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A Belated National Championship For Auburn?

Will Jason Campbell finally get his much deserved national title?
Will Jason Campbell finally get his much deserved national title?

Is the end finally near for USC?  Is Reggie Bush finally going to be held accountable for making more money in his college years than most NFL tight-ends make in a career? It has taken twice as long for the NCAA to convict the Trojans as it did for the United States to invade Iraq, remove Saddam Hussein from office and have him executed. No wonder its approval rating is lower than Nancy Pelosi's.

With sanctions imminent for the Trojans, the talking heads at ESPN's College Football Live had a spirited discussion last Thursday on what should happen to USC's vacated title. It appears more and more likely that both the BCS and the Associate Press will strip the school of its 2004 National Championship once penalties are handed out. For Bush it also means a possible loss of his coveted Heisman Trophy.

In the case of the BCS, they have two simple options: force USC to vacate the title and not have a 2004 champion or award the title to either Auburn or Oklahoma. How likely is the BCS to pick a new champion? I'd put it somewhere between slim and none. USC will almost surely be forced to vacate, but a new champion will not be crowned.

The Associate Press is an entirely different story.

Many believe the writers will crown a new champion. ESPN analysts Craig James and Ed Cunningham clearly favor giving the title to Auburn.  An undefeated season in the SEC coupled with the throttling Oklahoma took from USC in the championship game, makes it a no brainer - at least according to those two.

James believes it's quite possible the AP will crown Auburn champions. "In my mind, if USC is stripped of the title, Auburn becomes the national champion," said James. "For what Auburn did that season, I have always thought it was an injustice."

Asked whether fans in Auburn should celebrate such an occurrence, Cunningham said, "Absolutely. There will be toilet paper everywhere at Toomer's Corner."

I couldn't agree more.

Auburn has every right to step in and accept it. When you consider the injustice Auburn was served along with the notion that USC's top player was a cheat, how can you not accept the trophy and be happy to get it? Had it happened to Alabama, they'd be planning a celebration already for next weekend. After all, they've never turned down a championship from anyone, regardless of whether fans have actually heard of the organization presenting it. At least the Associated Press is legitimate.

Would a better late than never title change things for the players and the fans? Not really. Most Auburn people I know feel quite comfortable believing Auburn was as much the champion of 2004 as USC. When you don't meet head-to-head how can you think otherwise? With four first round draft choices on that team, you have to believe Auburn would have had a shot.

Being formally recognized for something you plainly deserve is always nice. But let's not kid ourselves. A belated national title can never make up for the injustice. It's like the guy that serves 30 years in prison only to be released after new evidence is presented exonerating him. It's great when it happens, but it would have been a million times sweeter had it happened during the trial.

Personally, I won't be losing any sleep in the days to come waiting to see what the Associated Press does once sanctions are finally announced. If a belated title comes, I'll simply believe justice is served and a title is finally presented to the most deserving team.

More pressing for me is 2010. I'd gladly trade a belated national title for an SEC Championship this upcoming season. It's fun to look back and reflect, but there's nothing better than tomorrow!