Congress: Leave college football alone

 

I just want you to know how much better I slept last night.

Yes, the economy is the worst since the Great Depression.

Yes, people are losing their jobs right and left.

Yes, our 401-Ks are now 201-Ks.

But I slept better last night knowing that Congress is again going to look into the BCS.

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a man I greatly respect, obviously doesn’t have enough to do. His constituents in Utah are upset that the Utes, at 12-0, didn’t get into the BCS championship game ahead of Florida or Oklahoma. So Senator Hatch does what a good politician does when his constituents are mad—he pushes for Congressional hearings.

So we are going to get another dog and pony show where some members of Congress, who don’t know if a football is inflated or stuffed, ask questions and fawn for the cameras back home. They will blame everything from global warming to the fall of the dollar on the BCS. They will claim that the BCS violates antitrust law and is a classic cartel.

Before that happens please allow your humble servant to inject some reality on the subject.

No. 1, if you want to have a college football playoff that is a discussion worth having. I personally believe that we will have a “Plus-One,” which is the politically correct name for a four-team playoff, after the 2013 season when the contract between the BCS and ESPN comes to an end. In fact, I favor the four-team playoff and hope it happens sooner rather than later.

But that’s not what’s going on here. Regardless of how you feel about the BCS, it should concern you that you will have members of Congress trying to score cheap political points on the back of college football. They are making arguments that are patently untrue. Specifically:

Utah was NOT denied a spot in the national championship game. There are 113 voters in the Harris Interactive Poll, 61 voters in the coaches poll, and six computer polls whose job it is to determine who plays in the national championship game. Those 174 people looked at Utah’s body of work (12-0) and determined that Florida (12-1), the SEC champ, and Oklahoma (12-1), the Big 12 champ were simply better. In fact, they had Utah at No. 7 in the human polls. The six computers looked at the data and had Utah with an average of No. 5. The overall BCS Standings had Utah at No. 6.

So is the argument that the “fair” thing would have been to say that all of those people and polls were stupid and to put Utah in the game ahead Florida, Texas, Alabama, or Southern California? Is that what you’re trying to tell me?

The five Coalition (non-BCS) conferences have more access to the system than ever before. In three of the past four seasons a Coalition team has EARNED spot in a BCS game. All a coalition team has to do to get in is finish in the Top 12. Now you can make the argument that Boise State (12-0) should have also gotten in because it finished No. 9. And in the future maybe the Coalition conferences deserve two in the field if they have two teams in the Top 10 or Top 12. That is a point that can be negotiated.

But understand that at its inception, the BCS was a private contract between ABC and the six original BCS conferences (ACC, SEC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10). If ABC had not guaranteed a spot for each of the six champions, the deal does not get done. Now maybe the government can come in and break that private contract by popular demand. But is that the right thing to do?

And finally, the BCS doesn’t violate antitrust law and the folks who will investigate the BCS already know that. If you’ve ever cracked a law book you know that.

Tom Rhodes of the Atlanta firm of Smith, Gambrell & Russell is one of the best antitrust lawyers in the country. He could barely contain his amusement when I asked him a while back if the BCS violates antitrust law.

“If this was illegal somebody would have already sued them a long time ago,” Rhodes said. “Tulane thought about suing in 2002 but they got their lawyers all cranked up and didn’t file.”

Remember when Tulane president Scott Cowen, in all of his righteous indignation, talked about hauling the BCS into court? Why didn’t Tulane sue the BCS? First of all the BCS conferences decided that, even though they would likely prevail in court, the fight wasn’t worth it. The BCS expanded access for the Coalition conferences by adding a fifth game. In retrospect, it was a bad business decision but kept peace in the Division I-A family for a while.

But the main reason, gentle readers, Tulane and the other schools didn’t sue and haven’t sued is that the law isn’t on their side. Maybe emotion is on their side. Maybe even popular opinion is on their side. But the law is not. I haven’t read all the headlines this morning, but last time I checked we were a nation of laws, not popular opinion.

“It’s a loser,” Rhodes said of the antitrust charge against the BCS. “When you claim antitrust, you’re claiming there has been a restraint on the amount of product that is on the market.

