Congressmen Join Fight to Kill College Football's BCS

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Updated 4:33 p.m. ET

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) said Monday that they are backing a federal political action committee "dedicated to discarding the Bowl Championship Series and instituting a competitive post-season championship for college football."

The people behind Playoff PAC – whose tagline is "Beat the BCS. Save College Football." – believe that the Bowl Championship Series is "inherently flawed," the group said in a press release.

"It crowns champions arbitrarily and stifles inter-conference competition," the group argued.

"Fans, players, schools, and corporate sponsors will be better served when the BCS is replaced with an accessible playoff system that recognizes and rewards on-the-field accomplishment. To that end, Playoff PAC helps elect pro-reform political candidates, mobilizes public support, and provides a centralized source of pro-reform news, thought, and scholarship."

Abercrombie said the release of BCS rankings on Sunday underscore the fact that "selecting a major college football national champion is still arbitrary and anti-competitive."

"The BCS process continues to operate like an exclusive country club rather than a true play-off system," he said. "I fully support Playoff PAC's efforts to bring change to college football."

Hatch echoed that sentiment, calling the BCS "fundamentally unfair."

(AP)
"I've always hoped that the government would not have to get involved and that those with the power to reform the system would recognize the error of their ways," said Hatch, who hails from Utah. "But, even after hearing the complaints of millions of college football fans, not to mention government officials, they are apparently unwilling to make any significant changes. That being case, I'm supportive of all reasonable efforts to ensure that students and schools are treated fairly and a national playoff system being advocated by Playoff PAC seems like a reasonable way to accomplish that goal."

Incidentally, the University of Utah, a non-BCS school, went 13-0 in 2008, beating well-regarded teams like Oregon State, TCU, BYU and Alabama along the way. But the team was frozen out of contention for the national championship.

Bill Hancock, a BCS administrator, emailed a response to the lawmakers' comments.

"The BCS has brought more popularity, more resources and more fun to college football since it started delivering a national title game each year," he said. "It has also provided more opportunities for more players, teams and fans – in more conferences - to participate in the bowl atmosphere."

"With all due respect, we think college football decisions should be made by college football, not the politicians in Washington," said Hancock.

Barton called the BCS system "a farce." A Texan, Barton saw his state's strong team left out of the championship game last year as well.

"It arbitrarily selects champions and reduces competition between conferences," he said. "College football's post-season championship should be decided on the field, and that's why a playoff system is needed. I look forward to working with Playoff PAC in reforming college football."

Under the BCS, strong teams that don't play in major conferences -- like the University of Utah and Brigham Young University in Utah -- have little chance at the national championship, even if they go undefeated. Another team that falls into this category is the University of Hawaii, Abercrombie's home state.

In its release, Playoff PAC organizers said that until now there have only been a "small, dedicated group of federal officeholders" working on the issue.

"The BCS has wrongly dismissed them as political panderers and quickly diffused pressure that resulted from congressional hearings and legislation," they said. "The BCS could not successfully do this if the coalition of college football reformers were broader. This 'reform caucus' must be expanded so BCS officials understand that federal intervention is imminent if they refuse to answer the public's calls for change. Playoff PAC will therefore vigorously support pro-reform candidates and defend individuals who advance reform proposals."

"The BCS's days without daily, active, and organized opposition are over," they added.

The BCS rankings showed Florida in the top spot, followed by Alabama, Texas, Boise State and Cincinnati.

In an interview with "60 Minutes" last November, shortly after he was elected, President Obama said college football should have a playoff. (He had previously said something similar on "Monday Night Football.") The president even laid out specifics:

"Eight teams," he said. "That would be three rounds to determine a national champion. It would add three extra weeks to the season. You could trim back on the regular season. I don't know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this. So, I'm going to throw my weight around a little bit. I think it's the right thing to do."

In January, he restated his case and said that undefeated Utah had "a pretty good claim" to the national championship in an interview with the New York Times. (He restated the argument the next day as well.)

"I think USC, which had a great Rose Bowl, beat Penn State pretty badly," he continued. "They've got a pretty good claim to being number one. Florida and Oklahoma, I think, both have a claim. Texas, at this point, has got to feel like, 'Well, we did OK, too.' I think–I think a football playoff system makes sense. I've spoken about this quite a bit, and I think if you look at knowledgeable sports fans, they agree with me."