The issue, as Wolken wrote, is legitimacy. The most credible source declaring Auburn, which finished third in both major polls, the 1983 champ is the New York Times. The case for the 1993 title is that Auburn, which was on probation and ineligible to play for the SEC title or grace a bowl, went 11-0 in its first season under Terry Bowden. But no recognized outlet, not even the New York Times, tabbed those Tigers as No. 1 when the '93 season was done. (The Tigers received only four of 62 first-place votes in the final Associated Press poll.)
Tommy Tuberville, who coached the 2004 Tigers to an unbeaten season but saw his team shut out of the BCS title game, told USA Today's Wolken that
he believes the Tigers should be considered national champs
because Southern Cal was stripped of its crown and Oklahoma, which lost to the Trojans in the Orange Bowl, lost a game. But the game was to Southern Cal. If that game is considered a forfeit, shouldn't the Sooners have a claim, too? (The BCS skirted the issue by leaving its 2004 title vacant.)
Such a slippery slope. If all it takes to be No. 1 is saying you kind of deserved to be No. 1, is a "championship" worth the paper -- or the cyberspace -- on which it's listed? No, but Auburn fans won't care. And before you know it, they'll find a way to claim the 2013 title, too. Because Jameis Winston shouldn't have been allowed to play in the championship game. Or because Kelvin Benjamin shouldn't have been permitted to jump that high. Or because of something.