2004 team remains as amazing, thrilling, and wonderful as the day it was, well, done. Even if there was more than a snowball’s chance in hell they might get some extremely late-arriving award for their efforts, it’s the amazement, thrill, and wonder we all shared that mattered. If there is any good to come out of this week’s sound and fury on the topic, it’s that we’ve been reminded of that, and–of course–that team.
*So I hadn’t actually looked at the good Senator’s post for a few days before starting mine, and now that I read it again, my opening is very similar to his. It’s not conscious or intentional, I assure you. Great minds, after all.
**First major decision: New, mind-bogglingly lucrative honey subsidies.