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The 2004 AP Title

I haven't written anything about the impending NCAA penalties for USC due to having the best college talent money can buy because, frankly, I don't really care.  LSU doesn't play SC and hasn't played SC in a very long time.  The 2003 controversy was irritating, but we got a really cool trophy so it doesn't really matter what they say.  Engaging in the debate merely legitimizes their position: we won the title.  End of story. 

So I don't harbor the Trojans any ill will.  Of course they stumped for the AP title back in 2003.  It would have been negligent not to.  The long-running grudge LSU fans seem to hold towards USC is fairly silly.  They don't mean anything to me because we never play them and we won the title anyway.  We won another one in 2007, too.  Let it go. 

So whatever the NCAA decides towards SC is fine with me.  I've got no dog in this fight.  However, if the NCAA strips the Trojans of their wins in 2004, a usually toothless and meaningless sanction, it would mean that SC would likely also be stripped of their national championships.  Enter Auburn, the aggrieved party in 2004.  Today, Track Em Tigers argues that the AP should crown Auburn the 2004 champ if SC is stripped of the title and that Auburn should welcome that title

Auburn has every right to step in and accept it. When you consider the injustice Auburn was served along with the notion that USC's top player was a cheat, how can you not accept the trophy and be happy to get it? Had it happened to Alabama, they'd be planning a celebration already for next weekend. After all, they've never turned down a championship from anyone, regardless of whether fans have actually heard of the organization presenting it. At least the Associated Press is legitimate.

Would a better late than never title change things for the players and the fans? Not really. Most Auburn people I know feel quite comfortable believing Auburn was as much the champion of 2004 as USC. When you don't meet head-to-head how can you think otherwise? With four first round draft choices on that team, you have to believe Auburn would have had a shot.

First, and most importantly, I think a fanbase can celebrate whatever the hell they want, so I'm not going to tell them they don't have "the right" to accept the trophy.  Of course they do.  And if you're a program particularly starved of national titles that has suffered the numerous close calls Auburn has, why the hell not?  Throw a parade.  Alabama is the grand champion of claiming every title, no matter how questionable.  Ole Miss claims a national title from 1960 when Minnesota won the AP and the UPI title went to Minnesota (and to be fair, if they awarded titles after bowl games rather than before them in 1960, OM would likely have won the titles in both polls).  The point is, I don't think there are too many programs which turn down titles and most SEC fans should look at their glass house before throwing a rock at Auburn. 

The question for me is "should the AP award a new title or just leave the champion vacant?"  And honestly, I think they shouldn't.  Yes, Oklahoma got creamed by USC in the title game, but that was a team that has been ruled to have been cheating (well, if they are stripped of the wins).  I don't believe we can hold that loss against OU.  2004 was a long time ago, and I don't think voters can make a judgment based solely on the results of the 2004 season.  OU would still have the best win that season, over otherwise unbeaten Texas. 

More than anything, I'm just not comfortable scrubbing the past of things we don't like.  Sure, we can strip SC of the title because they cheated, but I don't want Auburn, or Oklahoma, or even Utah, to be awarded the title on the simple ground that they didn't win it.  I don't like the AP going back and pretending Auburn or OU did win, if not for SC's cheating.  Auburn or OU would have won, but we simply don't know which one would have.  We can make a good guess, though.

So if the AP decides to guess, I won't really protest.  I won't begrudge Auburn "the right" to celebrate a title they justifiably feel robbed of.  They can throw a parade and print the t-shirts.  But I'm going to start celebrating LSU's 1908 title, too.  Because that's one more glass house on the SEC block, and we don't really want to start a rock fight.