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Thou shall not claim illegitimate national championships

Published 10:32am Monday, June 2, 2014

When it comes to college football, teams in the state of Alabama aren’t unaccustomed to claiming championships that aren’t theirs.
However, until now, only one team was responsible for such, well … let’s just call it foolishness.
See, the Alabama Crimson Tide is college football royalty. It has multiple national titles, coaching legends, all-time great players and one of the strongest traditions in the game’s history.
None of this is disputed outside of the actual number they’re sticking with.
Last I checked, it was 15. It may be more by the time this column is finished – especially with recent developments – but I digress.
Unfortunately, the Tide’s little brother is set to follow Bama’s lead.
While there have been rumblings about it from several months now, it appears that the Plains is about to be home to a nine-time national champion.
Why? Because Auburn is looking into whether or not it should recognize teams from 1910, 1913, 1914, 1983, 1993 and 2004 as the national champion of each given year.
As of now, Auburn has two legit titles: 1957 and 2010.
According to Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs, the move is motivated solely by what is in the best interest of Auburn University.
“We want to do what’s best for Auburn, regardless of what the rest of the world thinks or says,” Jacobs said in an interview with AL.com. “The things that I said about it back in January is the same I feel today. If other schools are counting championships a certain way, then we should count that same exact way.”
Other schools, he says. As if people don’t know who he’s talking about.
As it were, I can see where he’s coming from. The college choice of some recruits (and students) is motivated by success of a school’s athletics programs. As football is king, a team with a history of championships stands to land better and more highly-touted recruits.
With Saban being the monster he is on the recruiting trail (I mean this in a good way), whatever advantages that Auburn can gain in their attempt to keep pace, the school probably should go for it.
Besides, Alabama has gotten away with it (not in my view, but I’m only one man), so why not Auburn?
However, I find that this particular attempt on behalf of the Tigers is only serving to make them a different shade of Tide. Auburn is becoming an imitation of the program at the Capstone with this move.
And that, I think, takes away from what Auburn can sell to people.
The current Tigers program is one built on innovation and freshness, if you ask me. With a flair for the dramatic, a renewed sense of optimism and a breakneck offense that looks to be oodles of fun to play in, I can think of many a good reason why you’d want to play for Auburn over Alabama.
But, as Class 6A lineman of the year Rashann Evans and potential Class 4A lineman of the year candidate Anfernee Jennings proved, Bama is quite the sought out destination.
I don’t fault either kid from choosing the school. The Tide’s run of success when it comes to winning games and putting great players in the pros, among other things, are fantastic selling points.
But being like your number one rival only serves to help the rival, don’t you think? After all, why go with the imitator when the real thing wants you there?
Look, I won’t even count 1910, 1913 and 1914. With the way champs were chosen back then, I don’t consider any title “won” before say, 1950, legitimate.
In fact, some of the ones won after said year aren’t legit. Like Bama’s 1964 national title, for instance.
Now at best, Auburn’s looking at five titles. 1993? Yeah, no. They lost their claim to it when the NCAA came down on them for violations of rules.
1983? I MIGHT can see a claim to that. Of the teams ranked in the top 3 entering the bowl season, the Tigers did win their bowl game (and played in, by most accounts, the toughest schedule in the nation). It’s a flimsy claim, though, and not one for which I’d dare argue in favor of Auburn.
This leaves 2004, which is actually Auburn’s best chance at claiming a title.
That year, Southern Cal completely eradicated Oklahoma 55-19 in the Orange Bowl to claim the crystal ball. Auburn beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.
However, NCAA sanctions forced the Trojans to vacate the 2004 title. With Auburn clearly being at worst, the second-best team in the land – and Utah could easily dispute that, having gone undefeated that season as well – at least I could say the Tigers would have played the Trojans much closer than the Sooners.
But regardless of whether they have the trophy to show for it, I consider USC the 2004 national champion.
Allow me to pose this question to Auburn fans out there. Do you want to claim something you – by most accounts outside of your fanbase – didn’t earn, or would you rather rest your laurels on what you have earned?
Do you want to be Auburn University, or do you want to change your name to University of Alabama at Auburn?
Personally, I like Auburn for what it is. It makes the Tigers easier to root for.
Besides, I believe that if this state is going to have a national champion soon, that team will come from the Plains before it comes from Tuscaloosa
But hey, if you’d rather focus on the past when your future is, in my view, looking brighter and brighter, be my guest.
I won’t stop you.
Besides, it’s not like the NCAA itself actually recognizes a national champion, so they are conceivably all fair game.
Except for one problem: they aren’t fair game.
Alabama and Notre Dame may not have learned this lesson, but it’s no excuse for Auburn to act like it didn’t, either.
Bailey is sports editor for The Outlook.

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