There is a long and confusing relationship between Auburn and the college football national championship, and on Friday, the Internet picked up on an inconsistency between what the school's official website purports and what is recognized by the NCAA.
Per this tweet from Brandon Marcello of AL.com, Auburn claims to have won five national titles in football, tacking on the 1913, 1983 and 1993 championships to the titles it actually won in 1957 and 2010:
Page on Auburn's website, updated April 24, claims NCAA recognizes 5 Auburn national titles. But NCAA recs only 2 pic.twitter.com/eg9JAxZvng— Brandon Marcello (@bmarcello) May 16, 2014
Of the three disputed years, 1993 has created the biggest fuss on the Internet. Auburn finished 11-0 that season, but it was banned from the postseason due to NCAA sanctions. Not unlike Ohio State in 2012, it could not be recognized, officially, as anything other than a very good regular-season team that lost zero games.
But Auburn would like to claim that title as its own, ostensibly on the grounds that no other team finished with zero losses. The recognized national champion, Florida State, had a 12-1 record after losing at Notre Dame in November but beating Nebraska in the national title game that Auburn was not allowed to play in.
Per Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com, the National Championship Foundation cites Auburn as one of four co-champions in 1993. But as USA Today's Dan Wolken clears up, that means effectively nothing:
@GreggDoyelCBS The Nat’l Championship Foundation is useful for finding the polls from the 1930s and 40s. For everything else it’s useless— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) May 16, 2014
Auburn co-offensive coordinator Dameyune Craig was a member of the 1993 team in question, and when Bud Elliott of Tomahawk Nation tweeted something about how pathetic this assertion was—a claim Elliott was in the large majority by making—Craig began defending his program's right to say it won the title:
@TomahawkNation Was the only undefeated team in the nation that year. Not so far fetched when you think about it.— DC (@CoachDCraig) May 16, 2014
@TomahawkNation Correct but we played 11 and won 11.— DC (@CoachDCraig) May 16, 2014
But Craig didn't just fire back at Elliott. He defended his school's non-title to seemingly anyone on Twitter who would listen:
Note: Craig, I think, is saying Auburn beat both teams that played in the SEC Championship that season (Alabama and Florida). It did not play Florida State or Nebraska, who played for the national championship.
This is not a novel conversation.
As Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee reminds us, we have had this discussion before. Auburn feels snubbed and like it should have more than two national titles to its name. And in the other two years in question—1913 and 1983—it actually has a pretty decent case (Jason Kirk of SB Nation gives a good breakdown of those scenarios here).
But there is no point in attempting to rewrite history. It comes off more desperate than anything to claim, on the record, that the NCAA recognizes more AU national titles than it actually does. That is not just fabricating the truth, it's flat-out lying to the Auburn alumni, players, coaches and targeted recruits.
After all the hubbub, an unnamed Auburn official called the reaction to this news "much ado about nothing," per Alex Byington of the Opelika-Auburn News:
As an Auburn official said: "It's much ado about nothing." You wanna argue factual accuracy, consult the NCAA about what polls it recognizes— Alex Byington (@AUBlog) May 16, 2014
Fair enough, but the "ado" in question was started by the university itself. If this is really a non-issue, as the official claims, why update the page at all? Why not just leave it be as it was before April 24?
What are we trying to accomplish?
Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT