January 07, 2009
My libertarian instincts prohibit me from endorsing any political bromide against the BCS, up to and including the president-elect and Savior's very sensible playoff plan, but the wave of legislative grandstanding and threats against the Series over the last month is a heartening sign that it's not long for this earth. In early December, Congressman Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii called for a Justice Department investigation into the BCS, not long after joining with congressmen from Georgia (whose Bulldogs were jilted in 2007) and Idaho (Boise State was jilted in 2006 after upsetting Oklahoma) to accuse the Series of trade violations last April. A week later, as the Illinois seat was put up for bid and Detroit lurched to the brink of collapse, a pair of congressmen from Texas and another from Chicago picked up the Longhorns' plight in the form of a bill that demanded a playoff under the Federal Trade Commission Act. Everyone can rally around hating the BCS.
It was only a matter of time before the trend trickled down to the states, and none was more likely than Utah, undefeated and uncrowned for the second time in five years, where attorney general Mark Shurtleff (right) targeted the BCS Tuesday as a violation of antitrust laws:
“We’ve established that from the very first day, from the very fist kickoff in the college season, more than half of the schools are put on an unlevel playing field,” Shurtleff said Tuesday. “They will never be allowed to play for a national championship.”
Shurtleff said his office is still in the initial stages of reviewing the Sherman Antitrust Act to see if a lawsuit can be filed. To succeed in a lawsuit, he would have to prove a conspiracy exists that creates a monopoly.
Shurtleff said he prefers that BCS officials and university presidents solve the problem of excluding some schools from a national title game by creating a playoff system, but added he’s committed to doing whatever it takes to produce change.
“It’s not about bragging rights. It’s a multimillion dollar—hundreds of millions—business where the BCS schools get richer and non-BCS get poorer,” Shurtleff said.
Translation: It's about bragging rights. And votes -- of course, cheap votes, always. Not including Obama, of the seven prominent politicians who have explicitly targeted the BCS this year, six hail from states with obvious complaints against the system since 2006. And those who hail from states where the BCS is working for the home team? Their view of the relationship between government and football is a little different:
[Florida Rep. Cliff] Stearns, a Republican from Ocala, wrote to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday asking her to move votes scheduled for Thursday evening and Friday so House members from Florida and Oklahoma can go to the Bowl Championship Series national title game.
Stearns wrote, "As you may be aware, on Thursday January 8, the University of Florida and the University of Oklahoma will play for the national football championship. Members of the Florida and Oklahoma delegations have expressed interest in attending the game as the congressional schedule allows. However, votes are currently scheduled to continue into Thursday night and Friday afternoon. We ask that you move these votes to either Wednesday and/or Thursday morning to allow Members to attend this historic game."
Oddly — or maybe not — none of the other members Stearns referred to as "we" signed the letter ...
Pelosi denied the request, of course. Cal and Stanford didn't come anywhere near the BCS.