“The fact is that the BCS actually created a product that did not exist before. Therefore trade was actually expanded, not restrained.”

Rhodes’ comments beg another question:  Don’t you think the lawyers who work for the BCS conferences  kind of checked this thing out ahead of time? Don’t you think that they made sure there were no antitrust issues before they put it together? Don’t you think they are (at least) as smart as the lawyers who work for Congress?

Again, if you want to have a playoff, then let’s have that argument because there is a good debate to be had. And if the presidents and CEOs in Division I-A decide that a playoff is in the best interest of their respective institutions, it is completely within their power to make it happen.

But do you want Congress, which hasn’t done much of anything right lately, TELLING college football how it can and cannot play?

There will eventually be a playoff, folks. But this is not the way to get there.

 

 

 

84 comments Add your comment

ehyoutiger

March 26th, 2009
7:54 am

BankerDawg

March 26th, 2009
8:26 am

Just for accuracy sake, it’s actually the worst economy since Jimmy Carter….not the Great Depression.

And I agree with you, Congress has much bigger fish to fry than the BCS.

ValdostaMike

March 26th, 2009
8:32 am

Congress needs to just go on vacation and leave EVERYTHING alone. Congress is simply a body of reactionary hypocrites whose good intentions often have unintended consequences.

GeoffDawg

March 26th, 2009
8:38 am

BankerDawg makes a good point. Also, we have Alabama to indirectly blame for the Ute uproar.

Kaiser

March 26th, 2009
8:44 am

Gee, Now thats important. This is why I voted for our officials, To sift through all the important things going on in the world and to put this at the top of the list. Thanks Congress. I will sleep better at night too.

ItsJustaName

March 26th, 2009
8:51 am

Congress needs to stay far away from this issue. As we have seen with baseball they have helped that situation very little to none! College Football is one of the most popular sports in the country. There is absolutely no need to get congress involved and screw it up. I agree with Mr. College Football. Lets debate the playoff theory not is the BCS right or wrong.

LSWho?

March 26th, 2009
8:54 am

Why pay to go to the circus when you can watch Congress for free? – Will Rogers

The Fair Tax

March 26th, 2009
8:55 am

The economy is in the toilet, the borders are insecure, top govt officials dont pay taxes, Pelosi and Obama are pushing us toweard socialism and the 50 rectal orifices in the senate are concerned about how college football picks a champion………if they don’t leave now then in two years there should be 50 brand new faces in the Senate……..#1 requirement to be a Senator….”read and understand the Constitution” then understand what it means to take an oath before God and man………..

GeoffDawg

March 26th, 2009
8:56 am

Actually, I quite frankly believe that the more distracted Congress and the administration are with the BCS and filling out tournament brackets, the better off we’ll be. If we can minimize the amount of economic tinkering we’re expecting from the feds, this economy is likely to heal itself a lot faster.

ValdostaMike

March 26th, 2009
8:57 am

Percy Harvey

March 26th, 2009
9:17 am

I would like to gradulate congress.

BLAZER

March 26th, 2009
9:17 am

DON’T LET THEM SCREW UP FOOTBALL TOO GEEZ

Gen Neyland

March 26th, 2009
9:23 am

Tony, “I haven’t read all the headlines this morning, but last time I checked we were a nation of laws, not popular opinion.”…

The use of the word ‘were’ instead of ‘are’ in this sentence of your column/blog is telling as the Legislative Branch on the Hill sink the talons of the Mighty Eagle deeper into our lives…The way they’ve botched up certain issues so far to date, the last thing we need is for them to regulate and delegate to the NCAA…Note to the NCAA : Don’t take any money from Congress else they’ll fry you ala Barney Frank and his merry band of Witch Hunters…

Wes

March 26th, 2009
9:24 am

You are absolutely right that Congress has better things to do with their time.

That being said the BCS is an atrocious system that doesn’t even maximize the profits for anyone outside the Big 10.

