USC was recently forced to vacate the 2004 National Championship.
Looming on the horizon are what may ultimately be similar decisions for other programs, like Auburn’s latest title, all 2010 wins for the UNC Tarheels, and untold wins for The Ohio State University under Jim Tressel.
In trying to put myself in the shoes of Trojans fans, (not something I want to try again anytime soon) I wonder what would be the reaction of the Volunteer Nation if the NCAA made Tennessee vacate it’s 1998 National Championship?
Would I care personally as an alum and a lifelong fan? No. (Once the initial outrage subsided.)
Who would? SEC rivals. Maybe bloggers on the Internet.....
A piece of paper is filed away somewhere in a back office at NCAA headquarters stating that UT is definitively NOT the 1998 NC, do we as fans care? Not really.
Did Vols fans not live and die with every snap of the ball that season? Undoubtedly.
Did the streets of Knoxville not fill that night in January? Absolutely.
Is that piece of paper at NCAA headquarters utterly meaningless on Rocky Top? Yes.
In the minds and the hearts of the fans, you can strip the title but the game was played and the score was final. As my father likes to say, “You can’t unring a bell.”
It equates to a judge asking a jury to disregard an inflammatory statement.Whistles were blown, flags were thrown, tears shed and victories celebrated.
For the opposing a team, a vacated win doesn’t mean you can raise your hands in victory either.
It’s not a W on the record.
To vacate a win is not the same as forfeiting a win. In the event of a forfeit, opponents may count that loss as a win. If Tennessee were, for some reason asked to forfeit its win over Vanderbilt last season, Vandy’s record would suddenly improve to 3-9. But that added victory would not have been earned but handed over by a bureaucratic agency.
Even if UNC must vacate the Music City Bowl, it will never erase the grief suffered by the Vol faithful that night. There will never be justice in a vacated win.
So while the NCAA sees this as a necessary part of sanctions, we as fans know that the real penance lies in scholarship losses, recruitment restrictions and bowl bans.
So does the asterisk (*) really matter? It’s on the record. It’s in the books.
Well the books be damned.
Just ask any Bama fan....