Blog Entry

Senator Orrin Hatch challenges the BCS

Posted on: April 7, 2009 5:48 pm

Powerful Republican Utah Senator Orrin Hatch is progressing toward hearings examining the BCS (probably in the fall). He recently took the time to answer these e-mail questions from me.

Dennis Dodd: You've long been a critic of the BCS, when did it reach the stage, in your mind, that hearings needed to be convened?
Sen. Hatch: I’ve thought for a number of years that there were significant problems with the BCS.  We held hearings on the matter back in 2003 when I chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, and I said then that the system was unfair.

After that time, there were some efforts made to expand the system and make it more open.  For example, they’ve added a fifth game and made it slightly easier for teams from conferences that don’t receive automatic bids to qualify for one of the games.  But, as we saw last season, these changes haven’t been good enough.  First of all, there were only two teams to finish the regular season undefeated – Utah and Boise State – but, only one of them was invited to play in a lucrative BCS game.  And, of course, neither team had even a remote chance of qualifying for the national championship game – the BCS system makes it impossible for outside teams to do so.
The bigger problem is the money and the principles of fair play being taught to our young people by those who they look to for leadership.  Teams from the conferences that receive automatic bids share an enormous pot of money generated by the BCS, even if they lose every game and finish at the bottom of the standings.   At the same time, nearly half the teams in college football share a much smaller pot, even if they are fortunate enough to play their way into a BCS game.  This creates an inherent disadvantage, not just on the field, but with regard to recruiting, facilities, and funding for other athletic programs.  Given the amount of money involved here, which is unprecedented in the history of collegiate sports, I think these inequities warrant the attention of Congress.
Dodd: Who do you expect to call to testify? (Maybe not specific persons but NCAA, BCS officials, ADs, players?)
Hatch: That is yet to be determined.  I think we need to make sure we hear from all sides of the debate, so we get a clear picture as to how the system works, what its effects are, and how it can be improved. 

We’ll also need to include some sharp legal analysis of the antitrust issues.  These hearings, particularly in this subcommittee, aren’t just about airing grievances.  There are serious questions about the legality of the BCS system, namely, whether it constitutes a coordinated effort to eliminate competition.  The main objective of the hearing will be to find answers to those questions.

Dodd: What's the likelihood the hearings actually come about, and when?
I have a commitment from my colleague, Senator Herb Kohl, the Chairman of the Antitrust Subcommittee, to hold a hearing this year.  So, I believe that a hearing on the matter is more or less imminent.  I expect it to take place later this year.
Dodd: Are you working in concert with some of the Congressmen and Senators -- Abercrombie, Miller, Barton, etc? Does it matter that there seem to be separate battles against the BCS going on?
Hatch: The BCS system has been condemned by almost everyone who follows college football, from coaches and university officials, to sportswriters and analysts, to Members of Congress, and even the President of the United States.  So, I’m well aware that I’m not alone in my concern regarding these issues. 

Some House Members have introduced legislation on this issue and I am currently exploring similar options here in the Senate.  I’ll be willing to work with any of my colleagues to see if we can fix this system.

Dodd: Obviously, the BCS leaders have lawyers and they think their position is solid. How specifically can the BCS be attacked?
Hatch: I’m sure they have a team of lawyers ready to defend this unfair system.  That doesn’t surprise me at all.  But, I think there’s a pretty decent antitrust case to be made here.  Put simply, our antitrust laws are designed to prevent people from working in coordination to reduce competition in the marketplace.  I think that’s pretty clearly what we have going on here.  Make no mistake, college football is a commercial enterprise.  The colleges and universities market their football programs like they would a business.

