Judiciary chair says BCS format is faulty

Updated: September 4, 2003, 5:31 PM ET
Associated Press

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.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press