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Dick Harmon: Hatch leads hearings on BCS fairness

Published: Wednesday, July 8 2009 12:56 a.m. MDT

University of Utah President Michael K. Young and Mountain West Conference antitrust attorney Barry Brett fired plenty of salvos to undermine the Bowl Championship Series during Tuesday's Senate Judiciary Committee conducted by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

It was a trap play, orchestrated by Hatch. It sort of worked.

Although Hatch fairly and respectfully elicited testimony, he made it clear on the record how he viewed those who control college football championships.

"I have trouble with the BCS," said Hatch in closing the hearing. "There's a kind of arrogance there that should not be there, and you know who I'm talking about."

Nodding to Nebraska's Harvey S. Perlman, Hatch concluded, "Go back to these people and tell them we're sick of them, to be honest with you."

Although it could have used a few more fireworks, the hearing did fire a solid shot at the BSC controversy and posted a notice — however mild — that the Justice Department or Federal Trade Commission should investigate what is alleged to be an illegal cartel.

If Young was the star of the hearing, consistently keeping on task in articulately describing the unfairness of the BCS in determining a national championship, Hatch should have given Brett more time to devour pro-BCS attorney William Monts.

The best parts of the hearing were exchanges between the two lawyers.

Here's a rundown:

Monts: The BCS is the best thing going and if a court stops it, what will we do but go back to every conference grabbing its own bowl. Nobody else can do this.

Brett: The NCAA can do it but won't; make the NCAA administer a championship like it does in every other college sport. Like every monopoly and cartel, their main claim is that they've done nothing wrong and nobody can do it better.

Monts: There is no antitrust but an agreement among conferences. The history of college football has led the game to the doorstep of what is the BCS, a fair, open opportunity for all.

Brett: What a load of bull. The BCS is an unfair monopoly, a self-administered money train of exclusion and profiteering for self-gain, a classic illegal cartel that absolutely violates both provisions of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

Monts: But the BCS knows how to place everything so it all works toward the best, most profitable and competitive national championship.

Brett: No, what you have here is people creating a mechanism to hog everything — the money, the glory and the game. And then call it fair.

The two university presidents, Young and Perlman, had a few great exchanges.

One went like this:

Perlman: No disrespect to Utah, but if you wanted to play for a national championship, play Nebraska's schedule.

Young: Well, schedule us.

Perlman: I'll have athletic director Tom Osborne look into it.

The two presidents adequately presented their cases.

Perlman told the panel that college football history with a BCS school such as Nebraska dictates it be given greater rewards each season because of the amount of endowment, booster interest and national resume it has acquired over time. Ditto for the other BCS schools.

Young basically testified that the BCS is sending young people the wrong message, that a rigged race is OK and no matter how hard you try, you're going to be handicapped because somebody else can control the prize.

Perlman concluded life isn't fair, so get over it.

I don't think the hearing produced a ton of sound bites or thunder. If it leads to further scrutiny or change, it served its purpose. I'm not sure it shook up the haughty boys in the BCS's back room.

But I wouldn't want Brett and his briefcase at a table suing the BCS on behalf of Utah and Boise State for violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

There would be blood.

e-mail: dharmon@desnews.com

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