The BCS: Should Congress Get Involved?

This time of year everyone is a college basketball fan.  From college hoops junkies to the office worker indifferent to sports, filling out The Bracket forces fans and “fans” to follow the NCAA basketball tournament with an almost maniacal intensity for three weekends every March.

College football, however, as popular as it is, does not have the same sweeping impact. 

Part of this, it can be argued, has to do with the way a “national champion” is determined.  The Harris Interactive Poll, the USA Today coaches poll and computer rankings (six are used) determine the two contestants for the showcase round of The BCS Championship is Right.  The only things not in the mix are team mascots, fight songs and uniform designs. 

The BCS bailout

There are some in Congress who would like to see this system change, and change in a major way. 

A recent statement from the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, competition policy and consumer rights stated the current BCS system “leaves nearly half of all the teams in college football at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to qualifying for the millions of dollars paid out every year.”  Put more simply, college football is about the Haves and Have Nots.  And if you’re a Have Not, you’re facing an annual uphill battle to be in consideration for The Big Stage and The Big Payday. 

Much of this recent concern over the BCS has been spearheaded by subcommittee member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).  He and the rest of his state were outraged that undefeated Utah was passed over for the national championship game in favor of No. 1 Florida (12-1) and No. 2 Oklahoma (12-1).  Instead, Utah appeared in the Sugar Bowl (also a BCS bowl) and destroyed Alabama 31-17 in a game not nearly as close as the score indicates.  To some, that result proved Utah deserved a bigger stage.  To others, it merely illustrated Alabama may not have been as good as advertised.  Either way controversy, frustration and anger were lurking in the shadows.

To playoff, or not to playoff, that is the question

So what are we to do?  College football fans, and I’m as passionate as anyone, seem evenly divided over whether or not to have a playoff at the Division 1 level, now called the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).  Meanwhile, the Fooball Championship Subdivision (FCS – formerly Division 1-AA), Division 2 and Division 3 all have playoffs.  Although the difference between the level of talent in each division is significant, it’s still student-athletes playing a regular season followed by several more weeks of playoff games. 

In the non-FBS divisions, the playoff system works wonderfully.  But for the big boys, trying to get a consensus is all but impossible.

Some in Congress believe they need to step in and save the day.  And let’s face it, when government decides to get involved in something, everything always has a happy ending.  That’s how it works.  Right? 

Count me in the camp of wanting a playoff. 

While I love the pageantry and tradition of bowl games like the Rose, Orange, Sugar and Fiesta, I would be elated to see all of them, along with several more second-tier bowl games, placed into a playoff format.  There are scores of head coaches and athletic directors from major programs who would like nothing more than deciding a champion on the field through a playoff system.

However . . .

This just in:  In the event you’ve not been paying attention, Congress has a few things on their plates a bit up the food chain of importance they need to deal with before getting around to college football.  I realize it’s hard to imagine, but I’m here to tell you it’s true.  Further, I don’t believe figuring out a way to bail out college football by throwing out the BCS is the responsibility of Congress.

The crux of the problem

Look no further than those directly involved with college football and the BCS to get at the heart of the problem.  There are administrators at schools and conferences along with some of the BCS bowl officials who want things to stay exactly the way they are.  Good old boys doing things the good old way.

The potential payout from television for a college football playoff and subsequent national championship game would likely dwarf the revenue generated by the NCAA basketball tournament.  And yet we’re given the $7.99 Chinese buffet selection of excuses why no playoff is forthcoming: 

  • The student-athletes would miss too much school.
  • The history and tradition of bowl games would be lost.
  • Rewarding teams with a bowl game, even if it’s the Organic Duckfeathers Fiber Optic Ice Fishing Bowl played in Little Goose Neck Falls, Nebraska is important for the kids.
  • No matter how many teams are in a playoff, some teams left out would still complain

Each “argument” can be countered, and has been countered, quite easily numerous times.  But that’s not the issue.  The issue is with change.  And although President Obama (also in favor of a college football playoff) ran on Change – and Congress is allegedly committed to Change – this kind of change needs to be initiated from the proper source.

For college football and the BCS, Congress should stay far, far away.

Filed Under: ESPNNCAA

About the Author: Christopher Gabriel is the host of the cleverly named Christopher Gabriel Program on AM 970 WDAY in Fargo, North Dakota. You can hear him weekdays from 9 to Noon. As a writer and humorist, his work has been been published online by the Chicago Sun-Times, Reuters and publications within the Sun-Times News Group.

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  1. terri says:

    I’m the first to admit, I DON’T know sports. I understand sports, but I don’t closely follow and pro or college sports teams. So I’m sitting here asking myself, “This is written tongue-in-cheek, isn’t it?” Congress thinks they need to have a hand in college football? Tell me you’re kidding.

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  2. CGabriel says:

    Terri, it occurred to me that some would come here and indeed think this was written tongue-in-cheek. Unfortunately, it’s legit down the line. College football, with respect to the symphony of voices arguing over playoff vs. no playoff, is a lot like Congress. Everyone insists he/she has the right plan. Finally, something is instituted and everyone proceeds to rip it apart….until the next time the issue hits the floor. Then, we do the same dance again.

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  3. Mike says:

    I suppose you’re right. I’m following March Madness religiously (at the direction of my gf), whereas I never turn on a basketball game at any other point during the year. I don’t watch a whole lot of college football either, but I wasn’t are of all the political BS behind it. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised… but wow….

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  4. Stephen says:

    This is the biggest joke i ever read about in my life. Half of my state is unemployed and people are scared of this virus thing thats going on but our GREAT nation cares more about the BCS that getting jobs back and the important things thats going on. I mean if your in a small conference and u want to play in the title game then work your butt off and play 3 or 4 games against the BCS schools and your get your shot in a year are 2. There are better things congress can do than take the fun out of college football by trying to start a stupid playoff.

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