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BCS formally declares ’04 USC Trojans football’s first former champs

Hey, football fans, you still remember the 2005 Orange Bowl, don't you? USC's 55-19 rout over Oklahoma to seal the national championship? The Trojans' emphatic, 24-point explosion in the second quarter Matt Leinart's Orange Bowl-record five touchdown passes? The brutal chorus of boos rained upon Ashlee Simpson at halftime? Seems like only yesterday, doesn't it?

BCS formally declares ’04 USC Trojans football’s first former champsYeah, well, you hereby instructed to forget all that, beginning with the postgame trophy ceremony. Officially speaking, in fact, there was no 2005 Orange Bowl: The NCAA officially struck the game from the record book last year when it retroactively declared USC running back Reggie Bush ineligible for receiving illegal benefits. And today, less than two weeks after the NCAA shot down USC's appeal of those sanctions, the BCS' presidential oversight committee has made good on its promise to formally strip SC of its championship. Here's the official statement from Penn State president Graham Spanier, head of the committee:

"The BCS arrangement crowns a national champion, and the BCS games are showcase events for post-season football," executive director Bill Hancock said in a statement. "One of the best ways of ensuring that they remain so is for us to foster full compliance with NCAA rules. Accordingly, in keeping with the NCAA's recent action, USC's appearances are being vacated.

"This action reflects the scope of the BCS arrangement and is consistent with the NCAA's approach when it subsequently discovers infractions by institutions whose teams have played in NCAA championship events."

Thus do the 2004 Trojans become the first champions in the history of big-time college sports to be declared former champions. Muhammad Ali, Ben Johnson and Marion Jones welcome them to the club.

The decision comes as no surprise, considering BCS executive director/maintenance man Bill Hancock made it abundantly clear after sanctions were handed down last year that the the Trojans' title would be stripped at the end of the appeal process. In fact, the delay was only a polite formality: USC's appeal only sought to reduce scholarship penalties and cut a postseason ban from two years to one (the Trojans "voluntarily" served the first half of the ban last season), and did not challenge Bush's eligibility for the '05 Orange Bowl. Even if the appeal had succeeded, the championship would still have been stricken from the record.

Last year's media guide even included an asterisk noting that the '04 championship was "vacated due to NCAA penalty," though it still listed the BCS championship alongside the titles it claimed that season from the Associated Press, USA Today, Jeff Sagarin and more than a dozen other selectors, all of which still stand except for the one voted by the Football Writers Association of America, which voted to revoke the 2004 Grantland Rice Trophy from USC as soon as the sanctions dropped last year. With that AP title still sitting next to the equally controversial AP title from 2003, the Trojans can still technically call themselves the only "back-to-back national champions" of the BCS era, even without an actual BCS championship on the official record.

And to answer your next question, yes, the stripped BCS championship will remain vacant — as of today, there is simply no official BCS champion for 2004 — though in a slightly more just world the repossessed trophy would be split in half and shipped off to Auburn and Utah, respectively, for their undefeated records that season. (In a perfectly just world, they both would have had the chance to play for it in a playoff in the first place.) USC would also be allowed to put up an historical marker in the newly vacant space in its trophy case that reads "The BCS Championship Trophy once sat here."

Oklahoma, however, would still get nothing. Because even when you're rewriting history, some realities are just too vivid to go down the memory hole.

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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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