The Fifth Down

President's column: The conscience of college football

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Tim Griffin

Given the choice, it's always easier being a news reporter than a newsmaker.

Considering the passions of college football fans everywhere, it was obvious that the FWAA's recent decision to strip USC of its 2004 national championship would be controversial. It was the kind of pronouncement that would get fans talking at coffee shops and flocking to message boards to weigh in with their opinions.

I've been on hundreds of radio call-in shows being interviewed about a number of topics over the years. But my role as an advocate in defending the FWAA's position was made more difficult from some of the dogmatic rabble-rousing from several radio hosts whose questioning made Rush Limbaugh sound tolerant.

But in explaining our decision, it was easy.

In this issue of The Fifth Down:
Griffin: The conscience of college football
Winners of 18th annual Best Writing Contest announced
Complete list of contest winners
Alabama tops preseason poll
FWAA accepting Meece Scholarship nominations
2010-11 FWAA awards calendar
Frequently Asked Questions about the FWAA

Before our vote, we put our decision to an open discussion on a teleconference of former FWAA presidents and several current board members.

This group of 20 journalists, by my count, has more than four collective centuries covering college football.

The decision wasn't made in a hasty manner. We all had several days to mull our choices before a vote was due.

After that consideration, there was a very strong majority of voters for stripping the Trojans of their title due to NCAA violations related to Reggie Bush.

I saw the Trojans play three times that season. It was hard to believe that Pete Carroll's team could have been in the national title hunt without Bush even after watching them dismantle Oklahoma team in a 55-19 victory in the BCS title game that is the most one-sided in the national championship game's brief history.

Despite that beatdown, some members of the group argued rather forcefully for Oklahoma's place as a national championship team. Others had Auburn, because of its Southeastern Conference championship and undefeated season as their choice.

And others debated the merits of Utah, which raced to a 12-0 record capped by a 35-7 spanking of Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl.

Some might argue that you can't unring a bell by vacating a championship. But I disagree when some pundits have said that our action was an empty action that's more symbolic than anything else.

For better or worse, we are the conscience of college football. All we have to do is look at the headlines to realize that this sport occasionally needs somebody to look out for the best interests of it at times.

And after hearing the explanations on all sides, all voters made a concerted effort to make what they felt was the proper decision.

All of our aims were pure. And I don't think anybody even some contrarious blowhard on the radio could argue with that.


Bert McGrane Award nominees: Mark Blaudshun (
Volney Meece Scholarship nominees: Dave Sittler (
Website, National Team of the Week: Ted Gangi (
Membership Directory: Charlie Fiss, Goodyear Cotton Bowl (
Ethics/Press Relations Committee: Kirk Bohls (
College Football Playoff Liaison: Gina Lehe, College Football Playoff (
Eddie Robinson Award: Steve Richardson (
Fifth Down Blog/FWAA Best Writing Contest: Ken Stephens (
Bronko Nagurski Trophy: John Rocco, Charlotte Touchdown Club (
Outland Trophy, All-America Team: Steve Richardson (
Super 16 Poll: Phil Marwill, National Football Foundation (
Orange Bowl/FWAA Courage Award: Matt Fortuna (
Freshman All-America Team: Mike Griffith (

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