In addition, there are television contracts, advertising revenue, and corporate sponsors for each of the bowl games.  So, this isn’t what we had decades ago when the bowl system first started -- two schools deciding to meet up at a neutral field and play a bowl game.  We’re talking about a national, multi-million dollar business enterprise. 
Dodd: Have you spoken to Mountain West representatives? They made the rounds through the House and Senate last month promoting their own agenda.
Hatch: I’ve been talking with the Mountain West folks about this issue.  As you know, the commissioner of the Mountain West Conference, Craig Thompson, recently unveiled an alternative proposal to the current BCS system.  I thought this was a constructive step, and I hope to see more options put on the table. 
Dodd: Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is OK with the current system, or at least didn't cry out against it. The Utah administration is on record as wanting to work within the system. How do react to that?
Hatch: Coach Whittingham has expressed his disappointment with the way the Utes were treated by the BCS last year.  He even broke with convention and voted his team No. 1 in the final coaches poll, even though the BCS system more or less requires the coaches to vote for the winner of the so-called “national championship game.” 

He felt strongly enough to buck the system there.  I think Coach Whittingham would have liked the opportunity for his team to play for the national championship and, quite frankly, had that occurred, I would have liked their chances.
But, the problems with the BCS are not specific to the University of Utah, they are much broader.  The BCS system affects nearly every aspect of college football, which in turn affects schools throughout the country.  Obviously, I want to see the schools from my state treated fairly, but I think we need to make sure the system is fair to everyone. 
Dodd: I have found that many of the Congressmen and Senators don't know the basics of this system -- re: the NCAA has virtually nothing to do with the postseason. Do you understand that this a system that all the conferences have agreed to until 2014?
Hatch: The NCAA is clearly not involved in the college football postseason, and that may be part of the problem.  As it stands right now, the decisions regarding the postseason and the road to the national championship are decided, in large part, by the elitist conferences involved in the BCS, working with television networks and corporate sponsors to generate massive amounts of revenue. 
Obviously, I understand that the non-automatic bid conferences are signatories to the BCS and share some of the responsibility.  But, it’s not as though they have the power to initiate the necessary changes.  The five conferences without automatic bids collectively share one vote on the BCS board, while the six other conferences and the University of Notre Dame each have a vote.  So, it’s difficult to assign to them any culpability for the actions of the BCS cartel. 

As far as the current agreement is concerned, it is my understanding that the current BCS agreement expires next year and that there is a proposal on the table to extend it through 2014.  The deal is not yet in place and a number of the conferences, particularly the Mountain West, have expressed serious concerns about the proposed extension.  Frankly, I think this proposal is the reason for Congress to get involved right now.  The current system has been condemned by virtually everyone, yet the interested parties see nothing wrong with continuing the status quo for the foreseeable future.  I think that’s just outrageous.
Dodd: Do you have a specific playoff plan? What is it?
Hatch: I don’t have a plan of my own.  There are enough alternatives out there and, keep in mind, people have been dreaming and speculating of a national playoff system for years.  So, I am looking forward to working with a variety of individuals to create a fair system.
Dodd: How should profits from such a system be allocated?
Hatch: Again, I don’t want to be in the business of writing a new system from scratch.  I don’t think that’s the Senate’s proper role in this issue.  But, in general, I think the funds should be allocated in a way that is based on the teams’ performance on the field.  Right now, the money may as well be handed out at the beginning of the season because, in the end, we all know which schools and conferences will be getting the money.  That, more than anything, is the problem with the BCS.

Category: NCAAF

Since: Dec 11, 2006
Posted on: May 17, 2009 8:07 pm

Senator Orrin Hatch challenges the BCS


 If LSU was in Conference USA along side Tulane, would you feel the same way?
There is a responsibility for congress to get involved when you look at the number of dollars that we are talking about.  The last time I checked, Louisiana State University was a public school, therefore they are are receiving taxpayer funding. Univeristy of Louisiana-Lafayette is also a public school, however they are in the SunBelt conference. Should LSU still receive the amount of public funding from Louisiana citizens, while they are getting lucrative money from being in the SEC? I say no, this is what makes it unfair. The six Automatic qualifying conferences and Notre Dame, have a huge dollar advantage over the other non-automatic qualifying conferences.  This is why it is absolutely necessary for congress to be involved. This involves my tax dollars going to a big dollar conference school, when there are other universities that could use the money.  My proposal is this, if the BCS conferences refuse to allow equal access to the non-bcs conferences, then cut their public funding. Simple as that.  I guarantee you that you will then see university presidents and administrations singing a different tune and joining this bandwagon.

