A new political-action committee launched a drive Monday seeking to dump the Bowl Championship Series of college football in favor of a playoff system, and Sen. Orrin Hatch was among those cheerleading at its kickoff.
The Playoff PAC is not yet saying exactly who is financing its anti-BCS efforts, but it said it is seeking money from fans and booster groups at schools, including the University of Utah and BYU.
"The BCS's days without daily, active and organized opposition are over," said the first news release from the Playoff PAC, released to coincide with release of the first BCS rankings of 2009 that determine who will play in the BCS championship game.
"We have a lot of plans in the works," PAC co-founder Matthew Sanderson told the Deseret News.
Sanderson, a Utah native and U. graduate, said that includes gathering and disseminating data to the media to rebut BCS arguments, donating to the campaigns of politicians who favor playoffs, commissioning polls and holding events that "spotlight the inadequacies and flaws of the status quo."
Its first shot in that battle was a news release announcing its formation, which included cheers from some members of Congress representing states where some colleges were excluded from national championship games despite records that were as good or better than those of bowl participants.
"I believe the BCS to be fundamentally unfair," Hatch said for the first news release. He had held a hearing earlier this year to highlight problems such as the undefeated U. being excluded from last season's championship game, while the game's participants each had one loss.
"Even after hearing the complaints of millions of college football fans, not to mention government officials, they (BCS officials) are apparently unwilling to make any significant changes," Hatch said, adding that he backs any reasonable effort to push for a playoff system.
Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, said Monday, "Yesterday's release of the first BCS rankings for 2009 reminds us that selecting a major college football national champion is still arbitrary and anti-competitive."
The University of Hawaii was undefeated in 2007 and played in a BCS bowl, but did not play in the championship game where one participant had one loss and the other had two losses.
"The entire BCS system is a farce. It arbitrarily selects champions and reduces competition between conferences," said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas. "College football's postseason championship should be decided on the field, and that's why a playoff season is needed."
Barton also held House hearings on the BCS this year. Many at the University of Texas also felt the Longhorns should have had a shot at the championship game last season because their record matched those of the participants.
The Playoff PAC formally registered with the Federal Election Commission late last month. The group did not say in its filings whether it is affiliated with other groups or is independent, and the commission has formally asked it to amend its organizational filing to specify any affiliations.
The Playoff PAC has not yet filed papers showing who is donating to it. "We'll file a report at the end of the year, and that's when we'll disclose our numbers," Sanderson said.
He added, "We hope to raise money principally from two sources. One, fans. … The second is we are reaching out to booster clubs of various teams, such as the University of Utah and BYU, the University of Texas and USC." He said that process has just begun.
Sanderson said one of the core functions of the group will be to donate to politicians who favor a playoff system.
"We will contribute to candidates. When we do that, we are leaving partisanship out of this. So when we give contributions, we will be giving to members of both parties in equal amounts at the same time," he said.
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