We learned last week that yes, in fact, the BCS rule book does include a clause that would allow it to strip Southern California of its 2004 BCS championship if the NCAA declares former USC star Reggie Bush retroactively ineligible for receiving illegal benefits. The mere prospect of the Trojans losing their crown reopened the most intense college football debate of the last decade, namely: Does this finally mean some brand of justice for No. 2 Auburn, undefeated SEC and Sugar Bowl champ, which found itself the odd team out when USC and Oklahoma commanded the top two spots going into the Orange Bowl, that year's de facto "national championship" game?
SEC fans, sensing the opportunity to lay claim to six of the last seven national titles (by four different schools, no less), have already begun to make the case for recognizing the Tigers – if not for the BCS crown (likely to be merely "vacated"), then possibly for the love of the Associated Press. After all, it was the 2004 controversy that led directly to the AP pulling its poll out of the BCS process, and the AP just established a precedent for revisionist tendencies when it held a re-vote for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year after Bush's former USC teammate Brian Cushing tested positive for banned substances earlier this month. Considering the scale of the allegations against Bush, might AP voters be inclined to swing more than a few votes the Tigers' way in retrospect.
Alas, they won't get the chance, according to an AP source who assured the Orlando Sentinel that there will be no re-vote on the final 2004 poll, no matter what comes of the NCAA's investigation or the BCS' own machinations. Barring a nuclear revelation beyond anything we've learned so far, USC will apparently remain the 2004 champion in at least one venue.
That shouldn't stop Auburn from continuing to refer to itself as the 2004 national champion according to the prestigious Auburn Poll, responsible for those swanky "national championship" rings. It's as valid as any other poll, and the fact that no one else recognizes them ensures that they'll never be taken away. (Although they may wind up on eBay.)
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.