Saturday, June 4, 2011

Bring it On -- Justice Department Takes On BCS

Bill Hancock, the guy who runs the Bowl Championship Series, is making his latest pitch on why the BCS is the best thing to happen to college football since the forward pass.

Okay, he didn’t actually SAY that, but the implication is clear as he prepares to meet with attorneys from the Department of Justice Antitrust Division. The Department of Justice is investigating whether the BCS violates anti-trust laws.

In all likelihood, the BCS doesn’t violate those laws. It does, however, prevent a college football playoff, which all of America wants except the commissioners of the six power conferences and the heads of the four major bowls (Orange, Rose, Sugar and Fiesta).

Of course, given the recent problems associated with the Fiesta Bowl (let’s just say there with ethics issues pertaining to inappropriate expenditures and gifts, and excessive executive compensation), who cares what the Fiesta Bowl thinks.

Specifically, the BCS has created a five major-bowl system -– the traditional Rose, Orange, Sugar and Fiesta bowls –- plus a national championship game. It involves the 11 Bowl Subdivision conferences (can’t we go back to calling it I-A?) and Notre Dame. The six power conferences get automatic entry into the major bowls, even when a major conference, such as the Big East last year (unranked Connecticut got crushed by Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl), doesn't deserve it. Everybody else vies for at-large bids.

Anyway, Hancock is going to talk with the Department of Justice sometime this summer. He said, in a statement, that “The BCS was carefully created with antitrust laws in mind. I am confident that it is fully compliant with those laws.

“It has improved competition by delivering a national championship game between the two top-ranked teams, which only rarely existed before the BCS. It has also dramatically increased access to top-tier bowls for schools from (mid-major) conferences.”

BCS officials point out that the format has had the two top-ranked teams play each other in a bowl game 13 times in 13 years by the BCS poll, and 10 of 13 times according to the AP poll, including the last seven years in a row.

BCS officials also insist it has increased access for all teams into major bowl games while “enhancing the value of the regular season and preserving traditional bowl-conference relationships.” They talk about the improved access for mid-major teams into major bowls. Before the BCS that happened only six times in 54 years. Since the BCS started it’s happened seven times in the last seven years. That includes TCU playing Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

TCU won that game, by the way.

Officials also say the BCS has improved attendance in college football games and boosted TV ratings.

All that is true, to an extent, but so what. The BCS system is designed to get major college teams into the national title game, and to heck with the TCUs and Boise States of the world. National titles should be decided on the field and not through computers and polls and guess work. That means a playoff and until that happens, the haves get more and the have-nots wonder when it will change.

So the push for a playoff continues. If the Justice Department can accelerate that process, all the better.

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