The problem is not that Utah was denied a place in the BCS title game. The problem is that there is no method for them to get there. They beat everyone on their schedule. In your opinion is there any level of performance that would demand that a non-BCS conference team would EARN their way into the title game?

WILL

March 26th, 2009
9:24 am

Obama wants to fix this mess too. Just don’t ask him a question about how exactly he wants to do it. He get’s mad when you do that.

Bill

March 26th, 2009
9:25 am

Barack will get this fixed just as soon as his March Madness brackets are complete.

WILL

March 26th, 2009
9:29 am

Enter your comments here

Abhi

March 26th, 2009
9:33 am

Hey, if this is what it takes to fix the BCS, I’m all for it. I don’t care how we get it, as long as we get to a playoff. Who cares if the Utes deserved to be in the Championship game or not. Your argument misses the big picture completely.

Coming from a college football fan and so called expert, your post was very disappointing. Worst piece I have seen in a while. You need to find a different enemy than the Congress – it’s called the BCS.

Kid Ray

March 26th, 2009
9:35 am

Government-run anything is worse than private-run anything. Period. (and I live in Blue State NJ) Go Rutgers! and tell your coaches to schedule a home/home vs. the Scarlet Knights!!1 Come play in the shadow of the Big Apple and recruit in a football state (yes, check the records…lil ole NJ produces a bunch of D1 players each year. SI.com ran a project recently and NJ placed in the top 8!

Esco

March 26th, 2009
9:43 am

“You can fool some of the people some of the time – and that’s enough to make a decent living.”

W.C. Fields

BravesFan79

March 26th, 2009
9:43 am

College Football is nothing but a Joke of a sport and all real sports fans know it. Want a real sport? The Braves and Falcons are right here in town ; )

Your articles are old and outdated…. whats fair is fair… and ANY sport where u can go Undefeated and still have NO shot at a title…. is a beauty pagent, not a sport.

BravesFan79

March 26th, 2009
9:48 am

Comparing College football to the NFL is like comparing scripted WWE to the UFC.

Im a GT fan… but whats the point? im not gonna waste my $$ on a team that even if they won the ACC still have NO shot at a national title because we all know computer would put in Texas, USC, Ohio State, OU, or the SEC champ over the ACC champ 9 times out of 10!

GeoffDawg

March 26th, 2009
9:51 am

Kid Ray – I think Knowshon’s done a good job demonstrating to Dawg fans that NJ can produce top talent. I’ve wondered in the past why Rutgers isn’t a traditional power on par with a Penn State with the natural resources they have to pull from.

BravesFan79

March 26th, 2009
9:55 am

Everyone keeps talking about “they need to fix the economy and not worry about the BCS”….. yet years ago wasnt it “they need to worry about the war, and leave the BCS alone”?

seems there’s always some excuse put out by certain media members to back off the bcs when the heat is on…… as if the “economy” can be solved in a few days? arent we in a “wait and see” period anyways after the stimilus??

The big dogs that profit from the unfair system will always have people in place like Tony that will defend the fat cats till the end.

David Horton

March 26th, 2009
9:57 am

This absolutely takes the cake. The economy going down the tubes, healthcare, uncontrollable national debt, a war about to erupt feet from our southern border in Mexico, terrorist threats, war in Afghanistan – and what does Congress do? They’re about to investigate college football, aka the BCS, because some team didn’t make it to the championship.

ARRRRRGGGGGHHHHHH!!!! I can’t wait until mid-term elections next year. Maybe then we’ll elect some people with some common sense…

Dave

Kiffinisaloser

March 26th, 2009
9:58 am

As long as Netanyahu and Ahmadinejad don’t get selected to play in the Atomic Bowl, I will be happy. After that one, the pollsters really will be just coackroaches.

Kiffinisaloser

March 26th, 2009
10:01 am

Hey Braves fan…by preferring the snoozefest 160 game Major League snoozefest to the 12 game carnival that is college football you have irretrievably damaged your credibility on this blog. Retire now and never return.

