AUBURN, Ala. — The Football Writers Association of America stripped Southern California of its 2004 national title Thursday, but the Grantland Rice Trophy won’t be coming to Auburn.
The FWAA voted to leave the 2004 title vacant rather than award it to Auburn, Oklahoma or Utah, the three other teams in contention for the championship that year.
The Tigers went 13-0 that season, concluding their unbeaten run with a Sugar Bowl victory against Virginia Tech.
“We can’t control what decisions are made,” said Auburn head coach Gene Chizik, the defensive coordinator for the 2004 team.
“We certainly respect the decision of those individuals who made it. But that was a great team and a great year for us and it always will be here at Auburn. And I was blessed to be a part of that. That’ll never be taken away.”
The process began after the Trojans received NCAA sanctions for improper benefits given to Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush. USC recently received a two-year bowl ban, four years’ probation and the loss of scholarships. USC also vacated all wins from the 2004 season.
The FWAA had a teleconference 10 days ago, during which 20 past presidents and board members discussed what to do with the 2004 title. The vote was to vacate it.
USC said it is in the process of returning the Grantland Rice Trophy, which was awarded by the FWAA for winning the national championship.
“Due to the NCAA penalties, we understand the actions taken by the Football Writers Association of America, and we will abide by that ruling,” new USC athletic director Pat Haden said in a statement.
Tim Griffin, the 2010 FWAA president, said the special committee got bogged down with what to with the vacated title.
“What would you have said if (Auburn) had played Oklahoma? We really don’t know how that would have played out,” Griffin said. “What would have happened if they would have played Utah? We don’t know how that would have played out. And I think in the end, that is what kind of led me to vote to not give the championship out.”
Griffin, who was not privy to the final tally, said several veteran SEC reporters on the committee argued “forcefully” for Auburn to be awarded the title, but similar arguments on Oklahoma and Utah’s behalf led to the decision to leave it vacated.
The FWAA is the first organization to formally strip the Trojans of their title. The BCS will do so if USC loses its appeal with the NCAA. The Associated Press voted not to vacate the title.
“This group came to a decision we feel best serves the sport,” Griffin said.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report