I was initially reluctant when my editor asked me last week to write a column previewing Tuesday's Senate Antitrust Subcommittee hearing on the BCS. Between writing a book about the politics of college football two years ago, chronicling SEC commissioner
Believe me, I'm no fan of the BCS, though perhaps for different reasons than the playoff proponents. The 11-year-old system, which is contractually scheduled to run until at least 2014, has irreparably destroyed the century-old tradition of college bowl games by moving them away from New Year's Day, watering down the matchups and stripping the individual bowls of their uniqueness. When addressing the real reasons behind the system's existence, BCS leaders have been continually evasive and often disingenuous with the public, masking their largely fiscally driven creation as some noble cause that benefits academia. Meanwhile, in rejecting the plus-one, they failed to address the sport's rapidly changing landscape, one in which it has become harder than ever to authoritatively distinguish two elite teams at the end of a season.
Yet with all that said, Tuesday's Senate hearing will almost certainly be a complete and utter waste of time. Not only will all these self-serving efforts by Sen.
Let's not forget college football's reigning powers went down the antitrust road once before -- and the highest court in the land
Hatch invoked this very same law last week in
At its core, the BCS is basically one big TV contract between the four major bowl games and the nation's most marketable conferences, nearly all of which were already in business together long before they decided to stage a No. 1 vs. No. 2 championship game. Hatch claims "the BCS system denied [undefeated Utah] a chance to play for the national championship," but in actuality, the title game was open to anybody. No rule prevented the coaches and Harris Poll voters from tapping Utah for the title game had they seen fit, though the Utes' chances were unquestionably hurt by the stigma of playing in a so-called "non-BCS" conference.
Again, strictly from an on-field standpoint, no one would rationally call this system "fair." But there's a pretty big difference between "unfair" and "illegal."
If the government were to actually pursue an antitrust case against the BCS -- and let's be honest; these hearings are mostly for show -- the bowls and the major conferences would presumably trot out all manner of evidence proving the system has actually
Meanwhile, one couldn't help but laugh at Rep. Barton during that House hearing in May when he waved his big, scary trump card at stone-faced BCS coordinator
But suppose I'm wrong. Suppose my admittedly amateur interpretation of federal antitrust and commerce laws is off, and suppose that, in some parallel universe in which such things proceed in a timely manner, an anti-BCS lawsuit or congressional bill actually succeeds.
Even then, the BCS
The sport existed in this manner for nearly the entire 20th century, and there's absolutely nothing stopping its leaders from returning to it, as Nebraska chancellor
"The alternative is not a playoff," said Perlman. "The alternative is to go back to the system we had. That's fine. Many of us would think that's not a bad outcome."
In other words, your elected officials are dedicating valuable time and tax dollars toward a cause that, even if successful, would actually move the sport
I'd sure hate to be running for reelection if that happened.