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The Red Menace of the BCS


There do seem to be a fair amount of problems besetting the Republic these days. From the recession to foreign wars to the death throes of the domestic automobile industry to the media’s Captain Trips scare, any and every venture into the various communication realms devoted to presenting what passes for ‘news’ these days brings a PT Barnum-styled spectacle of grief and woe. Catastrophe abounds, or so we are told, in tones that grow increasingly more shrill. Amid all of the  problems that, according to CNN, have rendered the national situation so dire that only Obama can save us, we can now add a new one. It seems that august body known as the Unites States Congress has determined that the #1 trouble is not financial problems, nuclear threats from rogue nations or whether governmental printing presses can produce enough cash for Obama to hand out to his political cronies stimulate the economy. No, according to Congress, the most pressing national issue is how college football determines its champion. Who knew?

Congress last week stuck its nose into the football postseason. This is a recipe for disaster. When one considers what kind of automobiles are likely to be foisted off on the public once GM stands for Government Motors , it is safe to assume that federal ‘oversight’ of the yugo-aca-21football postseason would produce an MNC game of Arkansas State vs. East Carolina. How football champions are determined is absolutely no business of Congress, which means they decided that it was their business. The House Committee on Impeding Commerce held hearings last week on the BCS. ACC commish and current BCS honcho Little Johny was called to waste time and sacrifice his dignity by appearing before a pack of Congressional hyenas.

Esteemed members of Congress indulged a lust for television camera face time that was positively Sethian as they jostled each other to spend the most time in front of the cameras denouncing the BCS. One can only imagine what was running through the mind of Little Johnny as he listened to congresspersons thunder about the absolute injustice of a system that would deny college football heavyweights such as Utah and Boise State a crack at the MNC. It must have taken remarkable cnn58561powers of concentration to refrain from laughing out loud at some of the idiotic remarks.  There were plenty of them, as usually happens when you combine a member of Congress, a microphone and a television camera. The Biden Award for the dumbest remark, however, went to Rep. Joe Barton , who declared that the BCS was comparable to communism. Huh?

At its core, the BCS is a collection of athletic conferences that desire to keep for themselves the postseason money they are generating, instead of having it taxed away as is basketball monies. Uncle Joe considers people keeping most of what they earn communism? He’s a Republican, too, which certainly goes a long way towards explaining the utter disarray in which the GOP finds itself these days.

The BCS was formed a little over a decade ago when ABC got together with six conferences and Notre Dame. ABC chose the six conferences based solely on which ones ABC’s viewers wanted to see. It is no coincidence that the BCS consists of the leagues with the largest television contracts. Those conferences with minuscule television contracts shined out. This was a decision based on the marketplace value of all involved. This does seem the market functioning as the market does, which Little Johnny attempted to point out before being shouted down by that noted defender of free markets Henry Waxman.

The BCS has also been wildly successful, generating huge amounts of interest in college football and producing television revenues sufficient to add a million bucks annually to the athletic budgets of members of the BCS leagues, with another extra-large tacked onto those residing in the leagues that produce a second BCS participant, i.e., the SEC and Big 11/XII. BCS rules were later amended to include anybody from the minor leagues that managed to play or schedule their way in. They also get a cut. The leagues that do not, so far CUSA, the MAC and RUTS Belt, don’t. And there is the rub.

For all of the cries of how inequitable is a system that denies Utah a shot at the MNC, what the Little Feller conferences want is a piece of the BCS action. It’s not enough that they are guaranteed BCS cash if they earn it, they want it handed out to them irregardless ofbarton whether they actually merit it. Being handed money that somebody else has earned might be increasingly these days the American Way, but it is hardly Adam Smith-style unbridled capitalism. Uncle Joe really needs to spend less time posturing in front of television cameras and more time studying economics.

The prime mover behind the push for a BCS handout is Senator Orrin Hatch, who just happens to be from Utah. One cannot help but suspect that he is attempting to Warner his home-state Utes and BYU into the Pac 10. While Utah now claims to be defending the honor of its Mountain Something Conference and all of those others demanding a guaranteed welfare payment equal BCS share, things have a way of changing. Virginia Tech once pledged undying fealty to the BE. That lasted up until the instant Tech received an invitation to the ACC; Tech’s assurances to what became its former conference went from ‘We’re all in this together’ to ‘Adios, losers.’ Utah and Hatch would lose their plight for the MSC and all of the ‘other’ leagues immediately upon joining the Pac 12. No doubt Little Johnny spent a portion of his weekend discussing that with Tom Hanson.

accchampFor a few more days, at least, the words ‘college football playoff’ were in the headlines. As usual, the demands make little economic sense. Those claiming that any playoff could be structured around the existing bowls are those who do not travel to bowl games. The notion that tens of thousands of fans would spend thousands of dollars travelling from bowl to bowl on a week’s notice is not one that has been thought out. The ACC Championship Game is certainly providing solid evidence of what kind of crowds could be expected.