Kid Ray

March 26th, 2009
10:09 am

Thanks GeoffDawg – Wait til thie years NFL draft…First round potential Jerseyans include Knowshown, Cushing, Raji, Monroe, Jenkins -all definite plus potential first rounders Donald Brown, Ken Britt,

Wyoming

March 26th, 2009
10:09 am

Perfect example of those who benefit from a corrupt system, are least likely to want to change it. Why do they play football if the voters – in their perfect wisdom – determine 1 and 2? One of the most stupid comments of the decade:

“There are 113 voters in the Harris Interactive Poll, 61 voters in the coaches poll, and six computer polls whose job it is to determine who plays in the national championship game”.

The biggest problem is that this cartel perpetuates a recruiting advantage that maintains the imbalance.

That said, I think the timing is poor.

[...] Mr. College Football eloquently calls for Congress to focus on important things like the economy. Barnhart tells us what we can expect from Congress: “So we are going to get another dog and pony show where some members of Congress, who don’t know if a football is inflated or stuffed, ask questions and fawn for the cameras back home. They will blame everything from global warming to the fall of the dollar on the BCS.” [...]

m

March 26th, 2009
10:30 am

Tony, idiots like you are the reason that it is going to take an act of congress to get rid of the hideous BCS. Utah has a legitimate gripe because they went undefeated and beat the living crap out of your beloved sec. The BCS is the absolute stupidest idea ever. We need a 16 team playoff. Let it be decided on the field. Not by some idiot homer-gomer like Tony voting on it. Tony, you proved last year that your predictive ability on college football is ZERO. So give it up and let’s have a legitimate national champion and not a fake champion like Florida was last year. And as always, thank God and Greyhound that Chan Gailey. the BCS of coaches, is gone forever.

Too Easy

March 26th, 2009
10:31 am

Tony: Despite abhi’s rant, it was a very good overview. I’m a ‘plus-one’ supporter, also – absent a full playoff scenario.

And KidRay: Besides Knowshon, we’ve been pleased with Kade Weston.

Redshoes

March 26th, 2009
10:48 am

“Again, if you want to have a playoff, then let’s have that argument because there is a good debate to be had. And if the presidents and CEOs in Division I-A decide that a playoff is in the best interest of their respective institutions, it is completely within their power to make it happen.”

We’ve been having those arguments for years, and they’ve gotten us nowhere. The problem is that the only people who have a say in this are the ones who benefit from it. I can tell you right now that Utah will not win a national championship next year. They may go undefeated again, but for teams like Utah, undefeated isn’t good enough, because they aren’t in an entitled conference. The is something deeply immoral and astoundingly un-american about this. And the powers-that-be have proved time and time again that they will not change it. If congress is the body that can fix it, then I say let them fix it.

Bamafan

March 26th, 2009
10:49 am

GeoffDawg, you are right blame Alabama for laying a egg against the Utes. Tony good story and lets
hope that congress will stay away from this and hopefully will try to stop spending the taxpayer’s money like a drunken sailor!! ROLL TIDE!!

Kiffinisaloser

March 26th, 2009
10:49 am

A congress that really cared about football would imprison Lame Kiffin for high crimes against the integrity* of Southern Football.

* pay no attention to that man behind the curtain

[...] And it should make every American angry.Tony Barnhart of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution takes Senator Hatch and the rest of Congress to task for some of the claims they’re making regarding the BCS.Oh, yeah, failed to mention that, [...]

Gadawg59

March 26th, 2009
10:57 am

Makes you wonder if the government will just control everything at some point in time. Here we are faced with recession,war, illegal imigrants and Sen. Hatch is worried about the BCS. Government needs to worry about real problems.
Bravesfan79, your attitude is the main reason Tech can not sell out their stadium and develop any consistancy. How can you even call yourself a supporter of GT? Everytime you guys get a good coach, he w leaves after he has two mediocre years because he knows the Tech alumni will not support the team.
Tony, I for one appreciate your insight and knowledge. I think most of us appreciate the forum you present and are able to share our thoughts.
Go Dawgs.

