Congress interested in fairness of college football's BCS
By Frederic J. Frommer Associated Press
Originally published 08:46 a.m., May 1, 2009
Updated 08:46 a.m., May 1, 2009
WASHINGTON -- Members of Congress are interested in learning more about the Bowl Championship Series and whether it is a fair way of choosing a college football champion.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee's commerce, trade and consumer protection subcommittee is holding a hearing today to delve into how revenue generated by the series is distributed, and the impact that may have on some colleges.
"We will be asking some pretty tough questions about financing," said Texas Rep. Joe Barton, the committee's top Republican and sponsor of legislation aimed at prodding college football to change to a playoff system.
Expected to testify are BCS coordinator John Swofford, along with officials from the Football Bowl Association, the Mountain West Conference and the Boise State athletic director.
Barton's bill is one of several in Congress seeking a revamp of the BCS. It would prevent the NCAA from labeling a game a "national championship" unless it culminates from a playoff system. He called the BCS system "more about cartels and revenue sharing" than athletic performance.
"It's big money," Barton said. "We're going to start looking into where the money goes."
The BCS is in its final season of a four-year deal with the Fox network. A new four-year deal with ESPN, worth $125 million per year, begins with the 2011 bowl games.
Under the BCS, some conferences get automatic bids to participate while others do not. Conferences that get an automatic bid -- the ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-10 and SEC -- get about $18 million each, far more than the non-conference schools.
The Mountain West Conference, which does not get an automatic bid, has proposed a playoff system and hired a Washington firm to lobby Congress for changes to the BCS. MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson is scheduled to testify today on behalf of the conference.
The BCS features a championship game between the two top teams in the BCS standings, based on two polls and six computer ratings.
Swofford, the BCS coordinator, is expected to tell the subcommittee that the bowl system -- which includes 34 games -- would not survive a playoff system, and that the BCS has contributed to college football's overall health.
The BCS has come under attack from a range of politicians up to President Barack Obama. Last November, as president-elect, he told "60 Minutes" he would prefer an eight-team playoff system.
"I don't know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this," he said. "So I'm going to throw my weight around a little bit."
In the Senate, Utah Republican Orrin Hatch has put the BCS on the agenda for the Judiciary's antitrust subcommittee this year, and Utah's attorney general, Mark Shurtleff, is investigating whether the BCS violates federal antitrust laws.
People in that state were furious that Utah was bypassed for the national championship despite going undefeated in the regular season. The title game pitted No. 1 Florida (12-1) against No. 2 Oklahoma (12-1); Florida won 24-14 and claimed the title.
Hmmm. This could get interesting.