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Congress won't legislate after BCS hearings

12/7/2005 - College Football

WASHINGTON -- A playoff system could be used in major
college football and the so-called "plus-one" model for
determining a national champion should be reconsidered, the head of
the Bowl Championship Series told Congress on Wednesday.

When House Subcommittee on Commerce Trade and Consumer
Protection Chairman Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., pointed out that lower
divisions have playoffs for football, BCS coordinator Kevin Weiberg
said: "It certainly, congressman, is possible to have a playoff at
the Division I-A level, as well. We have chosen not to go down that
path."

Between jokes about needing tickets for bowl games and remarks
about more important matters they could be addressing, lawmakers on
the subcommittee -- which examined steroids in professional sports
earlier this year -- made clear they are not interested in pursuing
legislation.

But they did want to know why Division I-A football is the only
college sport without a playoff system.

"Why can't it do it? Why can't it do it?" asked Rep. Joe
Barton, R-Texas. "We're not going to introduce a playoff bill
after this hearing. But I hope this hearing causes discussion. I
would like to see the NCAA and the major conferences and the BCS
come together on their own to develop a playoff system."

Wyoming Rep. Barbara Cubin, who sits on the subcommittee, told
witnesses that the current system discriminates against teams in
the Mountain West. The University of Utah Utes, for example, were
undefeated last year but were outside the top two spots.

"If you're from the Mountain West you're not going to have the
chance to play for the national championship," Cubin said. "If
you had a playoff it seems to me that might reflect the ability of
the players a little bit more."

There are 28 bowls, and four are in the BCS: the Rose, Orange,
Fiesta and Sugar. Those take turns hosting a championship game
between the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the BCS standings, based on two
human polls and computer ratings.

The "plus-one" concept, where the fifth game of the BCS format
would be a championship game with two teams advancing from the
first four bowl games, was considered in 2004.

Weiberg, the commissioner of the Big 12 and one of six witnesses
Wednesday, testified that the "'plus-one' model is one that
deserves review. It is not one, as of yet, that has had full
opportunity for review."

He said he's open to changing the current setup but noted that
school presidents would have to approve playing extra postseason
games -- something they have shown no inclination to do.

Weiberg is in his final season as BCS coordinator. Southeastern
Conference commissioner Mike Slive starts a two-year tenure in
2006.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, Rose Bowl management committee
chairman William Johnstone and other witnesses offered several
arguments against playoffs: They would abandon tradition, diminish
the importance of the regular season, lower the economic impact of
some bowls, and create academic conflicts.

"The bowls are not perfect, and the Bowl Championship Series is
not perfect," Football Bowl Association chairman and Alamo Bowl
CEO Derrick Fox said. "But a playoff system is dangerous."

Barton questioned the concern about academics, citing a recent
report that said 41 percent of this year's bowl-bound college
football teams fall below the NCAA's new academic benchmark.

"Let's [not] use [academics] as an excuse not to have a playoff
system -- and then ignore it," Barton said.

He also wondered aloud whether money is the biggest reason there
isn't a playoff.

"Doesn't it really boil down to that the major bowls ... don't
want a playoff system because you think it's going to impinge on
the money that the big bowls make?" Barton said.

Delany responded that "an NFL-style football playoff would
provide three to four times as many dollars to the Big Ten as the
current system does. There is no doubt in my mind that we are
leaving hundreds of millions of dollars on the table."

The BCS was created in 1998 by the six most powerful
conferences. Since then, the system has been tweaked to make it
easier for teams from smaller conferences to qualify for the top
games.

Cubin said Wyoming's victory over UCLA in last year's Las Vegas
Bowl shows that the system should be changed.

"Wyoming went to the Las Vegas Bowl and played UCLA, and UCLA
was furious they had to play Wyoming -- and then we whupped 'em,"
said Cubin. "People's opinions don't necessarily reflect what the
results will be."