WASHINGTON College football's Bowl Championship Series system is illegally rigged against schools that are not members of the six largest conferences, potentially costing them millions annually and frustrating fans over which team is the national champion, House lawmakers charged Thursday.
The 53 Division 1 universities on the outside are left with "crumbs," said Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, a lead sponsor on a resolution introduced Thursday calling for the Justice Department to investigate whether the BCS is illegally restraining trade.
"Everybody else is ... looking in as if they were Oliver Twist with a little begging bowl ... saying, 'Please Mr. NCAA Bowl Championship Series director, may we have some more gruel,"' said Abercrombie, an alumnus of the non-BCS University of Hawaii.
Since the BCS was instituted in 1998, it has been the focus of an annual debate among fans over whether the victor in the BCS, which is declared the national champion, is actually the best team.
That was true this year when the University of Georgia Bulldogs, a BCS team, wasn't given a spot in the national championship game and instead demolished the University of Hawaii Warriors 41-10 in the Sugar Bowl. The Warriors were invited to play, based on their record and standing in weekly polls.
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., another sponsor of the resolution, said many Georgia fans believed they deserved a shot to play for the national title.
"We can argue all day about whether Georgia deserved that shot or not that is the point," Westmoreland said. "We shouldn't have to argue about who the champion is. That needs to be decided on the field."
Abercrombie, Westmoreland and Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, another sponsor, said the process of selecting a college football national champion restricts the opportunity to compete for the title in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
It also limits access to more than $185 million in postseason revenue to the 66 NCAA Division 1 teams in the BCS conferences and the University of Notre Dame, which is an independent. The other Division 1 teams received $32 million in postseason revenue, the lawmakers said.
The BCS system is anti-competitive because it restricts the non-BCS schools from fairly competing for the title and a bigger share of the money, Abercrombie said.
This isn't the first time Congress has tried to find some way to deal with the controversial BCS system. Both the House and Senate Judiciary committees held hearings in 2003 and the House Energy and Commerce Committee held one in 2005.