The USC Back-to-Back Title Lie

I was watching SportsCenter last night on ESPN and they were discussing recent California based championships in connection with Anaheim winning the Stanley Cup.  Among the teams they showed were USC and said the Trojans won back-to-back college football national titles for the 2003 and 2004 seasons.  This is actually untrue.  USC was voted #1 in the AP poll which is considered a national championship but they did not even play in the BCS title game that season.  LSU beat Oklahoma to win that game and won the BCS Championship which also granted them the #1 ranking in the coaches poll(which is sponsored by ESPN.)

So basically what ESPN is saying is that the poll they sponsor which, according to contract, voted LSU #1 in January, 2005 was actually wrong.  By referring to USC as the national champion in 2005 they are tossing the coaches poll and BCS title out the window by giving full deference to the AP poll.  The problem with that is for better or worse the BCS system is the method for crowing a national champion in college football not the writer’s poll.  I think it is highly irresponsible for ESPN to forward the idea that USC was back-to-back national champions in football without qualifying the statement and noting that the first title came from the writer’s poll.

Then again someone else has already been fighting this battle for years.


8 Responses to The USC Back-to-Back Title Lie

  1. Dean Forever says:

    Interesting. I was actually thinking about this last night when I read the post that said Ohio State (basketball-wise) was overrated. Being an Ohio native, I cannot tell you how true that is. It got me thinking of all the sports programs that have gotten extreme mileage out of just one (true) championship. The 2002 Buckeyes have gotten their fair share from that one national title (thanks in large part to the late call). Here are some others, complete with a point-ranking system for the MOST OVER-APPRECIATED CHAMPIONSHIP TEAMS (1-10, 1 being the program that enjoyed slightly-better than modest appreciated and 10 being the “DYNASTY-IN-ONE CHAMPIONS”). Anyways, here we go:

    The 2004 Boston Red Sox (9), The 1996 Green Bay Packers (5), The 1999 St. Louis Rams (9), The 1985 Chicago Bears (10), The 2000 Baltimore Ravens (6.5), The 1986 New York Mets (7), The 1989 Oakland Athletics (6, somewhat justified by three-straight WS appearances), The 2004 Detroit Pistons (4, see Oakland Athletics, minus the three-straight appearances), The 1984 Georgetown Hoyas (6), The 1983 Philadelphia 76ers (5), the 2000s Duke basketball program (10, remember, a dynasty is defined by championships, not conference titles or conference tournament titles), The 1988 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4, this program has already had its fair share of dynasties, but this one kept the Golden Domers relevant for about five years. Granted Lou Holtz was bringing in top recruits and the Irish were playing one of college football’s toughest schedules, but they had too many near-misses; specifically, the 1989 team (lost one to Miami thanks in no part to that infamous 3-and-40 something conversion by the ‘Canes), the 1990 team (which had the best talent in college football, but suffered unexplanable defensive lapses), and the 1993 team (which I think should have gotten a share of the title).

    That’s all I have for now. I told myself that I wouldn’t ramble too much, and I was highly successful until I got to Notre Dame. For the most part, all of the above teams enjoyed sustained excellence over a period of 4-5 years, but only came away with one championship. I’ve heard the 80s Bears being referred to as the dynasty that never was. One team that I left off of here were the 1995 Atlanta Braves. This is a tough one. I don’t think any of us ever saw the Braves as a true dynasty. The consecutive division titles is incredible, as is thier sustained excellence. However, the Braves of the 90s had the misfortune of succumbing to not one, but two dynasties; first, the mini-dynasty of the Toronto Blue Jays (four division titles, two pennants, two WS titles from 1989-1993) and second, of course, the most recent Yankee Dynasty (1996-2001). The 1995 WS title was kind of like Fate’s gift to a franchise destined to lose to (in all cases save for the 1999 WS) lesser teams. They also were fortunate to have played the Cleveland Indians, who were jinxed simply by being a Cleveland team (let’s hope that one day Lebron can reverse the REAL curse). The 90s Braves had all the fixins to be a dyasty (the best rotation I will ever see, an incomperable farm system, and future HOFers) but I think that they will always be remebered for the dynasty that never was.

    So much for not rambling. Hey, when the excitement of your day revolves around staining your deck, and cleaning the house in preparation for a baby shower, you gotta just let it out, man!

    Keep the good posts coming!

