Senator Orrin Hatch launches new attacks on BCS

Published: Wednesday, March 10 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

WASHINGTON — Spring football practice is beginning at many universities. And after a bit of an off-season, Sen. Orrin Hatch resumed attacks Tuesday on the Bowl Championship Series, too.

Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., sent a letter to BCS executive director Bill Hancock attacking — and seeking more information about — BCS revenue sharing, TV contracts, computer rankings and even whether money that should go to colleges is instead being spent to lobby Congress.

Besides that letter, Hatch also issued a press release saying, "It's clear that the BCS is fundamentally unfair and harmful to schools, students, college football fans and consumers throughout the country."

He added, "I think the architects of the BCS should provide the public with more information to dispel the notion that the system is explicitly designed to favor certain teams while disfavoring others."

Perhaps hell hath no fury like a senator whose home-state college football teams have been dissed by the BCS — such as when the University of Utah was undefeated two seasons ago but was excluded from the BCS National Championship Game in favor of two teams that each had a loss.

Hatch and Baucus requested information about several developments that they said raise "additional questions" about the fairness of the BCS.

For example, they said press reports during the bowl season said conferences that sent one team each to BCS bowls would receive $18.5 million each.

"However, news accounts indicate that both the Mountain West Conference and the Western Athletic Conference, both of which are non-privileged conferences which sent one team to the BCS, received only a fraction of the revenue paid to the six privileged conferences that also sent one team," they wrote.

The senators said they want to know why.

They also want the BCS to de-mystify formulas used in six computer rankings that are utilized, in part, to determine BCS rankings and who will play in the championship game.

"The exact standards utilized to derive the computer rankings have not been made public. This is particularly troubling in that the apparent reason for including the computer rankings is to ensure some level of objectivity," they wrote.

They said something seems askew since Texas Christian University of the Mountain West finished the regular season undefeated, but ranked only fifth.

The senators said one team ranked higher had a loss, and TCU had as many wins against ranked opponents as two teams that finished higher in computer rankings. They also complained that undefeated Boise State was tied in computer rankings with two-loss Oregon.

The two senators also said they want more information about the BCS's new TV contract that will bring it an estimated $500 million over four years. "The actual revenue distribution under the new contract has not been made public," the senators complained.

They worry that revenue disparity among six conferences with automatic berths to BCS bowls and the five conferences without them "is going to increase under the new arrangement." They noted, "Over the last several years, we have seen increase in parity in competition" among all schools.

The two senators also questioned the hiring of an executive director and a lobbying/public relations firm by the BCS.

They asked whether such spending is being "paid from funds that would otherwise be distributed to the schools?" In short, they wonder if schools from conferences without automatic BCS berths may be giving up money to lobby against their chances of obtaining better treatment from the BCS.

The senators said, "Our concerns are not only with the current system employed by the BCS, but that the BCS's public representations do not accurately reflect the practical manner in which the system operates."

Hancock issued a statement in response to the senators' letter: "I look forward to carefully reviewing the senators' letter with its many requests. However, it sure seems odd for Congress to worry so much about college football when the nation has so many important issues to deal with."

e-mail: lee@desnews.com

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