Football bowl system needs close review
Rep. Neil Abercrombie and two other congressmen are calling for an antitrust investigation of the BCS.
Rep. Neil Abercrombie and two other congressmen from states whose home football teams felt begrudged in recent years have launched a protest against the system of choosing college teams for major bowls. Their call for the Justice Department to examine whether the system violates antitrust law is not likely to score, but the system needs further examination.
Abercrombie was joined by Reps. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., and Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, introducing a resolution calling for the Justice Department investigation. In consecutive years, Boise State and Hawaii were denied entry to the national championship game following perfect regular seasons.
Although it did not win its Southeastern Conference, Georgia finished its 2007 season with six straight victories and felt it should have been in the finale. It proved convincingly in the Sugar Bowl that it was superior to Hawaii, which had benefited from a weak schedule.
Ideally, a four-week playoff series similar to that in the National Football League, except at bowl sites instead of home field locations, would be the fairest method of choosing a champion. Instead, winners from the six "major" conferences, including the SEC, get automatic invitations to the top bowls while those from lesser conferences get invited only if they are highly ranked.
In congressional testimony three years ago, James E. Delaney, commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, explained that playoffs at bowl sites would be impractical. "Fans cannot be expected to travel to various locales around the nation on a weekly basis during the month of December," he said. Nor can host bowls plan in advance without knowing which teams will be playing.
That does not mean the often-criticized Bowl Championship Series should remain intact. The BCS must find a way to end college football's distinction as the only sport in which an undefeated team is denied an opportunity to be No. 1.
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