Stupid, but dangerous?

By now, I presume most of you have heard Senator Hatch’s announcement that the Senate Judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee will hold hearings on the BCS.  (If you haven’t, the Wiz has a good summary here.)  While certainly upping the rhetorical ante with the usage of the term “un-American” – something previously reserved for the likes of smelly hippies opposed to the Iraq War and Michael Schiavo – makes it sound like the subcommittee will be loaded for bear, it’s hard to take someone who says this

Many of you may not be aware that when I was in high school, I had a promising future in football. But things didn’t work out. BYU already had a half-back, and I couldn’t seem to go to my left. Well, some things never change. I still don’t go to the left.

But on a serious note, I am pleased that the Judiciary Committee is examining the competitive effects of the BCS because the notion of basic fairness is called into question by the current BCS system. I believe there is value to ensuring fairness in our society whenever we can. And while life may not be fair, the moment that we stop caring that it isn’t, we chip away at the American dream.

… completely seriously.

And if you read Tony Barnhart’s post on the subject yesterday, he makes a good point about antitrust and the BCS.

… And finally, the BCS doesn’t violate antitrust law and the folks who will investigate the BCS already know that. If you’ve ever cracked a law book you know that.

Tom Rhodes of the Atlanta firm of Smith, Gambrell & Russell is one of the best antitrust lawyers in the country. He could barely contain his amusement when I asked him a while back if the BCS violates antitrust law.

“If this was illegal somebody would have already sued them a long time ago,” Rhodes said. “Tulane thought about suing in 2002 but they got their lawyers all cranked up and didn’t file.”

On the other hand, anybody who’s ever cracked open a lawbook can also tell you that there’s a nuisance value to any threatened legal action that has to be evaluated.  Even if a lawsuit is a loser, it still means that the other side has to expend time, effort and money to defend it.  Sometimes it really is much more cost effective to settle, even when you’re in the right.

And the one comment from these Congressional clowns that should give the lords of the BCS pause for thought is this one.

“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,” a joint statement read.

That doesn’t sound like something that can be bought off with a “plus-one” format.  If Hatch and his cohorts on the subcommittee are serious about redistributing college football revenues from the haves to the have-nots – and I thought Obama was the only socialist in Washington! – that has the potential to set up a major clash with the BCS conferences.  Bernie Machen’s naivete aside, what SEC president, for example, is going to hand over some of that new TV money to the likes of San Diego State?

And, yes, if you think about it, that’s where the fight is headed.  If Congress favors a large scale postseason, that’s bound to impact the regular season.  CBS simply isn’t going to fork over the same bucks to the SEC in a “December Madness” world.

How hard is government willing to push on this?  It seems ludicrous to contemplate, but impossible to discount completely.  One thing seems clear to me, and that is that if things get too far, the BCS conferences are far more likely to take their ball and go home than to roll over for the likes of Hatch.  Maybe in the end we’ll be looking at the birth of a college football super division of eighty or so schools out of this.  That actually might be a very good thing.  Even if Orrin Hatch never got the chance to crack the two-deep at dear old BYU.

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7 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery

7 responses to “Stupid, but dangerous?

  1. heyberto

    I despise the BCS, I really, really do. But this is ridiculous. I’ve said on here before, and I’ll say it again. Our lawmakers have much, much bigger fish to fry than to waste their time dealing with this. ..

    Besides.. if they’re efforts toward rectifying the BCS go in the same vein as what they’ve done for the economy, it could turn out worse.

  2. NCT

    Hatch suddenly wants federal government interference to promote fairness? Really?

  3. SCDawg

    If you change up this system, the tv revenue could decline or stagnate. Who wants to be forced to watched some meaningless west coast game?

    Okay, I’d probably still watch it, as long as an SEC game wasn’t on, but I won’t watch any of the commercials.

  4. Senator, you hit the nail on the head with the “take their ball and go home” comment. I realize that most of this is stemming from the lobbying done by the Mountain West because of the “Utah never had a chance at the big game” mentality that came out after they shellacked Alabama. I don’t honestly know what the fair solution is under the current system for deserving teams like Utah (Although based on my Mumme Poll last year I agree with Orson that Utah earned a piece of that split national title pie with Florida and Texas). Since we’re not going to be splitting national titles three ways any time soon, the BCS is presumably the best we got.

    I don’t think the Mountain West fully realizes what the ramifications are of angering the original Big 6 conferences and painting them into a corner under Congressional pressure. Without the BCS, Boise State from 2007 and Utah from 2004 and 2008 never sniff those bowl games. Inherently the BCS is a good thing for teams outside the Big 6.

    There’s no way the SEC is going to give up some of that CBS or ESPN money because conferences without such fervent fans and support (which is why the SEC gets these huge TV contracts in the first place) are lobbying Congress to create equal access for them.

    If Congress forces its hand and does succeed in changing the BCS, what does that accomplish? All it means is the Big 6 conferences will dissolve the BCS and we will go back to the 1980s where bowl deals were made in shady backrooms and the best bowl the Mountain West champ could ever hope to go to is the Las Vegas Bowl. I wonder how Hatch would feel about that if his beloved BYU could never go anywhere better than Vegas because of his actions.

  5. 81Dog

    it’s a tossup whether Orrin Hatch or Arlen Specter is a bigger, camera hogging, showboating media whore when it comes to grandstanding about sports related issues.

    I’m not sure either of them has noticed, but there might be one or two more urgent things our vaunted Senators could be wasting their time on besides the BCS.

    On the other hand, given the stellar job that the Senate and U.S. House of Representatives has done managing those issues, maybe they’re all doing us a favor by wasting time with sports stuff.

  6. Pingback: Please no… « The Hobnail Boot

  7. NM

    I think there’s a good chance that the “haves” split off into a new division, either within the NCAA or apart from it if necessary. (After all, “nearly half the teams” is quite an understatement — NONE of the D-I FCS, D-II, D-III, NAIA, or JuCo teams have a chance at winning “the” national title!)

    Barring that, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few key Congressmen are bought off — say, if BYU and Utah just happen to be extended Pac-10 invitations, and all this mysteriously goes away…