Economic logic would seem to dictate that if a playoff were a more profitable means of conducting a postseason, then we would already have a playoff. It would take an unwieldy 16-team amalgamation to include all of the non-BCS leagues so bitterly complaining that they are not getting guaranteed checks. If a first-round game of Oklahoma wiping up the floor of the Cotton Bowl with some RUTS Belt team actually generated any more revenue, then the boys at Disney and Fox would have demanded it. They didn’t. That means that this is not about increasing the postseason pie, but merely redistributing the existing one. That is certainly something you would expect Obama to demand, but a Republican from Texas? The Looking Glass world of Washington continues.

Who knows, at some point down the road we might see a playoff. It will likely start with the much-discussed ‘Plus One,’ then expand to four and then perhaps eight teams. Accompanying it will be what enough AD’s have discussed both publicly and privately to confirm its eventual creation, the Super Division. Before they see their member schools’ budgets cut from the $1-2 mil they are currently getting to the $100k the socialization of football postseason revenues would bring, the six BCS leagues [Notre Dame by then will be the 12th member of the Big 11], will break away from the Little 5, likely leaving the latter merged with I-AA, the FCS or whatever it is called this year. That Boise State AD clamoring for a playoff will have one. The first round game with a Big Sky team should draw well.


  1. Chuck Vipperman — May 4, 2009 #

    Said it before, say it again. The list of things that Congress has gotten involved in, which have subsequently improved, is a short list.


  2. He Who King, PhD — May 4, 2009 #

    LOL, Jim!

    This reads like a script of “Airplane!” , every other sentence a quotation gem.

    “Little Feller conferences”, “…remarkable powers of concentration to refrain from laughing out loud at some of the idiotic remarks”, “to Warner [sic] his home-state Utes and BYU into the Pac 10”, “Adios, losers”, “brings a PT Barnum-styled spectacle of grief and woe. Catastrophe abounds, or so we are told…”, “The Looking Glass world of Washington continues”, and so much more!



    Jim Reply:

    I would have chosen Kapnist’s ‘The Chicane,’ but you have the PhD.


  3. JDanWuff — May 4, 2009 #

    Housing crisis, banks, Wall Street, automobiles, Swine flu, John Wall, and now college football. Do what they will the others, but if they mess with college football, the blunderbuss comes off the mantle.


  4. cgb — May 5, 2009 #

    “the #1 trouble is not financial problems, nuclear threats from rogue nations or whether governmental printing presses can produce enough cash for Obama to hand out to his political cronies stimulate the economy. No, according to Congress, the most pressing national issue is how college football determines its champion. Who knew?”

    Every article I’ve read bashing Congress involving itself in the BCS has started off that way. It’s totally asinine because if infers Congress has put up a “Gone BCS Fixin'” sign on the front door of the Capitol Building. It has not. I’ll repeat what I have posted on my own blog here, “it’s not like all 535 voting members of Congress are being locked in a room forced to toss out their favorite playoff system.” Two congressmen are at the forefront of doing away with the BCS, a couple of others are involved. If we call if five total BCS slaying congressmen then that’s 5/535 (voting congressmen) for .9% of Congress spending a fraction of it’s time on the BCS.


    Carovahokie Reply:

    CGB – I gotta disagree… I feel perfectly justified at being upset if 1% of my employees are wasting company time pursuing matters which have nothing to do with what I’ve hired them to do and which have no bearing on my company’s functioning or interests. I see no difference here – we’re paying a LOT of money for these elected representatives to conduct their business. I would prefer that business be the business of the Federal Government. Just because the Constitution gives them the right to meddle in College Football via the interstate commerce clause doesn’t mean that they should be meddling in it.


    cgb Reply:

    I should have included it in my original comment but I think the BCS is their business. The BCS has a possible monopoly over college football’s big money and championship games. I think that is well worth <1% of Congress’ time to investigate that claim.


  5. Carovahokie — May 5, 2009 #

    I’m not sure if I agree that the BCS is a monopoly… any group of colleges could band together and market their product independently – the BCS Schools are just the most successful at doing it.

    Even if the BCS could be legally defined as a monopoly, I think that what bugs me about this is that the Congressional hearings were completely unnecessary. We have a bureaucracy that is in-place that is very good at investigating and analyzing things like monopolies and very good at addressing violations utilizing legal structures that are well established. What gets to me about the congressional behavior is that these guys were utilizing my money to create a dog & pony show in order to make themselves look good. I’m tired of it – I’m ready for congress to start taking their job a little more seriously.


    Jim Reply:

    The idea that the BCS is a monopoly is absurd. With all the lawyers around, if it were you can bet lawsuits would have been filed. Remember the Tulane president years ago? He got nowhere. This is about grandstanding congressional clowns and the minor conferences looking for a handout they can’t earn in the marketplace.


  6. Errolll Doss — May 5, 2009 #

    Professional politicians are some of the most useless humans on earth.

    CGB, what would say if the 6 BCS conferences withdrew from the NCAA and started their own separate governing body? Would that be a monopoly? Or are you saying that even if the 6 BCS conferences formed their own athletic association and proclamed a championship football team, Congress would be in it’s right to force the new athletic association to give money to the “little guys”?

    Remember, you can always tell when a politician is lying. Watch his/her/its lips. If they are moving, he/she/it is lying.

    Also, be careful what rocks you kick over. You just might uncover another politician.


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