The change we need: BCS playoffs

Travis Quezon

Amidst the biggest economic crisis we have faced in our lifetimes, two fledgling wars, and a major transition in solving the healthcare situation, Americans dared to hope and elected the candidate for change.

Rest assured, it's change we will see—eventually. And while we may have to wait for those other problems to be solved over the course of President-Elect Barrack Obama's first term, we can sleep better knowing that one crisis is at the top of our national lawmakers' list: fixing college football's Bowl Championship Series (BCS).

A week after Mr. Obama announced that he would push for an eight-team BCS playoff to crown a national champion, Hawai'i Rep. Neil Abercrombie issued a statement reminding the American public of his House resolution to establish a Division I football playoff system to bring parity to all National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) teams.

"Sunday's selection of the University of Oklahoma as Big 12 South champion, based on computerized Bowl Championship Series (BCS) rankings, makes an ironclad case that the BCS selection process is seriously flawed," Mr. Abercrombie said. "As President-elect Barack Obama has pointed out, it should be replaced with a true playoff system."

The resolution calls for the House of Representatives to:

1. Reject the BCS system as an illegal restraint of trade that violates the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

2. Demand the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division to investigate and bring appropriate action the have the BCS system declared illegal and require a playoff to determine a national champion.

3. Support the establishment of an NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision Championship playoff system in the interest of fairness.

The current BCS system has for years funneled money into the pockets of a handful of colleges and prevented qualified non-BCS football teams from competing for the national championship, critics say.

Mr. Abercrombie calls The University of Texas football team this year's most visible victim to the current BCS system, which uses a combination of subjective human polls and controversial computer polls to determine who competes in the national championship game.

Earlier this year, Texas defeated the University of Oklahoma by ten points, Mr. Abercrombie said. However, the computer ranking system placed Oklahoma ahead of Texas and into the title game for the Big 12 Championship. Both teams finished with 11-1 records at the end of the regular season.

The danger in college footbal, explained independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, lies in the fact that an undisputed consolidation of power and money—in the form of the BCS—controls who plays in the major bowl games.

"The BCS operates independently from, and without accountability to, the NCAA," Ralph Nader said.

"The BCS operates independently from, and without accountability to, the NCAA," Mr. Nader writes. "It is controlled by commissioners from the six major college football 'power conferences' plus the Athletic Director of the independent Notre Dame. This arrangement is agreed to, reluctantly, by the commissioners of the remaining five 'mid-major' conferences [such as Hawai'i's Western Athletic Converence (WAC) who do not receive automatic bids to the BCS bowl games as do teams in the power conferences]."

Calls for changes to the BCS ranking system has resulted in action in the past. In the 2004-2005 season, three non-BCS teams with perfect records (Auburn, Utah, and Bosie State) were denied a chance to play for the national championship. The following season, after major criticisms and increasing use of the word "monopoly" in the media, the BCS added a fifth bowl game, which allowed for the possibility of two non-BCS teams to compete.

In the 2006 season, the WAC's Boise State was able to play in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and defeated Big 12 champion Oklahoma in overtime. And the 2007 season saw the University of Hawai'i's undefeated Warriors play in a loss to Georgia at the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

While the BCS bowl game appearances for Boise and Hawai'i offered opportunities to colleges never before had, the system is still broken, lawmakers contend.

House Resolution 1120, introduced by Mr. Abercrombie, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA), Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT), and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), brings attention to the differences in money received between BCS conferences and non-BCS conferences.

BCS conferences received an average of $25,500,000 in revenue for the 2006 and 2007 post seasons, while non-BCS conferences received an average of $5,000,000.

The resolution also states that "the BCS system makes it highly unlikely that a non-automatic BCS qualifying conference team will ever compete for the BCS National Championship and rarely able to play in a BCS bowl game."

Should Mr. Abercrombie and President-elect Obama see their promises to fruition, change will have been brought to the only major college sport without an NCAA championship—and big money will more readily make its way to non-BCS colleges.