  2. Dan says:

    I could not agree more with this post and with Dean Forever. I think the biggest problem in many of the cases is ESPN. Pretty much any championship team after the 1999 St. Louis “Greatest Show on Turf” Rams became subject to ESPN’s obsession with hyperbole; Namely “IS THIS THE GREATEST TEAM EVER TO PLAY??”

    USC is the poster child for this. In the lead-up to last year’s Rose Bowl against the Longhorns when ESPN ran a series on how USC’s “dynasty” would match up with some of the all-time greatest teams and dynasties. Nevermind that the title game HADN’T EVEN been played yet, so we really couldn’t determine if they were even the best team that year. ESPN had to get out the message that this was among the best teams of all time. (Incidently, I believe that USC team ended up being ranked like second all-time behind only 2001 Miami).

    My theory is that it all goes back to money and ratings. At the time ABC, ESPN’s parent company, was the host network for the BCS title game, so creating the illusion that USC was an all-time great team would be more likely to drive up ratings. Same with the Pistons 2004 and beyond. NBA finals were on ABC. 2000 Ravens and the ’99 Rams? Rams Super Bowl was on ABC, but the Ravens weren’t. But Ray Lewis being MVP after being a murder rap and Kurt Warner going from store clerk to super bowl QB make for great Sunday Conversations on SportsCenter.

    I think that much of this stems from the 24-hour news cycle and ESPN’s growth from news entity to business empire. It’s ironic that a journalist like me would complain about the 24-hour news cycle, but it’s led to this watered-down drivel and has created a monster hype machine in the form of ESPN.

  3. Tar Heel Fan says:

    Dan is correct. ESPN’s MO at this point is all about hype and constructing a “narrative” which will benefit their ratings and therefore impact the bottom line. This is worst part of ESPN being absorbed into a corporate entity like Disney. Every bit of journalistic integrity they have comes into question because ESPN’s first responsibility is not to the viewer but to the shareholder.

  4. Dan says:

    Roger Clemens is a good, current example. I wasn’t aware that Roger Clemens could walk on water, heal lepers and rise from the dead on the third day, but ESPN would have you believe that the Rocket (who’s about as old as the rocket that launch apollo 8) is, indeed, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

  5. Tar Heel Fan says:

    Tell me about. I know he is a great pitcher but it is also interesting to contrast his treatment as some sort of savior when there are as many questions about his possible use of steroids as Bonds. The difference is Clemens was not named in a Federal grand jury.

  6. Dean Forever says:

    After reviewing my previous post, I must retract the 1983 76ers off of my list (as a team that was treated like a dynasty, despite winning only one title). Had that squad obtained the services of Moses Malone sooner, I think they very well could have been a dynasty. I think it’s safe to say that this team has been given it’s due credit and it’s dynasty credibility is nullified by (other than only winning one title) the Lakers and Celtics successes (five and three titles in the 80s, respectfully).
    Hearfelt apologies to both Dr. J, and our good friend Mr. Billy Cunningham.

  7. Daavid says:

    You guys are ridiculous. Just because they said USC was back to back champions doesn’t main they are saying LSU wasn’t the national champion that year because, the point is, they were both co-champs as both polls are recognized as consensus titles. This argument came out years ago, and I’m afraid you all must have been asleep. You might want to have said something while USC was selling back to back championship T-shirts. Maybe you guys are upset because no one talks about LSU’s championship… I remember people saying, at the time, no one was going to remember that USC won because they didn’t play in the title game. Looks like I was right when I said that LSU was going to be forgotten because, unlike USC, they weren’t going to compete at the top after that.

  8. Tar Heel Fan says:

    First of all, you cannot have two consensus champions. If both polls name them champion that is a consensus.

    Secondly, yeah I know it came out years ago, I was not blogging years ago and I was responding to the fact ESPN said this was the case two nights ago on SportsCenter.

    Third, did I accidentally put an LSU banner on the top of the page? Why would I care that no one talks about LSU or anyone else. Last I checked this was a UNC blog.

    I was objecting to the fact that ESPN, in an effort to follow a “narrative” which serves their own corporate interests trumpet the USC AP title as part of a back-to-back title run when it was not. The BCS Championship is called the national title game by the network that broadcasts it which I think was ABC up until last season and by the talking heads at ESPN when they discuss it. For them to maintain that USC won back-to-back titles means they are essentially contradicting themselves and as I pointed out giving the AP precedence over the ESPN coaches poll which is bound to vote the BCS winner #1.

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