Thursday, January 8, 2009
Texas lawmaker wants college football playoffs
WASHINGTON -- President-elect Barack Obama and Texas congressman Joe Barton don't have much in common, but they do agree on one thing: the Bowl Championship Series must go.
Just hours before the national title game between top-ranked Florida (12-1) and No. 2 Oklahoma (12-1) in Miami, Barton proposed legislation to replace the BCS with a playoff system.
After all, several schools -- including Barton's home-state Texas Longhorns (12-1) -- believe their teams are the rightful champions.
"There's no way you can say that whoever wins tonight's game is demonstrably better than USC, Texas or Utah," Barton said in a telephone interview a few hours before Thursday's kickoff.
Barton, a graduate and fan of Texas A&M and the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, argued that billing the game a national championship is "patently deceptive." His legislation would prevent the NCAA from doing so unless the game culminates from a playoff system.
"A national championship in the most lucrative sport that the NCAA hosts should be determined on the playing fields, and not through arbitrary computer rankings that nobody understands," Barton said.
The BCS features a championship game between the two top teams in the BCS standings, based on two human polls and six computer ratings.
BCS administrator Bill Hancock declined to comment on the bill.
Barton said that when Obama made a courtesy call to him a few weeks ago, the congressman told him, "OK, Mr. President-elect, let's work together on this playoff system, because you said you're for a playoff, and I'm for a playoff."
According to Barton, Obama laughed and said, "Sure, let's do it."
Obama's transition office declined to comment.
Last November, Obama told "60 Minutes" he would prefer an eight-team playoff system.
"I don't know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this," he said. "So I'm going to throw my weight around a little bit."
The BCS is also under attack on another front. On Tuesday, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff announced he was investigating for a possible violation of federal antitrust laws. He argued the BCS unfairly puts schools such as Utah, a member of a conference without an automatic BCS bowl bid, at a competitive and financial disadvantage. Utah defeated No. 4 Alabama 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl last week, capping an undefeated season.
Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner and BCS coordinator John Swofford said Thursday the BCS has carefully considered the legality of its format.
"We've attempted to make every effort to make certain that any structure of the BCS is within the antitrust laws. Our legal people are comfortable that the BCS structure is," Swofford said during a Football Writers of American Association meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Barton denied that his bill amounted to congressional meddling.
"NCAA sports are under the jurisdiction of the Congress," he said.
The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Bobby Rush, an Illinois Democrat who chairs the committee's commerce, trade and consumer protection subcommittee, and Texas Republican Michael McCaul.
According to the most recent federal disclosure reports, the BCS spent $40,000 lobbying Congress in the first nine months of last year.