Sooners, the new 2004 National Champions

My alma mater, the University of Oklahoma, should ascend to the 2004 National Football championship, even though they were beaten in the BCS championship game by the University of Southern California.  That team is being forced to forfeit all of their games played by star running back Reggie Bush, due to the valuable  benefits that his coaches lavished on him.

The NCAA threw the book at storied Southern California yesterday with a 2-year bowl ban, 4 years’ probation, loss of scholarships and forfeits of an entire year’s games for improper benefits to Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush dating to the Trojans’ 2004 national championship.

USC was penalized for a lack of institutional control in the ruling by the NCAA following its 4-year investigation. The report cited numerous improper benefits for Bush and former basketball player O.J. Mayo, who spent just 1 year with the Trojans.

The coaches who presided over the alleged misdeeds – football's Pete Carroll and basketball’s Tim Floyd – left USC in the past year.

“I’m absolutely shocked and disappointed in the findings of the NCAA,” Carroll said in a video statement produced by the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, who hired him in January. “I never thought it would come to this . . . I’m extremely disappointed that we have to deal with this right now.”

The penalties include the loss of 30 football scholarships over 3 years and vacating 14 victories in which Bush played from December 2004 through the 2005 season. USC beat Oklahoma in the BCS title game on Jan. 4, 2005, and won 12 games during Bush’s Heisman-winning 2005 season, which ended with a loss to Texas in the 2006 BCS title game.

Bill Hancock, the executive director of the BCS, said a committee will meet to consider vacating USC’s 2004 championship. While no action would go into effect until USC’s appeals are heard by the NCAA, Hancock said there would be no 2004 champion if USC’s victory is vacated.

The NCAA says Bush received lavish gifts from two fledgling sports marketers hoping to sign him. The men paid for everything from hotel stays and a rent-free home where Bush’s family apparently lived to a limousine and a new suit when he accepted his Heisman in New York in December 2005.

The rulings are a sharp repudiation of the Trojans’ decade of stunning football success under Carroll, who won seven straight Pac-10 titles and two national championships before abruptly returning to the NFL. Floyd resigned last June, shortly after he was accused of giving cash to a middleman who helped steer Mayo to USC.

via USC gets 2-year bowl ban, might forfeit 2004 title | Philadelphia Daily News | 06/11/2010.

Wait a minute:  The Trojans might not be stripped of their championship?  How can a team win the national title while losing all of their games?  The BCS might declare that there was no champion for 2004?  How can that be?  In the final BCS rankings, OU was #2.  If #1 is removed from the picture, everyone moves up.

In all seriousness, I dislike the penalty of forfeiting games that were already played.  If a team violates the rules, punish them now, but don’t try to change history.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://necessaryroughness.org Dan at Necessary Roughness

    I would like to agree, but since Oklahoma scored a whopping 19 points in that game, that doesn’t seem to me like a performance from the next best team in the country.

    I think vacating but not moving everyone up is probably the proper thing to do. It says, “this is what happened, but they cheated, and we have no idea what the result would be if Oklahoma played Auburn for the championship.”

    Though it would be funny if we could bring back the 2004 teams and make them replay the game. :)

  • http://necessaryroughness.org Dan at Necessary Roughness

    I would like to agree, but since Oklahoma scored a whopping 19 points in that game, that doesn’t seem to me like a performance from the next best team in the country.

    I think vacating but not moving everyone up is probably the proper thing to do. It says, “this is what happened, but they cheated, and we have no idea what the result would be if Oklahoma played Auburn for the championship.”

    Though it would be funny if we could bring back the 2004 teams and make them replay the game. :)

  • Dan Kempin

    This is another good example of how the love for any “national” endeavor in college sport eludes me, and it raises again the issue of hypocrisy in calling big league college sports “amateur” or “extra-curricular,” as though they are secondary to what takes place in the classroom. Considering the amount of money that Reggie generated for that institution in comparison with his compensation, he still got profoundly ripped off.

  • Dan Kempin

    This is another good example of how the love for any “national” endeavor in college sport eludes me, and it raises again the issue of hypocrisy in calling big league college sports “amateur” or “extra-curricular,” as though they are secondary to what takes place in the classroom. Considering the amount of money that Reggie generated for that institution in comparison with his compensation, he still got profoundly ripped off.

  • http://acroamaticus.blogspot.com Mark Henderson

    You’re right, history can’t be re-written, just footnoted.
    Let it go, Dr Veith…let it go.
    :0)

  • http://acroamaticus.blogspot.com Mark Henderson

    You’re right, history can’t be re-written, just footnoted.
    Let it go, Dr Veith…let it go.
    :0)

  • Scott L.

    I heard on sports radio, or read it online, that “vacating” a championship, does not mean, as Dan points out, the loser of the championship game becomes the national champ. “Vacating” would imply that no one won the championship.

  • Scott L.

    I heard on sports radio, or read it online, that “vacating” a championship, does not mean, as Dan points out, the loser of the championship game becomes the national champ. “Vacating” would imply that no one won the championship.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    No offense to OU, but nobody should be awarded the National Championship. I am happy to see the NCAA doing more than a token wrist slap. I think they should have lost the privilege to televised games in addition to what they are facing.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    No offense to OU, but nobody should be awarded the National Championship. I am happy to see the NCAA doing more than a token wrist slap. I think they should have lost the privilege to televised games in addition to what they are facing.

