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Hatch calls BCS 'biased' in SI article

Published: Thursday, July 2 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Even though Sen. Orrin Hatch is a skinny 75-year-old, he managed to land in Sports Illustrated magazine on Wednesday — for his fight against the nation's traditional college football powers over what he says is the "biased" Bowl Championship Series.

Hatch, R-Utah, wrote a story for the magazine outlining why he feels the BCS violates federal antitrust law. That comes just before a hearing on the BCS next Tuesday by a Senate Judiciary subcommittee, where Hatch is the ranking Republican and had pushed for the meeting.

"It seems every year an obviously deserving team is left out of the BCS due to its arcane and, to put it bluntly, biased nature," Hatch wrote.

"The Sherman Antitrust Act prohibits contracts, combinations or conspiracies designed to reduce competition. I don't think a more accurate description of what the BCS does exists," he said.

"For instance, in 2008, the only two undefeated I-A teams (Utah and Boise State) were from non-BCS conferences. And two other outside teams (Brigham Young and Texas Christian) finished higher in the BCS rankings than at least one of the champions of an automatic-bid conference.

"Yet only Utah was invited to play in a BCS game. And although the Utes had plenty of big wins, the BCS system denied them the chance to play for the national championship." So Hatch said the system "intentionally and explicitly favors certain participants."

He said it also gives all teams from automatic-bid conferences "a share from an enormous pot of revenue generated by the BCS, even if they fail to win a single game," while teams from non-BCS conferences "receive a much smaller share, no matter how many games they win."

Hatch has been criticized by some sports writers for attacking the BCS instead of taking on bigger national issues. But he said, "If the government were to ignore a similar business arrangement of this magnitude in any other industry, it would be condemned for shirking its responsibility."

Despite his concerns, Hatch said he hopes legislation is not needed to change the system. "Those with the power to reform the system should do so voluntarily. If not, legislation may be required," he wrote.

Hatch said he — and President Barack Obama — believe that some sort of playoff system would be the fairest approach. But, "frankly, almost anything would be better than what we have now," Hatch wrote.

No witness list has yet been released for the hearing scheduled for next Tuesday. The House Energy and Commerce Committee held a similar hearing in May, which featured BCS officials and leaders from schools and conferences — including the Mountain West — that do not receive automatic bids.

E-MAIL: lee@desnews.com

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