Miles

March 26th, 2009
11:06 am

Though Congress shouldn’t be meddling in the BCS, i.e., they’ve far more important tasks to deal with at this time, to trust an insidious and adversarial southern lawyer’s opinion of the BCS’s legality is equally void of merit. Forget about laws. The only right thing to do is that which is morally right. Orrin Hatch may be off his rocker but alluding to laws rather than ethics is not the right thing to do here Mr. Barnhart. Laws, as the south knows too well, were precisely the device that has left the scars of racism and hatred that excluded huge numbers of people from accessing freedom and liberty. Contracts, though legal, may not be morally right and thus should be abolished. Being part of the college football establishment, Mr. Barnhart, means that you can use your authority to appeal to good rather than the status quo. Referring to principle rather than the power of Rhodes’ law firm is what appeals to those who want a FAIR and JUST way to determine a national champion.

DawgsBToothless

March 26th, 2009
11:08 am

You dawgs are like war eagles without testiclez

Jack G.

March 26th, 2009
11:09 am

If m thinks Tony is wrong, then Tony has to be right.

DawgsBToothless

March 26th, 2009
11:10 am

Miles, please change your handle to inches so that it more accurately measures the breadth of your intelligence.

Leland

March 26th, 2009
11:31 am

There’s a lot of nice people live in New Jersey.

Chris

March 26th, 2009
11:32 am

I would simply argue that Orrin Hatch is not the representative for the job. Playoff proponents need a strong legislator like Corrine Brown to address the issue. Go gator.

‘m’? I’m sure Mr. Barnhart has been called many things but referring to him as an ‘idiot’ speaks volumes about your competence. Blogs can be a terrible thing.

PTC DAWG

March 26th, 2009
11:33 am

To the doubting GT fan, go undefeated, and I think the ACC champ will be in the game. Honestly, when is the last time a 1 loss ACC team was left out? FSU used to be in the game constantly…so I know it can happen.

BILLY JACK

March 26th, 2009
11:35 am

IF BAMA HAD NOT EMBARRASED THE SEC IN THE SUGAR BOWL CONGRESS COULD GET BACK TO DOING NOTHING-LIKE USUAL-THANKS TO ALABAMA THIS RECESSION MAY LAST LONGER-INSTEAD OF ARRESTING BANKERS AND WALL ST CROOKS THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT THE BCS-WHAT A DISGRACE.

DawgsBToothless

March 26th, 2009
11:40 am

If only Bama’s embarrassments were limited to their Sugar Bowl performance…..

Mike

March 26th, 2009
11:49 am

People who complain about Congress looking into this because the other problems we are facing sound like people pulled over for speeding yelling at the cops to go look for murderers and rapists instead.

We need to have equal protection and obviously Utah hasn’t gotten it by going undefeated 2 times in the last 5 seasons and not even getting a chance at a national championship. It is also a very bad thing to tell our kids that if they work hard and do their job and keep winning, they can hit the ceiling and watch others who are higher class citizens progress while they are held back.

America wants the underdog to have a legitimate shot and some of the greatest moments in sports history are when they are finally given that chance – from Seabiscuit to Superbowl III to Hoosiers to Fresno State’s Wonderdogs last year, we all want to see the underdog get a fair shot. Just think of all the past treasures we would have been robbed of had those matchups not been allowed.

Alphar

March 26th, 2009
11:52 am

Well, if the people cannot make it right, why not let Congress give it a shot? We all know BCS is big mess! Congress don’t have much to do anyway.

Nostical

March 26th, 2009
11:53 am

The issue isn’t that Congress has better things to do. There are always better things to do. Miles is on to something when he says legal doesn’t make it right and fairness should be the goal. If you think the BCS is fair, then all of this will be seen as a waste of time. If you think it’s exclusionary, then you hope the attention by Congress will help spur reform.

GoVols

March 26th, 2009
12:27 pm

This article is 100% right. The Utes had no claim to the title because THEY DIDN’T PLAY ANYONE WELL. The reason they beat Bama was because BAMA had been beat up by playing in a tough conference all year. If you want respect, start playing good teams during your non-conference games or get into a doog conference. It’s your own fault; don’t screw up good conferences because you schedule your games against the school for the blind and deaf.