  • Rich Shipe

    History can’t be re-written but I don’t think they are re-writing history. If someone cheated but won a game it isn’t changing history to force a forfeit. Changing history would be to say that OU won.

  • Rich Shipe

    History can’t be re-written but I don’t think they are re-writing history. If someone cheated but won a game it isn’t changing history to force a forfeit. Changing history would be to say that OU won.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    As much as I dislike USC–I’ll even root for Michigan and Notre Dame when they’re playing them– I have to wonder what “lack of institutional control” means. If agents were paying Reggie Bush under the table, exactly what level of surveillance is required on the part of “Spoiled Children” to demonstrate institutional control, and what breach of privacy exists towards their athletes?

    If they can demonstrate that USC looked the other way as Mr. Bush showed off way more bling than that young man could have otherwise afforded, fine, but something just isn’t right here.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    As much as I dislike USC–I’ll even root for Michigan and Notre Dame when they’re playing them– I have to wonder what “lack of institutional control” means. If agents were paying Reggie Bush under the table, exactly what level of surveillance is required on the part of “Spoiled Children” to demonstrate institutional control, and what breach of privacy exists towards their athletes?

    If they can demonstrate that USC looked the other way as Mr. Bush showed off way more bling than that young man could have otherwise afforded, fine, but something just isn’t right here.

  • MikeR

    “In all seriousness, I dislike the penalty of forfeiting games that were already played. If a team violates the rules, punish them now, but don’t try to change history.”

    Totally agree, it ticks me off when the IOC does this with Olympic medals. It strikes me as arrogant to act like you can change the past that way. Same goes for people who want to put asterisks in the baseball record books for steroid users.

  • MikeR

    “In all seriousness, I dislike the penalty of forfeiting games that were already played. If a team violates the rules, punish them now, but don’t try to change history.”

    Totally agree, it ticks me off when the IOC does this with Olympic medals. It strikes me as arrogant to act like you can change the past that way. Same goes for people who want to put asterisks in the baseball record books for steroid users.

  • DonS

    Dr. Veith, there is no evidence whatsoever to support your statement that the coaches “lavished benefits” on Bush. It was third party agents, and it was primarily his family that benefited from the gifts.

    The AP has already said that they are not even going to vacate the AP championship, because the game was played on the field and Oklahoma was crushed 55-19. The BCS will decide what it is going to do after appeals. Regardless of what happens to the Trojans (personally, I think the forward-looking penalties are more than enough), Oklahoma certainly doesn’t deserve the title of “champion”.

  • DonS

    Dr. Veith, there is no evidence whatsoever to support your statement that the coaches “lavished benefits” on Bush. It was third party agents, and it was primarily his family that benefited from the gifts.

    The AP has already said that they are not even going to vacate the AP championship, because the game was played on the field and Oklahoma was crushed 55-19. The BCS will decide what it is going to do after appeals. Regardless of what happens to the Trojans (personally, I think the forward-looking penalties are more than enough), Oklahoma certainly doesn’t deserve the title of “champion”.

  • Joe

    I think forward looking penalties are wrong. Banning USC from future bowl games or taking away a number of present/future scholarships penalizes players and coaches who were not at USC when this all happened. Why should the new coach and his staff and the current players suffer for the sins that occurred before they got there?

  • Joe

    I think forward looking penalties are wrong. Banning USC from future bowl games or taking away a number of present/future scholarships penalizes players and coaches who were not at USC when this all happened. Why should the new coach and his staff and the current players suffer for the sins that occurred before they got there?

  • Len

    Well, um…sorry to contradict anybody, but precedent is already well-established regarding forfeiture of games. Clearly, ALL of the regular-season games will be recorded as a win for the teams that opposed USC (where Bush illegally participated), and a loss for USC. So why not the National Title Game?

    Sorry folks, but this one is a “no-brainer.” Y’ll might hate OU, but you need to be consistent. Any other approach is just silly.

  • Len

    Well, um…sorry to contradict anybody, but precedent is already well-established regarding forfeiture of games. Clearly, ALL of the regular-season games will be recorded as a win for the teams that opposed USC (where Bush illegally participated), and a loss for USC. So why not the National Title Game?

    Sorry folks, but this one is a “no-brainer.” Y’ll might hate OU, but you need to be consistent. Any other approach is just silly.

  • Kevin

    Thank you Len. I had more to say on the subject, but you pretty much brought it home. We can play “what if” and “may have” all day, but my firm belief that had the truth come out and Mr. Bush not been allowed to play, USC would have folded up like a cheap lawn chair. Regardless of my opinion, the fact remains that precedent is abundant. Ask a crowned beauty queen appearing in a popular nude men’s magazine if her title was “vacated” or if someone moved up to take her place.

    There is no punishment if there exists no victor. Having the team that lost on the field elevated to winner has a sting that few other punishments can inflict.

  • Kevin

    Thank you Len. I had more to say on the subject, but you pretty much brought it home. We can play “what if” and “may have” all day, but my firm belief that had the truth come out and Mr. Bush not been allowed to play, USC would have folded up like a cheap lawn chair. Regardless of my opinion, the fact remains that precedent is abundant. Ask a crowned beauty queen appearing in a popular nude men’s magazine if her title was “vacated” or if someone moved up to take her place.

    There is no punishment if there exists no victor. Having the team that lost on the field elevated to winner has a sting that few other punishments can inflict.


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