Auburn recognizes national titles for the 1957 and 2010 seasons, and came within 13 seconds of adding a third on Jan. 6, when it fell to Florida State 34-31 in the final BCS National Championship Game of the BCS era.
Or was it a fourth? Or fifth? Or ninth?
According to Bryan Matthews of 247Sports, the program is considering claiming up to seven more titles for seasons that have been recognized as national championship seasons by at least one entity.
“If other schools are using these same polls to declare a national championship, we should at least consider it,” Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs told Matthews. “I don’t think there’s a better time for the Auburn family to consider it than right here at the end of the BCS era."
The years that are in consideration are 1910, 1913, 1914, 1958, 1983, 1993 and 2004—all of which they were awarded the national title by at least one entity. Three of those teams—1913, 1983 and 1993—are listed as "national poll champions" in the NCAA record book.
Matthews mentions several other schools that have retroactively added titles to their record books, including Texas A&M and Ole Miss. But the elephant in the room—"pun" very much intended—is Alabama.
The Crimson Tide is notorious for winning national championships, both real and fake. The Tide claim 15 national titles, several of which are as legitimate as they come.
But there also are some others in the mix that are as mythical as unicorns and Sasquatch, most notably the 1941 title in which the Crimson Tide finished 9-2 (5-2 SEC), third in the conference and ranked No. 20 by the Associated Press. There were others, of course, including titles in 1964 and 1973 that were voted on prior to bowl games in which the Crimson Tide lost.
Should Auburn follow Alabama's path and start claiming titles in the same fashion that other programs in the conference do?
It'd more be an honor for those players who played on those teams than anything else, although that aspect of the decision will surely be lost in the narrative.
But above all else, this is a decision that is for branding—which is the same reason Alabama changes the number on its standard issue helmet and all merchandise every time the Tide wins a new title. It's about portraying an appearance of excellence while creating a new stream of merchandise in the process.
If Auburn wants to claim some or all of those titles, at least the ones that are recognized by entities that other schools also claim, it absolutely should. It wouldn't be creating a false narrative to create an inflated sense of its own worth, it would be joining the same playground in which others in its neighborhood have been playing in for years.
There's nothing wrong with that.