Shortly after the final pre-bowl game Bowl Championship Series standings were released on December 4, Auburn was among several teams disgruntled with the system. One of these was California, which only lost to top-ranked USC, but was denied a bid to the prestigious Rose Bowl after Texas vaulted it in the rankings despite having the same record. The Golden Bears were forced to attend the less-attractive Holiday Bowl instead. The Auburn Tigers, meanwhile, had completed their first 12-win regular season and won their first conference championship in 15 years, but in the final BCS rankings, Auburn was third, behind USC and Oklahoma. It was the first time since the creation of the BCS in 1998 that three major-conference college football teams were undefeated at the conclusion of the regular season. Some pundits and fans considered Auburn's failure to reach the championship game to be based on the fact that the Tigers had started with a lower ranking at the beginning of the season. The Tigers had been ranked 17th at the beginning of the season, while USC had been ranked first and Oklahoma second, the same spots they occupied at the end of the regular season.
Sportswriters also pointed to the Tigers' tougher conference schedule when compared to those of USC and Oklahoma. SEC commissioner Mike Slive remarked, "If Auburn goes through this league undefeated, they deserve to play for the national championship." Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer, in the runup to the game, seemingly agreed with the assessment, saying, "We started out playing Southern Cal and I believe this Auburn team is better." Some writers also indicated USC's five-point win—in which the Trojans struggled—over rival UCLA as an indicator that the Tigers could be the better team. In the end, such arguments were unable to sway voters, who ranked USC first, Oklahoma second, and Auburn third in all of the major polls decided by human voters. The Utes, who were also undefeated at the conclusion of the regular season, received limited attention due to the fact that they were a member of a non-BCS conference.
Due to the controversy surrounding Auburn's failure to be given a chance to play for the national championship and controversies involving teams lobbying for improved ratings in the poll, the Associated Press sent a cease-and-desist order to BCS officials, forbidding them the use of the AP Poll in calculating BCS ratings.
Famous quotes containing the word controversy:
“Ours was a highly activist administration, with a lot of controversy involved ... but Im not sure that it would be inconsistent with my own political nature to do it differently if I had it to do all over again.”
—Jimmy Carter (James Earl Carter, Jr.)