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Someone, at last, gives AU a national title

Monday, January 10, 2005

At last. Someone has rewarded the Auburn football team with a national championship.

And Tommy Tuberville didn't even have to wait for the Golf Digest poll to come out.

Auburn is the winner of the first People's National Championship, an online poll of fans dreamed up in early December by an Opelika High School student, George Brown, and his father, Randy.

The announcement was made Thursday night on CSS. George Brown and former Georgia coach Jim Donnan of ESPN will present the Tigers with a trophy at their home basketball game Jan. 29 against Tennessee.

It's not the ADT Trophy, the $30,000 Waterford crystal football the BCS gave to USC, but it's something.

If it sounds silly, letting a lot of anonymous fans decide the best team in college football, consider the absurdity of the established system.

A bunch of coaches conducted a secret ballot to help decide which teams would play for the BCS national championship and which ones wouldn't.

After the bowls, a bunch of sports writers and sportscasters chose the AP national champion by picking one 13-0 team over another based on their speculation of what would happen if Auburn and USC did play.

Where's Nostradamus when you need him?

The People's National Championship may be in its first year - the Browns plan to continue and tweak it next season, whether Auburn contends or not - but it has something in common with its established brethren.

The PNC poll managed to stir up its own little tempest on a kicking tee.

Auburn won, but was the final vote count legitimate? Why did the Browns not include all ballots up to the original voting deadline? Was the whole thing just a desperate attempt by a couple of Auburn fans to give the Tigers a championship of some kind?

"Heavens, no, we didn't do it just to favor Auburn," Randy Brown said. "I wasn't going to just give Auburn the championship."

Since his Web site received more than a million hits all told, Brown said, he wanted to explain what happened.

The original voting deadline was 6 p.m. Thursday, two days after the Orange Bowl. The problem was, his webmaster informed him, the site received 22,000 votes Thursday morning from only 4,000 visitors.

So much for one laptop, one vote.

Somebody was trying to stuff the ballot box, Brown said, the third time that had happened since the poll opened in December. So, as they'd done the first two times "somebody hacked into the system," they threw out all the disputed votes and went back to the totals from 6 p.m. the previous day.

And Auburn won. And, as had been the case all along, the Browns got some nasty e-mails from fans who didn't want Auburn to win.

"George is getting e-mails from Alabama people that scare me," his father said. "Just nasty, nasty stuff."

Is it a surprise that a poll originated by Auburn fans would conclude with Auburn as the national champion? No. The real surprise is it's 2005, and the national titles people consider legitimate are decided in a ballot box and not on a scoreboard. Kevin Scarbinsky's column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Write him at kscarbinsky@bhamnews.com.

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