…for a game it lost 55-19 in 2005. Today, the NCAA handed down the most severe sanctions since giving Southern Methodist the “death penalty” in 1986. They placed USC on a 2-year postseason ban in football, revoked 30 scholarships, and most importantly, vacated all wins for the football program after December 2004 in which Heisman trophy winner Reggie Bush played. (Note: USC intends to appeal the sanctions against the football program, so all of this might be moot; however, the NCAA rarely reverses itself on appeal in these cases, especially when the investigation took 4 years to complete.)
Why is the last one most important for Sooner fans? Because the BCS Championship in the Orange Bowl for the 2004 season was played in January 2005, and is one of USC’s wins that will be vacated by the NCAA.
Update: Bummer – looks like all this is moot. According to this ESPN article:
The BCS is likely to force Southern California to vacate its national championship. BCS executive director Bill Hancock says in a statement Thursday that the presidential oversight committee will meet soon to discuss whether USC will be stripped of its title.
If that happens, there will be no BCS champion for the 2004-05 season. Hancock said no action would be taken by the BCS until the appeal is heard.
If USC forfeits that game, then by definition, OU won the game. The USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Poll was contractually obligated that year to award its #1 ranking to the winner of that game. Ipso facto, that means OU, not USC, is now the 2004 National Champion according to the Coaches’ Poll.
The Associated Press, by the way, has never cared about such things as “eligibility” when crowning its champion. In fact, OU won an AP National Championship in 1974 despite its own postseason ban from the NCAA. Also, it was Auburn, not OU, that placed #2 in the final AP poll. So that means, at best, only the Coaches’ Poll would go to OU, and OU has never claimed a National Championship that didn’t include the AP Poll.
Do I think anybody, from the NCAA to the BCS to the Coaches’ Poll, is ever going to acknowledge this fact? Probably not. Also, would it be pretty shameful for OU to claim the title after getting its butt kicked so thoroughly in that game? Absolutely. But, it’s a nice little bit of trivia to hang onto, and takes a little of the sting out of a very embarrassing loss that started the unfortunate reputation Coach Stoops has acquired for being unable to win in the BCS.