|2003 NCAA Division I-A season|
Gameplay during the BCS National Championship Sugar Bowl for the 2003 season
|Number of teams||117|
|Preseason AP #1||Oklahoma Sooners|
|Duration||December 16, 2003 –
January 4, 2004
|AP Poll #1||USC Trojans|
|Coaches Poll #1||LSU Tigers|
|Heisman Trophy||Jason White, Oklahoma QB|
|Bowl Championship Series|
|2004 Sugar Bowl|
New Orleans, Louisiana
|Division I-A football seasons|
The 2003 NCAA Division I-A football season ended with an abundance of controversy, resulting in a split national championship. This was the first split title since the inception of the BCS, something the BCS intended to eliminate.
At season's end, three major conference teams finished the regular season with one loss, with only two spots available in the BCS National Championship Game. Three non-BCS conference teams also finished with one loss, TCU, Boise State and Miami (OH), stirring the debate of the BCS being unfair to mid-major teams.
LSU defeated Oklahoma in the 2004 Sugar Bowl, securing the BCS National Championship, as the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll is contractually obligated to vote the winner of the BCS National Championship Game #1. Meanwhile, when AP #1 USC beat Michigan in the 2004 Rose Bowl, the AP voters kept USC in the top spot, and USC secured the AP title.
Army became the first team in NCAA Division I-A football modern history to finish the season 0–13.
The Home Depot Coach of the Year Award sponsored by ESPN chose USC coach Pete Carroll as their award recipient, while the Paul "Bear" Bryant Award, voted on by an association of sportswriters, chose LSU coach Nick Saban.
The Orange Bowl game was noteworthy in that Miami and Florida State previously had scheduled to play each other on Labor Day in 2004. Playing in the Orange Bowl ensured that their next meeting would be each of their very next games and their first of the 2004 season.
BCS selection process controversy
USC had lost a triple overtime thriller at California on September 27, LSU lost at home to Florida on October 11, and Oklahoma, which had been #1 in every BCS rating, AP and Coaches' Poll of the season, lost to Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship Game, 35-7 on December 6. Although USC, then 11-1, finished ranked #1 in both the AP and Coaches' Polls, with LSU (12-1) ranked #2 and Oklahoma (12-1) #3, Oklahoma surpassed both USC and LSU on several BCS computer factors. Oklahoma's schedule strength was ranked 11th to LSU's 29th and USC's 37th. Oklahoma's schedule rank was 0.44 to LSU's 1.16 and USC's 1.48. As such, despite the timing of Oklahoma's loss affecting the human voters, the computers kept Oklahoma at #1 in the BCS poll. LSU was ranked #2 by the BCS based on its #2 ranking in the AP Poll, Coaches Poll, 6 of 7 computer rankings (with the remaining one ranking them #1), and strength of schedule calculations. USC's #3 BCS ranking resulted from it being ranked #1 the AP and Coaches Poll, but #3 in 5 of 7 computer rankings (with the 2 remaining computer rankings at #1 and #4) and schedule strength, though separated by only 0.16 points.
The NCAA Rules Committee adopted the following rules changes for the 2003 season:
- The "Halo Rule" (two-yard restricted area around the kick/punt returner) is abolished. The penalty for fair-catch interference remains at 15 yards if the returner is contacted before he has a chance to catch the punt/kick.
- Backs not positioned within the "tackle box" are prohibited from blocking below the waist anywhere behind the scrimmage line, and up to a point 10 yards downfield.
- The game clock will start on all kickoffs once touched in the field of play, repealing a rule change adopted in the 1997 season where the clock started on the kick (except during the final 2:00 of each half).
- Giving the offended team the option to enforce all personal fouls committed during and after a touchdown play either on the PAT or on the ensuing kickoff.
Conference and program changes
No teams upgraded from Division I-AA, leaving the number of Division I-A schools fixed at 117.
- Two Independent schools joined conferences in 2003. South Florida left to join Conference USA as its 11th member, while Utah State left the Independent ranks to join the Sun Belt Conference as its 8th member.
