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Mike Sorensen: The BCS is going to need an act of Congress for change

Published: Monday, May 24 2010 12:15 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — I've never been one who gets all tied up in knots over the college football system.

A playoff system would be nice and makes a lot of sense, considering that nearly every other NCAA sport is determined through a tournament or end-of-season competition.

I also see some merit to keeping at least part of the bowl system, which has been around for nearly a century and provides a lot of schools (too many, right now) with the opportunity for late-season glory as well as fun holiday trips for their fans.

One thing I do know is that the current Bowl Championship Series system, which favors six conferences and 65 schools in particular, certainly isn't the answer. The BCS concocted a ponderous scheme that favors schools from elite conferences and allows them to pocket millions of dollars more than schools from other leagues, even if those leagues have better football teams.

The pandering words of Bowl Championship Series executive director Bill Hancock last week in a public letter to Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch and Montana Sen. Max Baucus made me laugh (and made Hatch furious).

The five-page letter with six pages of attachments tries to justify the existence of the BCS and explain why certain conferences are favored over others. The condescending letter basically says the Mountain West Conference and Western Athletic Conference should be happy with all that the BCS is doing for them, even if they aren't treated on the same level as the six BCS conferences.

Hancock and his BCS colleagues seem to think by throwing a few bones to the MWC and WAC that he can make criticism of the BCS's unfair system go away.

I particularly like the line that said without the BCS, Utah would have played in the Las Vegas Bowl in 2008 and earned $900,000 instead of $9 million for playing in the Sugar Bowl. Of course, he failed to mention that if Utah was treated like teams from the Big 12 and Big East, it would have pocketed a lot more money and not had to go through hoops to get in a BCS bowl in the first place.

Hancock and the BCS folks just don't get it. They can't see how blatantly unfair the current system, which favors six conferences over the other five conferences, is.

Hatch responded by calling some of the arguments "absurd" and said the BCS system was "biased, secretive and harmful to schools and competitors" and referred to the letter as "arrogant" and "evasive."

Good for you, Orrin, although it is a bit ironic that folks like you, who believe in less government, want the federal government to step in and do something about the inequities of the BCS football system.

While it certainly isn't on the same level of importance, it reminds me of what Congress did nearly 50 years ago when it enacted the Civil Rights Act because certain powerful people wanted to keep treating others like second-class citizens.

In this case, it's the powerful schools who are trying to treat schools who might be just as worthy to play in their big games and share the big money as second class.

Some people suggest being patient, reasoning that the Mountain West will get an automatic berth starting in 2012 because of its success the past two seasons.

It's true that under a three-point criteria the BCS has set up, the MWC may be close to getting an automatic berth because of the average ranking of its highest-ranked team the last two years and its top-25 performance ranking of conference teams each year.

However, the sneaky BCS has another criteria that will likely keep the MWC from moving up — the "Average Conference Ranking," which uses the final regular-season rankings of all the teams in the conference in the computer rankings used by the BCS.

What this means is that no matter how good TCU, BYU and Utah are and how highly ranked they are, the league will be judged as a whole and the New Mexicos, San Diego States and Colorado States will drag the league down.

Once again, this is unfair to the MWC because it must compare itself against a league with eight teams, like the Big East that has one less "bad" team to use in the average.

Over the years, it has taken acts of Congress to make important changes in our society. The way things are going, it may take an act of Congress again to make this change, even if it is just about football.

email: sorensen@desnews.com

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