The 2005 NCAA Division I-A football season ended with the least amount of controversy surrounding the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) title game in many years.
To an extent it was a return to classic football. All eight BCS teams were traditional powerhouses, many of the schools having worn the same uniforms for half a century, and Penn State and Florida State having the same coaches for nearly half a century. Alabama was back in the mix for the SEC title, shaking off the residual effects of NCAA sanctions, and though Penn State was a relative newcomer to the Big Ten, Ohio State and Michigan were still in the running for the conference title until the last game.
The BCS saw good fortune as two teams, the USC Trojans and the Texas Longhorns, went wire to wire as #1 and #2, respectively—the second year in a row that had happened—and finished as Division I-A's only undefeated teams after the regular season. As a result, there was no dispute over the choice of teams selected for the BCS title game (there were five undefeated teams in the 2004 regular season: Oklahoma, USC, Auburn, Utah, and Boise State). The game was played at the Rose Bowl, where Texas edged the favored, defending champion Trojans in large part due to a historic performance by Texas quarterback Vince Young, who gained 467 yards of total offense and ran for three touchdowns. The victory earned the Longhorns their first consensus national championship since 1969. (Texas won a split title in 1970.)
There was also an unlikely comeback team in the season. The UCF Golden Knights came from a helpless 0–11 record in 2004, to a respectable 8–5 record and an appearance in the Conference USA Championship game and a Hawaii Bowl berth. Although their season apparently got off to a poor start with a loss to South Carolina on opening day and a pasting by their intrastate rival, South Florida, they pulled off 8 wins over a 9-game span (only loss was a 31–52 rout by Southern Miss) including getting a win over eventual conference champions, Tulsa. Tulsa ended up beating UCF 44–27. In the Hawaii Bowl, the Golden Knights were a failed PAT away from sending Nevada to double overtime. Also, Penn State, who went 4-7 in 2004, managed an 11-1 record and #3 ranking in 2005, despite not being ranked until after a 44-14 victory over then #19 Minnesota, where Penn State took control of the Governor's Victory Bell for the first time since 1998.
After the Big Ten Conference's 2004 experiment with instant replay, its use was expanded to all but the Sun Belt and the WAC conferences in Division I-A. The rules varied between conferences (including the use of coaches' challenges similar to the NFL in the Mountain West Conference) until the NCAA standardized the rules in 2006. Replay was also permitted in bowl games and, provided the visiting team agreed to its use, in non-conference regular season games.
The protection for a receiver who signals a fair catch includes situations when the ball is muffed until it hits the ground.
Penalties for spearing or similar hits in which the tackler leads with the crown of the head are enforced regardless of the "intent" of the tackler.
The penalty for leaping on field goals/PATs now states it is a foul if a player lined up more than one yard behind the line of scrimmage jumps and lands on players of any team trying to block the kick. If lined up one yard or closer to the line, it is not a foul.
Eliminated the "legal clipping zone"; hits from behind below the knee are prohibited anywhere on the field.
Provided for officials a specific list of acts by players considered unsportsmanlike conduct, which include:
Simulated throat-slashing and gun-firing
Pointing the ball at, verbally taunting, or standing over an opposing player
Bowing at the waist
Chest-pounding and crossing hands in front of the chest
Spinning the ball like a top, spiking the ball (except to conserve time by the quarterback), or throwing/kicking the ball into the stands or into the air
Obviously altering stride (ex. high-stepping) or diving into the end zone unchallenged
Placing a hand on the ear simulating not being able to hear the crowd
Army ended its brief affiliation with Conference USA and also returned to football independence.
Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida left Conference USA to join the Big East.
TCU also left Conference USA to become the Mountain West Conference's ninth member.
Conference USA responded and increased its membership to 12 by adding Central Florida and Marshall from the Mid-American Conference (knocking the MAC's membership down from 14 to 12) and Rice, Southern Methodist, UTEP, and Tulsa from the WAC. Like the ACC, C-USA split into two divisions and started a conference championship game.
The WAC added Idaho, New Mexico State and Utah State from the Sun Belt Conference.
The Sun Belt picked up independent Florida Atlantic and Florida International, who had just transitioned from Division I-AA.
By the end of realignment, Division I-A membership had increased from 118 to 119 schools.
Steve Spurrier returned to the college coaching ranks for the first time since 2001, taking the reins at South Carolina and turning out a respectable 7–5 season. Urban Meyer, the previous year's hot coach after leading Utah to an undefeated season, took over at Spurrier's old job, Florida. Charlie Weis left the New England Patriots to take over the head coach job at his alma mater, Notre Dame and was able to lead them to a BCS bowl.
Barry Alvarez, who took over a woeful Wisconsin program in 1990 and turned it into a Big Ten force, retired, as did Bill Snyder, who turned Big 8 doormat Kansas State into a Big 12 power. Dan Hawkins, who helped lead Boise State to the status of a mid-major powerhouse, left the Broncos to coach the Colorado Buffaloes, a team trying to change its image after recruiting scandals broke out the previous season.
The Heisman Trophy voting seemed a 3-man race: Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart (who won the Heisman Trophy in 2004), and Vince Young, who helped Texas win the national championship for the 1st time since 1970. Bush won the trophy, with Young coming in second.
The Heisman Trophy is given to the year's most outstanding player. There is no winner for 2005 because of irregularities discovered in 2010.
In June 2010, the NCAA ruled that Bush had received improper gifts in violation of NCAA policies. On September 14, 2010, Bush announced in a statement from the New Orleans Saints that he would forfeit his title of 2005 Heisman Trophy winner and return his trophy. Vince Young, the runner-up in 2005, commented that he would not accept the trophy if it was taken away from Bush. On September 15, 2010, the Heisman Trust announced that the 2005 trophy would be vacated, and there would be no winner for that season.