At the rate this is going, Auburn and Alabama won’t stop until one or the other, if not both, has laid claim to every football national championship since Rutgers beat Princeton 6-4 on Nov. 6, 1869. (And we all know Auburn and/or Alabama would have beaten either of those Northerners had the Southern bastions of higher learning gotten around to fielding a team.)
Alabama claims 15 national titles, some of dubious pedigree. (Here’s the Al.com story by Jon Solomon detailing how the school annexed No. 12.) Not to be outdone by its best buddy, Auburn is making eyes at past prizes. As noted by Dan Wolken of USA Today, Auburn began listing its 1913, 1983 and 1993 teams as “champions” on its Web site earlier this month. (Here’s the Web page in question.)
From this week’s SEC meetings in Destin, Fla., Brandon Marcello of Al.com quotes Auburn AD Jay Jacobs as saying the school is considering “whether to claim national titles in 1910, 1913, 1914, 1983, 1993 and 2004 in the next several weeks.” (Never mind that it appears three have those six have already been “claimed,” if only via digital domination.)
That would give the Tigers eight national titles, as opposed to the two — in 1957 and 2010 — previously ascribed. I’d call that one windfall of an offseason.
The issue, as Wolken wrote, is legitimacy. The most credible source declaring Auburn, which finished third in both major polls, the 1983 champ is the New York Times. The case for the 1993 title is that Auburn, which was on probation and ineligible to play for the SEC title or grace a bowl, went 11-0 in its first season under Terry Bowden. But no recognized outlet, not even the New York Times, tabbed those Tigers as No. 1 when the ’93 season was done. (The Tigers received only four of 62 first-place votes in the final Associated Press poll.)
Tommy Tuberville, who coached the 2004 Tigers to an unbeaten season but saw his team shut out of the BCS title game, told USA Today’s Wolken that he believes the Tigers should be considered national champs because Southern Cal was stripped of its crown and Oklahoma, which lost to the Trojans in the Orange Bowl, lost a game. But the game was to Southern Cal. If that game is considered a forfeit, shouldn’t the Sooners have a claim, too? (The BCS skirted the issue by leaving its 2004 title vacant.)
Such a slippery slope. If all it takes to be No. 1 is saying you kind of deserved to be No. 1, is a “championship” worth the paper — or the cyberspace — on which it’s listed? No, but Auburn fans won’t care. And before you know it, they’ll find a way to claim the 2013 title, too. Because Jameis Winston shouldn’t have been allowed to play in the championship game. Or because Kelvin Benjamin shouldn’t have been permitted to jump that high. Or because of something.