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College football and the BCS: It’s a Utah pity party in nation’s capital

by Berry Tramel Published: July 8, 2009
Sometimes, you don’t know who your friends are.

In the last five years, four mid-major college football teams, squadrons on the outside of college football’s cartel, have played in BCS bowls. Utah in the 2009 Sugar and 2005 Fiesta. Hawaii in the 2008 Sugar. Boise State in the 2007 Fiesta.

In the 54 seasons before 2004, four mid-majors made BCS bowls or the high-paying, New Year’s Day bowls that eventually formed the Bowl Championship Series: Air Force in the 1959 Cotton and 1971 Sugar, Wyoming in the 1968 Sugar and Louisville in the 1991 Fiesta.

So tell me again why on Tuesday a Mountain West Conference lawyer sat on Capitol Hill and did what so many lawyers before him have done. Asked Congress to investigate what he believes is an antitrust violation.

Never mind that Congress couldn’t get to the bottom of a purse-snatching on Mayberry’s Main Street.

Why would the Mountain West try to take down the BCS? The BCS has been good to the Mountain West and the Western Athletic Conference. The BCS is the friend of the Utahs and Brigham Youngs and Fresno States.

The BCS did more in half a decade for the profile and standing of the mid-majors than any single coach, player, school or system did in the half century before, with the exception of BYU coaching legend LaVell Edwards.

The testimony Tuesday in Washington was all show. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) gaveled the Senate Judiciary subcommittee to order but quickly left. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) stayed a couple of minutes. That left only one senator, Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, to hear witnesses.

A lawyer for each side debated whether the BCS breaks the Sherman Antitrust Act, then school leaders for each side, Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman and Utah president Michael Young, offered their takes.

When the U.S. House staged a similar hearing in May, three committee members appeared. We all have asked the question, doesn’t Congress have better things to do? The answer obviously is yes, judging by the attendance at the subcommittee hearings.

This was a Utah pity party, nothing more. I’m a longtime supporter of the Mountain West Conference. I advocate an automatic BCS berth for the Mountain West, and I annually rip the NCAA basketball committee for short-changing the mid-majors.

I’m not even anti-playoff, so long as it’s an 11-team playoff that includes all the conference champions. But Congress can’t fix anything, and the Mountain West has limited credibility in this case.

True story from a BCS insider: Last December, all 11 leagues in Division I-A voted for the new BCS/ESPN contract that goes into effect for the 2010 season.

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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