Lawmakers urge probe into college bowl series
Abercrombie says the selection process might be illegal
WASHINGTON » Forget government corruption or corporate fraud.
Three members of Congress want the Justice Department to investigate whether college football's Bowl Championship Series is an illegal enterprise.
Reps. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., and Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, are introducing a resolution rejecting the oft-criticized bowl system as an illegal restriction on trade. The resolution would require Justice's antitrust division to investigate whether the system violates federal law.
The measure also would put Congress on record as supporting a college football playoff.
"Who elected these NCAA people? Who are they to decide who competes for the championship?" Abercrombie said at a press conference yesterday on Capitol Hill, gripping a souvenir University of Hawaii football.
Abercrombie said the matter is worthy of federal review because college football is big business with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake.
"It's money. That's what this is all about," he said.
The lawmakers say the bowl system blocks all but the largest universities from competing in postseason bowls, denying dozens of others not just the opportunity to compete, but also a shot at the big payoffs and national exposure that come with bowl appearances.
Abercrombie maintained that television markets are one factor in selecting which teams go to high-profile bowls.
Westmoreland said he and Abercrombie began discussing the issue last season after the University of Georgia Bulldogs were passed over for the national championship game and matched up instead with Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl. Georgia won 41-10.
"We shouldn't have to argue about who the champion is," Westmoreland said, citing the excitement and unpredictability of the NCAA college basketball tournament. "That should be decided on the field."
The BCS was created in 1998 by the six most powerful conferences. It relies on polls and computer ratings to determine which teams qualify for the top bowls.
Congress held a hearing on the BCS in 2005, but no legislation came of it.
BCS officials did not immediately return phone messages yesterday.