Bowl system in need of overhaul


POSTED: Monday, May 11, 2009

With the support of President Barack Obama, colleges and universities on the outside of football's Bowl Championship Series are increasing pressure to end the monopoly. Antitrust measures should begin in the Justice Department and/or by state attorneys general to demand a playoff system present in all other sports at all levels.

In a “;60 Minutes”; interview a month before he took office, Obama called for playoffs and added, “;I don't know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this. So I'm going to throw my weight around a little bit.”;

The president has obvious priorities on his agenda, but his remark was music to the ears of U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, who had called for a Justice Department investigation earlier last year in a proposed resolution with Reps. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., and Mike Simpson, R-Idaho. Four days after the television interview, Abercrombie fired off a letter to then-President-elect Obama, urging “;vigorous pursuit”; by government lawyers.

A U.S. House subcommittee heard testimony recently on a silly proposal to deny the BCS honchos the right to name the final game the “;National Championship.”; Not much else can be done to a system that is entrenched in a contract with ESPN through the 2013 system.

Since a Hail Mary is ruled out, reformers will need to grind it out in federal court, accusing the six most powerful conferences of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act in hogging the five end-of-season bowl games. “;Where there's a will, there's a way to make things happen in a more timely fashion,”; Gene Bleymaier, Boise State's athletic director, told the panel.

Another way could be through the politically ambitious Republican attorney general of Utah, Mark Shurtleff. He has been talking for several months about bringing an antitrust suit against the BCS and plans to try recruiting other state attorneys general to the cause at their summer meeting next month in Colorado.

Like the 2007 Rainbow Warriors, the University of Utah finished last season with a spotless record and was rejected from the championship game. (Unlike Hawaii, which was pummeled in the Sugar Bowl by Georgia, Utah defeated fourth-ranked Alabama and finished ranked No. 2.)

Shurtleff might be the wrong quarterback for such an effort. A third-term elected attorney general, he reportedly is considering a challenge to 75-year-old GOP Sen. Bob Bennett next year, or a run for governor in 2012. Shurtleff held a fundraising event last week that he promoted on his Facebook page as “;a dinner to let you know what we are doing about the blatantly unfair college football championships.”;