Congress Should Keep Its Hands Off College Football

Todd FlemingAnalyst IMay 5, 2009

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 02:  Brent Casteel #5 of the Utah Utes runs with the ball against the UCLA Bruins during the college football game held on Septemeber 2, 2006 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The Bruins defeated the Utes 31-10.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The big news in college football this week was that Congress was holding hearings on the BCS with the design of forcing a Division I-A college playoff. 

While I’d love to see a college playoff, this is an outrage. 

Quite simply, Congress has no business, or authority, to stick its nose in on this issue.

The congressmen who are pushing the issue are saying that the BCS is in violation of federal trade laws, likely pointing to the interstate commerce provision in the Constitution. 

Whenever the government or the courts point to that provision, it is a good bet that they are trying to usurp authority well beyond what is granted in the Constitution.  That is their catch-all provision whenever they want to take action they know they have no authority taking.  

Representative Joe Barton of Texas is quoted as saying, “If we don’t see some action in the next two months, on a voluntary switch to a playoff system, then you will see this bill move.”

That would be a clear-cut usurpation of power.  Congress is not elected to oversee college football.  Do we really want the likes of Senators Arlen Specter and Orrin Hatch or Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi having a say in sports?  While we may be cheering them now, think about the precedent that sets.

Means matter just as much as the ends.  We should not be rooting the government on just because we might get the result we want. 

This is not the first time this has happened.  It was just as outrageous when Senator Spector was calling the NFL commissioner before Congress over the Patriots’ “Spygate” scandal.

Nor was their decision to implement Title IX free of unintended consequences.  While the goal of lifting up women’s athletics was noble, and perhaps warranted, it came at the expense of men’s programs at many schools.

While Congress had a bit more authority in the baseball hearings, that also devolved into a money-wasting farce.

These sports leaders who are chosen and paid to make these decisions should not have to perform the walk of shame before Congress, where they are treated almost like criminals. 

Even apart from the legal argument, should Congress really be neglecting other priorities so it can focus on the BCS?  This is political grandstanding and nothing more.  These politicians are attempting to stake out a position that is popular with their constituencies.

I write this as someone who is very sympathetic towards Utah and as one of biggest Mountain West Conference champions on here.  The Utes should have had a chance to compete for a national championship.  For that matter, they should have played a better opponent a few years ago than a weak Pittsburgh squad. 

Boise State should have also had the opportunity to compete for a national championship as part of a playoff system a couple years back.  Would anyone of those teams have won?  I doubt it, although this year's Utah team certainly had a shot. 

Life isn’t fair.  Even my kids have figured that out.  But Congress is not elected to be the monitors of fairness.

Personally, I think the BCS system is awful.  When a BCS conference has a wretched year, their lowly-ranked “champion” should not be waltzing off to the Orange Bowl.  But, that’s the system as we have it right now. 

It is up to the public to demand a change to the product.  If that change doesn’t happen, then so be it.  With the growing groundswell of support for a playoff, I think it will happen, and sooner than later. 

Should there be a college playoff system?  Absolutely.  Should it be decided upon high by a congressional fiat?  No thank you.