Senate plans to tackle BCS
Are you as excited as I am for the Senate Judiciary Committee's Antitrust Subcommittee Agenda for the 111th Congress?
Look at what's inside this piñata o' fun ... discount pricing of consumer goods, railroad competition, hospital purchasing of medical products, oversight of the antitrust enforcement agencies, a dash of this, a pinch of that ... and, yes, an investigation into the Bowl Championship Series!
We know President Barack Obama isn't a fan of the BCS, and some senators in this 10-member Subcommittee sure have bitter constituents. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the group's ranking minority member and leading anti-BCS advocate, represents the Utes (though he went to BYU). They went undefeated last year and were left out of the BCS national championship game. John Cornyn (R-Texas) represents some angry Longhorns who also felt they were the best in the land last season -- but never got to prove it.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) might have the most most incentive to take a position against the BCS. In 2001, a one-loss Duck team was left out of the title game despite finishing No. 2 in both polls. Not only did Wyden get his law degree from Oregon, it turns out that Mr. Duck himself, Nike founder Phil Knight, has given Wyden more than $20,000 in campaign donations over the years. As an organization, Nike is responsible for over $70,000 of Wyden's campaign coffers -- by far the most from any single source.
This might be a good time to point out that Nike itself "did not donate, rather the money came from the organization's PAC, its individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals' immediate families." But close enough for government work, right? Also, Nike is not actually the University of Oregon ... though with hundreds of millions of dollars flowing between them (primarily via Knight), it's a cozy relationship.
The Subcommittee's agenda statement included the following explanation about its planned BCS investigation:
The Bowl Championship Series (“BCS”) generates revenue for participating schools at a level that is unmatched in the history of collegiate sports. Even teams that never play in a BCS game are able to reap the financial benefits simply by virtue of their membership in one of the six original BCS conferences. Though the BCS claims to represent all of college football –- even going so far as to call the winner of the BCS Championship Game the “National Champion” –- the BCS system leaves nearly half of all the teams in college football at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to qualifying for the millions of dollars paid out every year. This system’s critics allege that the system is not only unfair to the football fans throughout the country, but also to the colleges and universities nationwide that depend on revenues from their football teams to fund their other athletic programs. They further argue that, at the very least, a fair system would provide equal opportunity, regardless of conference, for all teams to play their way into one of the BCS’s bowl games and, if they’re good enough, to compete for the national championship. The Subcommittee will hold hearings to investigate these issues, and Senator Hatch will introduce legislation to rectify this situation.
Also important for sports fans, the Subcommittee might bust the chops of cable/satellite providers and consolidating ticket companies (they're already investigating the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger and its impact on concerts).
Committee Chairman Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) happens to have an interest in sports, as the owner of the Milwaukee Bucks.
No word if they care about St. Mary's getting left out of the NCAA tournament.
-- Adam Rose
Top photo: USC fans using their freedom of speech to discuss pertinent political issues, like the BCS. Will their Congress listen? Credit: Kirby Lee/US Presswire.
Bottom photo: The U.S. Senate is taking on the BCS, but other political bodies are also concerned. Julie Fisher (R-Salt Lake City) in the Utah House of Representatives made it clear who she liked during a team visit to the state capitol. Credit: Francisco Kjolseth/AP Photo/The Salt Lake Tribune.