Sunday, July 12, 2009

BCS is just not right at all

Despite some eloquent grandstanding on its behalf before a US Senate subcommittee Tuesday, the Mountain West Conference caved in the next day and re-upped with the Bowl Championship Series. This action was as predictable as it was understandable. Five more years of crumbs, after all, beats death by starvation. Still, it's a shame.

The BCS is designed by elites, for elites, who also accord themselves the privilege of defining what constitutes an elite. It exists to generate and horde wealth for a select few, locking out others who aspire to join their club. And that's all.

The elites would have you believe theirs are the only college football teams you want to watch, or to see play in a national championship game. So that's how the BCS is set up, to orchestrate the proof that perpetuates the fraud. This would be like the government clearing the shelves in all grocery stores of everything but dog food, then saying, "All the people want to eat is dog food."

It's crazy. You know this. You know the BCS is wrong. You know this unholy concoction constitutes an unreasonable restraint of commerce within the intercollegiate sports industry; that the BCS willfully acquired its power and exercises that power in monopolistic fashion. In other words, you know what Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch and anyone else with a working brain knows: The BCS violates pretty much everything the Sherman Antitrust Act was designed to prohibit.

Now, teams of lawyers might get drunk and rich debating the fine points of anti-trust law. For example, Vanderbilt Law School graduate and associate editor Clay Travis last week posted a brilliant essay in which he noted the BCS is not actually a legal entity and, therefore, could not violate Sherman. The probability that the BCS was structured to avoid such a challenge should be enough to make fans regurgitate, if not revolt.

Fine points be damned. We all should want what is right. It would be nice if the eloquence articulated by BCS opponents Tuesday were sincere, for their arguments were spot on. At the top, the Bowl Championship Series consists of five major bowl games: Fiesta, Orange, Rose, Sugar and the BCS Championship. The winners of the six BCS conferences that govern the system — the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-10 and SEC — are guaranteed berths in one of those games, regardless of how they rank in terms of overall quality. The top two teams in the final BCS standings, determined by a compilation of two polls and six computerized ranking systems, play for the national championship.

While nothing in the BCS setup directly prohibits a member of one of the five non-BCS conferences from grabbing one of the four remaining spots in the big bowl games, or from qualifying to play for the national title, the deck is stacked against those things happening. Of 94 berths in major bowl games the past 11 seasons, only four have gone to non-BCS teams. No non-BCS team has played for the championship; not even last season, when Mountain West champ Utah was undefeated while Florida and Oklahoma matched one-loss records in the title game.

"In this country," Utah president Michael Young testified to the subcommittee, "we should decide championships by competition, not by conspiracy."

Alas, there was little sincerity here. The only outrage was self-serving.

"I would not be here today if all universities had a realistic opportunity to compete for the national championship and if BCS revenues were equitably distributed among institutions," Young said.

I find that hard to believe. Young was there testifying and Hatch was there from gavel to gavel, pontificating about BCS arrogance and later goading the Justice Department to investigate, only because Utah was the latest program gored by the Bull Championship Spit.

If Utah joins the Pac-10 in the next major realignment of big-time conferences, thus becoming an official elite, their outrage will sink to the bottom of the Great Salt Lake, and Hatch and Young will begin reciting the bunk sounded by Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman, whose university belongs to the Big XII.

"I don't think it's arrogant if you've thought about something for five or six years and concluded that it's really hard to do something different," Perlman testified.

No, it's the height of arrogance to think the rest of us are stupid enough to believe him. The solution actually is very simple, if you are dedicated to what is right instead of what lines your pockets.

The Justice Department should set him straight and put the BCS in its place.

KIRK WESSLER is Journal Star executive sports editor/columnist. He can be reached at, or 686-3216.

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