2 UVSC profs deem BCS unethical

Published: Thursday, Sept. 20 2007 12:07 a.m. MDT

OREM — Two weeks into this college football season, Brigham Young University and the University of Utah had already blown their chances of playing in a Bowl Championship Series game.

The only longshot left in the Mountain West Conference is Air Force, which to bust the BCS must beat BYU in Provo on Saturday, remain undefeated by winning its last eight games, and climb from total obscurity in the polls to the top 12 in the BCS rankings.

That's unfair, unethical and possibly illegal, a pair of Utah Valley State College professors said Wednesday during a presentation for UVSC's annual Ethics Awareness Week.

Dennis Farnsworth and Jon Moore encouraged the MWC to file an antitrust lawsuit against the BCS together with the four other Division I Football Bowl Subdivision conferences, whose champions aren't guaranteed a berth in BCS bowl games.

Moore went a step further and said it is unethical for the NCAA not to step in and level the playing field for all teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, formally known as Division I-A. The NCAA hosts 88 national championships each year, guaranteeing fair competition in playoff or other championship formats, Moore said, but "for college football, the NCAA does not necessarily guarantee fair competition."

"The NCAA as a regulatory body has full control over basketball and all its other sports, and the courts should step in and force it to do the same in football."

After the presentation, Moore said, "If you consider irresponsible behavior to be unethical, yes, the NCAA isn't acting ethically."

The NCAA membership has never voted on the creation of a playoff for the Bowl Subdivision. It conducts a 16-team playoff for the Division I Football Championship Subdivision, previously known as Division I-AA, and Divisions II and III.

Farnsworth is a history professor who earned two degrees at BYU and one at the U. Moore is a geography professor who earned his doctorate at Ohio State and just finished a four-year run as UVSC's faculty athletic representative.

The duo found willing listeners in a room dominated by students, who clearly were fans of BYU — they said the school's 1984 national championship helped launch the BCS — and U. fans. Utah and neighboring Idaho have produced the only two BCS-busters — Utah in 2004 and Boise State in 2006.

The professors made several errors during the presentation. They said there are four BCS bowls, but the BCS added a fifth bowl last year. They estimated Boise State took home about $400,000 last year after splitting their BCS/Fiesta Bowl earnings with the other WAC teams, but the WAC got $9 million, with 70 percent going to Boise State, according to The Associated Press.

They gave evidence against the BCS as a monopoly because of its exclusive TV deal with Disney-owned ABC — "The BCS keeps Disney one of the more profitable businesses in the United States," Moore said — but the BCS switched to Fox last year. Only the Rose Bowl remains on ABC.

The BCS, begun as four bowls — Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar — and six conferences — Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, ACC and SEC — now on its Web site counts the other five conferences — MWC, WAC, Conference USA, Mid-American and Sun Belt — as part of the BCS.

The reason? A deal struck last year gives one championship team from the outside group an automatic berth in a BCS bowl game if it finishes in the top 12 in the final BCS standings or it finishes in the top 16 ahead of the champion of one of the conferences with an automatic berth.

"The BCS is not an exclusive system that rewards only a few," according to a standing rebuttal on the BCS Web site that points to Utah's 2004 success. "The selection process has been further adjusted to allow even more such access in the future."

The professors mounted an interesting case against the BCS for monopolizing bowl revenues. The five BCS bowls will pay $17 million to each team that participates in its games in January, though the payout drops for a second team from a conference. The other 27 bowls generate a fraction of that total for their teams, making it tougher for "non-BCS" schools to compete in a number of ways.

"The power resides with a few competitors," Farnsworth said.

"Those schools in these conferences have not been allowed access to the big money that comes from major media conglomerates," Moore said.

That financial injury could give them standing in a federal court. To prove their case, however, they would have to prove the alleged monopoly gave BCS schools an advantage in recruiting and licensing revenues.

A lawsuit would be risky, Moore acknowledged, because it could cost millions. And the five "aggrieved" conferences have set aside the talk of a lawsuit or possible congressional action in recent years as they have tried to work with the BCS to increase their access to the bowl games and payouts.


Fehlberg to vote in Harris Poll this year

Former BYU athletic director Rondo Fehlberg will be one of 114 panelists in this year's Harris Interactive College Football Poll.

The poll is commissioned by the Bowl Championship Series and is part of the selection process for the five BCS bowl games.

The first BCS/Harris Interactive standings will be released Sunday.


E-mail: twalch@desnews.com

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