Since: Dec 30, 2007
Posted on: April 19, 2009 4:59 pm

Senator Orrin Hatch challenges the BCS

bjs, this sounds like a wonderful solution to me. But if you or anyone else thinks the BCS might agree with you, whatcha been smokin'? Because it aint gonna happen in my lifetime, sure don't see it even as a remote possibility... 


Since: Mar 27, 2009
Posted on: April 10, 2009 1:44 pm

Senator Orrin Hatch challenges the BCS

A Better BCS Solution -- The ‘Plus 4’ Proposal

Key Feature:  The BCS invites four additional bowls to become regional (alternate bowl) partners to the four original BCS bowls.  A NCAA selection committee is formed to select the top 16 teams and seed them to these eight bowls factoring in poll rankings, traditional conference/bowl tie-ins, mid-major qualifying guidelines, regional drawing power, etc.:  i.e. Rose Bowl(1v4)/Holiday Bowl(2v3); Fiesta Bowl(1v4)/Cotton Bowl(2v3); Sugar Bowl(1v4)/Gator Bowl(2v3); Orange Bowl(1v4)/Capitol One Bowl(2v3).

Key Principles:  Bowl week for these eight BCS Bowls begins with a Christmas weekend play-in game and ends with their traditional New Year's week-end Bowl Game.  From a commerce standpoint, this format guarantees each host city two premier (top 16 team vs. top 16 team) college football bowl games back to back during the Christmas/New Year holiday season.  This allows the hosting cities and their corporate partners/sponsors to create marketing packages for air, hotel, game tickets, local attractions, etc. with twin options for the two possible New Year’s Bowl sites – (i.e. if your team wins you settle in for an exciting week of Rose Bowl festivities, and if your team loses you don’t go home, instead you settle in for a wonderful week of Holiday Bowl activities.)

The 8 teams that lose the play-in game and their fans are disappointed, but not forsaken.  They enjoy the week-long festivities of the alternate bowl game and get another shot at glory on the field on New Year's week-end.  Four of these teams will end the season as BCS (alternate) Bowl winners.

The 8 winning teams and their fans celebrate their victory, revel in the week's festivities and prepare for the big four BCS New Year's Bowl games.

The New Year's Bowl game winners and their fans advance two weeks later for a semi-final game.  An eastern semi-final and western semi-final is recommended and would enhance national interest.  Location would alternate between the four original BCS Bowl sites with the Championship Game being played at a third site.  This format allows three of the four current BCS Bowl sites to host either a semi-final or a championship game each year on a rotating basis.


The Final Two teams then play for the BCS Championship (College Football Super Bowl) the ‘dead’ week-end before the NFL Super Bowl and a true NCAA college football champion is crowned.


Since: Apr 1, 2009
Posted on: April 9, 2009 12:28 am

Senator Orrin Hatch challenges the BCS


Geauxtigerz, did you not read a word of the Q&A? 

Congress has every right to get involved in anti-trust issues; the current system is illegal, i.e. breaking Sherman Anti-trust laws.  College football is a national, multi-million dollar business enterprise and specifically excludes about half of the teams from receiving the full benefits of the BCS system and rewards teams like Duke, Iowa State, Washington, etc. for being awful football teams.  This creates abject monetary disparity amongst schools, most of which also receive Federal and state tax dollars and most are also tax-exempt under Chapters 32 and 33 of the Internal Revenue Code.  So, under this system, not only do these Universities receive millions and millions from the BCS no matter if they are competitive or lousy, most also receive Federal and state tax dollars and are not taxed.  That system sounds corrupt, specifically promulgates anti-competition and monetary disparities, and should be investigated especially because tax dollars are involved as well.


Since: Sep 13, 2007
Posted on: April 8, 2009 11:00 am

Senator Orrin Hatch challenges the BCS

Dodd, why didn't you ask him how he justifies spending time on determining a college football champion in the midst of our current economic crisis? I surely didn't elect my representatives to go to Washington D.C. to legislate sports.

Congress, STAY OUT OF IT! 

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