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Judiciary chair says BCS format is faulty

9/4/2003

WASHINGTON -- Two weeks into the new college football
season, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said Thursday
the system in which a national collegiate champion is determined
needs to be changed.

"I think you're throwing the baby out with the bath water by
allowing this to continue," Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said
of the NCAA's Bowl Championship Series, which excludes many schools
from automatic bids to compete in the lucrative bowl postseason.

But even one of the most vocal opponents said Congress should
not get involved.

"Whatever issues may exist, it really should be worked among
the university presidents without the intervention of Congress,"
Tulane University's president, Scott Cowen, said in advance of
Thursday's hearing. He founded an anti-BCS organization designed to
get schools such as Tulane a better shot at one of the big year-end
bowl games.

Former NFL quarterback Steve Young, who played in college at
Brigham Young and for the San Francisco 49ers, among other
professional teams, said the disparities hurt recruiting since
athletes will sometimes choose to attend schools with a better shot
of going to a bowl game.

"In soccer, basketball, baseball, tennis, golf, etc., equal
access is granted. Not so in football," he said.

In the system's five-year history, no team from a non-BCS
conference has played in a BCS bowl game. BYU has been the only
school from a non-BCS conference other than Notre Dame to win a
national championship since Army in 1945.

Cowen's Presidential Coalition for Athletic Reform and BCS
representatives will meet Monday in Chicago to discuss the series'
future. The current BCS contract expires after the 2005 season.

Participants hope solutions will emerge within the next six
months to a year. Proposals expected to be brought to the table
include adding another one or two bowl games to the schedule.

Neither supporters nor detractors of the bowl system expect
legislation to result, although the threat of an antitrust suit
brought by a non-BCS school looms.

BCS supporters say the system does not violate antitrust rules
because it is open to all schools through two at-large bids. Cowen
said Thursday that an antitrust suit is possible if upcoming talks
with BCS officials do not yield satisfactory results.

The BCS was established before the 1998 season to determine the
national champion by matching the best teams in either the Rose
Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl or Fiesta Bowl.

The champions from the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big 12, Big
Ten, Pac-10 and Southeastern conferences receive automatic bids.
There are also two at-large bids that are open to all Division I-A
schools.

Tulane went undefeated in 1998 but was excluded from the BCS
bowls when it finished 11th in the BCS standings.

The projected revenue for the four 2004 BCS games is $118
million, but only about $6 million will go to the 55 non-BCS
schools unless one of them qualifies for a major bowl game.

"This conglomeration of money and power is having a cascading
impact far beyond major college football, as the de facto exclusion
of non-BCS schools from major bowl games is resulting in those
schools having lower athletic budgets, inferior athletic
facilities, and rising deficits," said Rep. John Conyers of
Michigan, the committee's top Democrat.