The End May Very Well Be Nigh for the BCS

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The End May Very Well Be Nigh for the BCS
(Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

A president expresses his disapproval, the head of the organization says "thanks, but no thanks," and then there is a Congress hearing scheduled to probe into anti-trust law violations.

The BCS is going down the exact same road the baseball's players union did when congress decided to take on MLB's steroid problem.

At this point, the only difference between how the two stories is unfolding is the names of the people making the claim that their is no need for Congress to get involved and that they will not change their policies.  

Donald Fehr change his tune dramatically after meeting with congress. Going from the stance that the player's union will never agree to testing to the player's union is working with Major League Baseball to find a testing policy that is fair to both the fans and the players of the MLB. 

That dramatic shift happened in just a few short days after the Player's union realized how seriously congress was taking the issue. 

Will BCS Commissioner John Swofford be smart enough to change his tact now that a congressional subcommittee has announced they will hold hearings on the BCS?

Sen. Orrin Hatch, of Utah, of course, has said he plans to introduce legislation "to rectify the situation."

"As I have said before, the BCS system is anti-competitive, unfair and un-American. I am looking forward to exploring what legislative remedies might be applied to fix a system that violates our nation's antitrust laws by placing non-BCS universities at a serious competitive disadvantage." 

Hatch continues, "(the BCS system) has proven itself to be inadequate, not only for those of us who are fans of college football, but for anyone who believes that competition and fair play should have a role in collegiate sports.”

Hatch has gotten support as well from the senior democrat on the committee, Herb Kohl, of Wisconsin. Kohl seems to be on the offensive for those who will say that the congress has more important economic issues.

"In these challenging economic times, the need for strong antitrust law to protect competition has never been greater," Kohl said in a press release. But he added, "We will also pursue several important reforms to antitrust law to ensure that undue barriers to competition are eliminated."

Hatch has some supporters in congress that have already publicly cried foul recently about the BCS. A congressman from another state recently spurned by the BCS, Texas republican Joe Barton, will no doubt side with Hatch.

Barton, recently sponsored legislation to not allow the the BCS to call their final game a national championship unless the game culminates from a playoff system. He is a natural ally for the playoff push by Hatch and Kohl.

Do not forget the support of the first fan, President Barack Obama. 

It was George Bush's desire to get a steroid policy in place that helped lead to the congressional hearings that got a policy implemented in baseball. Thus, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Obama's support can go a long way to getting it passed.

The powerful entity that will stand up for them is television and that is no small partner but it will not be a unified front.

Do you think that Fox is going to stand up for the BCS after losing their contract to ESPN? Or that CBS will get firmly behind the BCS when the NCAA playoffs are such a cash cow for them and the one conference they have a football contract with, the SEC, is pushing for a playoff.

The current TV contracts with ESPN and ABC can be broken up by Congress if they see them as an antitrust exemption.

The NCAA will stand up against congress but have not had much luck with Anti-trust Cases in the past.

When the Universities of Oklahoma and Georgia sued the NCAA in the 1980's claiming there TV policies violated Antitrust laws they had little support from congress. Actually, the case, that OU-Georgia won, claimed that the NCAA negotiating TV contracts instead of the institutions violated Anti-trust laws.

What the BCS is doing by negotiating contracts for many bowls across state lines doesn't fall to far from what the NCAA was doing that lead to the lawsuit. 

The last thing to look at is that the BCS is not going to have many vocal supporters defending them.

The corporate sponsors will not make to much of a fuss because they know they can advertise and get their messages out just as well through a playoff and it may even open up more high-profile opportunities for them to sponsor.

The BCS's most vocal supporters, the college presidents, may not be willing to speak out against the wishes of congress or the president either.

Why? Because many of them have political aspirations and would not want to upset congress, the president or more importantly their potential constituents by defending the BCS to the bitter end.  

Which leads me to the last reason the end of the BCS may be nigh.

It is unpopular!

Every year the fans, the coaches, the players and the conferences of the sport our subjected to the BCS the more unpopular it becomes.  Now well over half prefer a playoff and that number will continue to grow unless the current format is changed.

Eventually, in the United States the will of the people almost always wins.  Thus, if it continues to grow more unpopular the BCS has little chance of surviving as it is.

So, John Swofford needs to make sure he works with congress to ensure the future of the BCS. 

If he decides to stand up against Congress, he will get smacked down the way the the Players union did. The Congress has the ultimate control over whether you are allowed to maximize your profits and that is the ultimate trump card that will always put them in the drivers seat. 

Swofford can still save the BCS but not without major changes, he needs to accept that and work with those involved with the BCS to make sure it does not become entangled in litigation. The committee is not out to break up the BCS just form a playoff.

The easy answer is to accept the playoff and move on, you will be back to making millions in no time. 

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