|School||2002 Conference||2003 Conference|
|South Florida Bulls||I-A Independent||Conference USA|
|Utah State Aggies||I-A Independent||Sun Belt|
Bowl Championship Series rankings
|OCT 27||Oklahoma||Miami||Virginia Tech 31, Miami 7|
|NOV 17||Oklahoma||Ohio State||Michigan 35, Ohio State 21|
|DEC 1||Oklahoma||USC||LSU 34, Georgia 13|
Rankings given are AP poll positions at time of game
- Sugar Bowl, BCS National Championship Game: #2 (BCS #2) LSU 21, #3 (BCS #1) Oklahoma 14
- Rose Bowl: #1 (Pac-10 Champ) Southern California 28, #4 (Big 10 Champ) Michigan 14
- Orange Bowl: #9 (Big East Champ) Miami 16, #8 (ACC Champ) Florida State 14
- Fiesta Bowl: #6 (At Large) Ohio State 35, #10 (Big 12 Champ) Kansas State 28
Other January bowls
- Cotton Bowl Classic: #18 Mississippi 31, #22 Oklahoma State 28
- Capital One Bowl: #11 Georgia 34, #13 Purdue 27 (OT)
- Gator Bowl: #24 Maryland 41, #23 West Virginia 7
- Outback Bowl: #12 Iowa 37, #17 Florida 17
- Peach Bowl: Clemson 27, #7 Tennessee 14
- Humanitarian Bowl: Georgia Tech 52, Tulsa 10
December Bowl games
- Houston Bowl: Texas Tech 38, Navy 14
- Liberty Bowl: #25 (MWC Champ) Utah 17, (C-USA Champ) Southern Mississippi 0
- Continental Tire Bowl: Virginia 23, Pittsburgh 16
- Independence Bowl: Arkansas 27, Missouri 14
- Silicon Valley Classic: Fresno State 17, UCLA 9
- Sun Bowl: #20 Minnesota 31, Oregon 30
- Music City Bowl: Auburn 28, Wisconsin 14
- Holiday Bowl: #14 Washington State 28, #5 Texas 20
- San Francisco Bowl: Boston College 35, Colorado State 21
- Alamo Bowl: #21 Nebraska 17, Michigan State 3
- Insight Bowl: California 52, Virginia Tech 49
- Tangerine Bowl: NC State 56, Kansas 26
- Motor City Bowl: Bowling Green 28, Northwestern 24
- Hawai'i Bowl: Hawai'i 54, Houston 48 (3 OT)
- Fort Worth Bowl: #16 (WAC Champ) Boise State 34, #19 TCU 31
- Las Vegas Bowl: Oregon State 55, New Mexico 14
- GMAC Bowl: #15 (MAC Champ) Miami (Ohio) 49, Louisville 28
- New Orleans Bowl: Memphis 27, (Sun Belt Champ) North Texas 17
Final AP Poll
|1. USC (48)||12–1||1,608|
|2. LSU (17)||13–1||1,576|
|4. Ohio State||11–2||1,411|
|5. Miami (FL)||11–2||1,329|
|9. Washington State||10–3||1,060|
|10. Miami (OH)||13–1||932|
|11. Florida State||10–3||905|
|14. Kansas State||11–4||833|
|16. Boise State||13–1||645|
|23. Bowling Green||11–3||189|
|25. Texas Christian||11–2||126|
Others receiving votes: 26. Oklahoma State 109, 27. Arkansas 73, 28. Virginia 36, 29. Northern Illinois 30, 30. Auburn 8, 30. Oregon State 8, 32. Pittsburgh 7, 32. N.C. State 7, 34. West Virginia 4, 35. Connecticut 2.
Final Coaches Poll
Three coaches voted for USC as the #1 team, even though the polled coaches are required to vote the BCS champion as #1. Because the votes were not public, it is not known which three coaches placed those votes. However, it is known that USC coach Pete Carroll could not have voted for his own team since he was not a voting coach that season.
|1. LSU (60)||13–1||1,572|
|2. USC (3)||12–1||1,514|
|4. Ohio State||11–2||1,370|
|5. Miami (FL)||11–2||1,306|
|9. Washington State||10–3||983|
|10. Florida State||10–3||929|
|12. Miami (OH)||13–1||800|
|13. Kansas State||11–4||746|
|15. Boise State||13–1||704|
|23. Bowling Green||11–3||170|
Also receiving votes
Northern Illinois (10–2) 80; Arkansas (9–4) 74; Oklahoma State (9–4) 63; Auburn (8–5) 20; North Carolina State (8–5) 17; Oregon State (8–5) 15; West Virginia (8–5) 14; Southern Mississippi (9–4) 12; Fresno State (9–5) 6; Hawaii (9–5) 6; Pittsburgh (8–5) 5; Texas Tech (8–5) 4; Marshall (8–4) 3; Virginia (8-5) 3; Boston College (8–5) 2; California (8–6) 1; Connecticut (9–3) 1; Memphis (9–4) 1; Michigan State Spartans (8–5) 1; Missouri (8–5) 1; North Texas (9–4) 1.
Heisman Trophy voting
The Heisman Trophy is given to the most outstanding player of the year
- Winner: Jason White (Jr.), QB, Oklahoma (1,481 points)
- 2. Larry Fitzgerald (So.), WR, Pittsburgh (1,353 points)
- 3. Eli Manning (Sr.), QB, Mississippi (710 points)
- 4. Chris Perry (Sr.), RB, Michigan (341 points)
Other major awards
- Maxwell Award (College Player of the Year): Eli Manning, Mississippi
- Walter Camp Award (top back): Larry Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh
- AP Player Of the Year: Jason White, Oklahoma
- Davey O'Brien Award (quarterback): Jason White, Oklahoma
- Johnny Unitas Award (Sr. quarterback): Eli Manning, Mississippi
- Doak Walker Award (running back): Chris Perry, Michigan
- Fred Biletnikoff Award (wide receiver): Larry Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh
- John Mackey Award (tight end): Kellen Winslow, Miami, Fla.
- Lombardi Award (top lineman/linebacker): Tommie Harris, Oklahoma
- Dave Rimington Trophy (center): Jake Grove, Virginia Tech
- Outland Trophy (interior lineman): Robert Gallery, Iowa
- Chuck Bednarik Award (defensive player): Teddy Lehman, Oklahoma
- Dick Butkus Award (linebacker): Teddy Lehman, Oklahoma
- Jim Thorpe Award (defensive back): Derrick Strait, Oklahoma
- Lou Groza Award (placekicker): Jonathan Nichols, Mississippi
- Ray Guy (punter): B.J. Sander, Ohio State
- Paul "Bear" Bryant Award (Coach of the Year): Nick Saban, LSU
- The Home Depot Coach of the Year Award: Pete Carroll, USC
- "2003 Bowl Championship Series Standings" (PDF). Fox Sports. Retrieved 2007-09-28.
- "2003 NCAA Football Rankings". ESPN. Retrieved 2007-09-28.
- "Ted Waitt's $31 million football offer kicks off controversy". Sioux City Journal. 2004-01-16. Retrieved 2017-01-02.