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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
/articleid/3383670/1/pictures/598140">Photo - Utah quarterback Brian Johnson kisses his Sugar Bowl MVP trophy after the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, on Saturday, Jan. 3, 2009.  Utah defeated Alabama 31-17. AP PHOTO
Utah quarterback Brian Johnson kisses his Sugar Bowl MVP trophy after the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, on Saturday, Jan. 3, 2009. Utah defeated Alabama 31-17. AP PHOTO
BCS and ESPN officials then huddled for four days to iron out details of the already-accepted agreement.

But when the completed contract was ready to sign, the Mountain West balked. What happened in those four days?

Utah upset Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and completed a perfect season.

We did not need Utah to beat Alabama to know mid-majors were capable. Boise State proved that against Oklahoma. If ‘Bama had defeated Utah, no way is Orrin Hatch calling for Congressional hearings. No way is the Mountain West still declining to sign the new BCS contract.

The deadline for the new deal is Thursday. If conferences don’t sign by then, they are not included. Ineligible for BCS bowls, ineligible for BCS payouts (the mid-majors shared $19.3 million from the BCS last season, which when divided is far less than what the Big 12 or SEC reaped but still isn’t chump change).

BCS spokesman Bill Hancock said ESPN has informed the conferences that its payout won’t change, regardless of whether the Mountain West is involved.

The Sherman Antitrust Act prohibits contracts, combinations or conspiracies designed to reduce competition. Does that sound like the BCS, which has put mid-majors on the national stage?

I know the BCS isn’t fair. Is it fair that some college football programs can’t fill a 40,000-seat stadium, while others have waiting lists for a 100,000-seat coliseum? Is it fair that Southern Cal sits within a 20-mile radius of 100 blue-chippers a year, while the state of Nebraska produces 10 blue-chippers a decade?

The BCS isn’t perfect. It’s a two-team playoff system that also tries to put a little order to the once-chaotic bowl process.

If Utah and Orrin Hatch and the apparently preoccupied United States Congress want to push hard enough, the BCS could go away.

But college football wouldn’t then run screaming to an expanded playoff system. University presidents do not want a playoff. There is no way they could be clearer on that subject.

Scrap the BCS, and college football simply would resort to its old arrangement of pre-ordained bowl ties, and the Mountain West Conference would lose that one foot in the door. It would lose that friend it has branded an enemy.

Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.

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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