Should the BCS award a national championship for 2004?


“Leave No Doubt!” This was the slogan USC players and coaches preached throughout the 2004 season after a split Associated Press and BCS National Championship with Louisiana State University in 2003. Oh the irony! Six years later there is even more doubt and confusion than ever about who won the 2004 BCS National Championship.

On June 6, 2011 the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) stripped University of Southern California of their 2004 National Championship. The NCAA ruled that USC running back Reggie Bush received improper gifts during the 2004 and 2005 seasons. USC was also forced to vacate their appearance in the 2006 Rose Bowl due to Bush’s infractions; the 2005 National Championship game vs. University of Texas which USC lost 41-38. The only doubt left is who was/is the BCS National Champions in 2004?

Four teams entered the bowl season undefeated in 2004: USC, University of Oklahoma, University of Utah, and Auburn University. Here’s a quick breakdown of each team’s status leading up to the bowl season and the final outcomes.

USC fans will argue until the bitter end that they won the BCS National Championship with their play on the field. USC beat the University of Oklahoma handily in the 2005 Orange Bowl 55-19. Blog sites and chat rooms dedicated to USC fans boast that they were so good that year they did not need Reggie Bush to win the 2005 Orange Bowl. This maybe true, but one game does not count for all of Bush’s contributions throughout the season. How many games did he affect the final outcome throughout the 2004 season? USC had three close games during the 2004 regular season; at Stanford 31-28, #7 California 23-17, at Oregon State 28-20. What was Reggie Bush’s impact leading USC to their 13-0 season, now 11-0 due to vacated wins? Would they have made the BCS National Championship game that year without him?

OU fans have argued that due to their appearance in the 2005 Rose Bowl, right or wrong, they should be awarded the 2004 National Championship game. Surprising any team would want to claim a national championship after they were throttled 55-19. OU fans have short memories. College football fans remember OU being overrated during that time frame as they were still living off the success of their 2000-2001 championship season. OU only played two ranked teams during the 2004 season, #5 University of Texas and #18 Texas Tech.

University of Utah had second year coach Urban Meyer leading a fierce spread offense attack on college football in 2004. The “BCS Busters” ran the spread offense, which was not widely used then like it is now, and no one could stop the Utes on their way to an 11-0 regular season. Unfortunately the Mountain West Conference is what kills any argument Utah can try to make about a legitimate claim for the 2004 BCS National Championship. Utah did not play one ranked team during the regular season. Utah beat #20 Pittsburgh 35-7  in the Fiesta Bowl to close their season at 12-0. 8-3 Pittsburgh was in a BCS bowl game as a benefit of winning the Big East conference.

And then there was Auburn .Auburn finished the regular season 11-0. During the regular season they beat 3 teams ranked in the AP top 10; #5 LSU 10-9, at #10University of Tennessee 34-10, #8 Georgia 24-6. Auburn then had to play #15 University of Tennessee again in the SEC Championship game improving their record to 12-0. Their BCS Sugar Bowl matchup was against #8 Virginia Tech, which they won 16-13. 5 ranked teams beaten during their season, 4 of those teams ranked in the top 10 when they played them. Why Auburn was not in the BCS Championship game that year over OU is still in “doubt”.

“Just to Clarify”, there was an unbelievable amount of college and pro talent between all of these undefeated teams. Reggie Bush — future Heisman winner (kind of), Matt Leinart — Heisman winner, Jason White — Heisman winner, Adrian Peterson, LenDale White, Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown, Jay Ratliff, Jason Campbell, Eric Weddle, and Alex Smith. It is unfortunate that one person and that individual’s family can not only ruin a season for an entire USC football team but ruin an entire season for all college football fans, teams, and their players.

The BCS is correct to not award any team the 2004 BCS National Championship. How would they determine what school is the 2004 BCS National Champion? OU and Auburn have the most legitimate claims to the title, with Auburn winning because they are still undefeated… regardless of Bush’s status.

Auburn you won this round. Enjoy it until “Cam Scam” replaces the disgraced headlines of USC and OSU. Knowing the speedy due process of the NCAA, that will happen sometime in 2018. Here’s hoping Sports Illustrated sends George Dohrmann down to Auburn before the summer is over.