Last week USC contritely shipped out its copy of Reggie Bush's 2005 Heisman Trophy without a fight. The 2004 BCS championship trophy, on the other hand, won't be given up so easily. But BCS executive director Bill Hancock confirmed Tuesday that the Trojans' only BCS title will be vacated, unless their ongoing appeal of NCAA sanctions can somehow convince the association to reverse its stance on Bush's eligibility at the end of 2004.
Hancock gave his comments at the Big 12 media days in Irving, Tex. Via CBSSports.com:
"If USC loses the appeal, the  championship will be vacated," Hancock told reporters. "And the feeling is in our group, the commissioners group, is that there was not a game, no game happened."
Hancock added, "They will vacate, they will not elevate anyone," referring to the 12 school presidents who make up the BCS Oversight Committee.
"The presidents could decide to do something else, but I think it's most likely that they will vacate it."
USC gave up any claim on Bush's Heisman without much pull in part because it agreed, in an initial response to NCAA allegations filed last year, that Bush was ineligible throughout the 2005 season. That season ended with the epic Rose Bowl loss to Texas for the BCS championship. In the same response, though, it also claimed that there is "no basis upon which to conclude that [Bush] was ineligible for competition during the 2004-05 football season." It challenged the NCAA's decision to retroactively declare Bush ineligible for two key games: The Trojans' Dec. 4 win over UCLA to wrap up an undefeated regular season, and the 55-19 Orange Bowl blowout over Oklahoma that clinched the BCS and Associated Press titles a month later.
If the NCAA backs off its claim in the latter case – and there is no indication whatsoever that it will – the trophy can stay. If not, well, there's always the AP championship. (At least SC fans are already familiar with this argument.)
Hancock has said before that, no matter the outcome where USC is concerned, the '04 title won't be awarded to anyone else. Officially, there simply won't be a 2004 BCS champion. But former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, notoriously jilted out of a title shot that year for his undefeated Tigers, didn't accept that answer then, and he's not accepting it now. From the Tulsa World:
Tuberville, who coached Auburn to a 13-0 record that season, said Tuesday at Big 12 Media Days that the championship from that season should not remain vacant after the Trojans’ title is stripped, if USC loses its final appeal.
"Why in the world would you not give it to somebody? Oklahoma, us, Utah? It doesn’t make any sense," [new Texas Tech coach] Tuberville said. "Everybody played that year. So you give it to a team that wins it on the field – uh oh, they cheated. They broke rules. We’re gonna take it away from 'em. Well, give it to somebody. Because there’s other teams that did the right things that were there."
When one of the most sanctioned programs in the nation's most sanctioned conference can plausibly take to the moral high ground, something has gone very, very wrong. But when you get into the business of declaring that 36-point blowouts staged in front of millions of people "never happened," you have no choice but to forfeit some of your grip on reality.
- - -
Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.