Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told the Senate on Friday that the Bowl Championship Series of college football likely violates antitrust laws, and the BCS had better voluntarily fix itself or lawsuits and legislation will.
"It (the BCS) may very well violate our nation's antitrust laws," Hatch said in a Senate speech, continuing complaints that it robbed the undefeated University of Utah of a chance to be declared national champion.
Hatch said the BCS did some tweaking to its system but not enough after he led Judiciary Committee hearings into it in 2003. Some of the changes included adding another bowl game and somewhat expanding opportunities for schools from non-BCS conferences to participate.
"However, as this past season demonstrates, these changes leave much to be desired in term of fairness and competition," he said. "The BCS system is anti-competitive, unfair and, in my opinion, un-American."
Hatch said, for example, "It is virtually impossible for a school from a non-BCS conference to get a BCS bid without going undefeated in the regular season, and even that is not a guarantee." He noted that Boise State was undefeated in the past regular season, and it was not invited to a BCS bowl.
He said all teams in the BCS bowls this year had at least one loss, except for Utah. But it still was not chosen for the championship game "even with its perfect record and impressive schedule" that included beating four teams in the final Top 25, including two in the Top 10.
Hatch complained the BCS determines who will play in its championship game based on polls that have "almost invariably tended to favor teams from the bigger BCS conferences."
So, Hatch said, "Unless a team from a non-BCS conference begins the season with a very high national ranking in the polls, they stand virtually no chance of getting ranked high enough to play in the championship game, even if they go undefeated."
He said, "This system excludes teams like this year's Utah team, which began the season unranked and spent the season shocking opponents and exceeding expectations, from national championship contention."
Hatch complained that the system "ensures that the millions of dollars paid to the participants of these prestigious games remain concentrated among a few elitist conferences. Such exclusionary practices put non-BCS conferences at a monetary, recruiting and competitive disadvantage" that likely violates the law.
Hatch noted that Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is investigating whether the BCS violates the law. "Indeed, it appears that litigation over this matter may be on the horizon," he said.
And because President Barack Obama has said he favors a playoff instead of the current BCS system, Hatch said, "It is not unreasonable to predict that a Justice Department investigation into the potential antitrust violations of BCS will be forthcoming."
He also said some are talking about a legislative fix to the BCS, and said it "may end up being the only effective means of addressing these problems."
Hatch said, however, he would prefer that the BCS fix its problems before the matter goes to the courts or Congress because they should be focused on bigger problems that are facing the nation.
He said he hopes that university presidents "will hear the public outcry against the BCS and voluntarily work to reform the system to ensure that, as in every other American sport, championships are decided on the field and not in arbitrary polls and computer calculations. While a playoff seems like the most natural solution, other means may be available."He added, "I believe the University Utah football team (members) are champions in the truest sense of the word. They won on the field against worthy competition in a year when literally everyone else proved unable to do so."
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