Orrin Hatch would like to take a nunchuck upside the BCS’ head.

Orrin Hatch fancies himself quite the Renaissance Senator.  Yesterday, he not only took the time to let a certain wise Latina Supreme Court nominee know that he’s nobody’s fool when it comes to the martial arts…

… he also published his latest opinion piece on how the BCS is a sham and a mockery of truth, justice and the American way.  Unfortunately, he remains terribly confused about what the problems are, and, as a result, what the remedies should be.

Specifically, he seems unable to keep track of the BCS eligibility rules as they pertain to the title game, so that when he makes this point,

While BCS officials claim they have been rewarding this success with unprecedented reward and recognition, their system is specifically designed to keep such success at a minimum.

Besides reserving national championship eligibility for the teams in the six favored conferences, the BCS explicitly limits the number of outside teams that can be invited to play in the other lucrative BCS bowl games…

he’s only half correct.  That’s significant because much of his argument seems to be that the rewards of the BCS should be shared out on the basis of on the field merit.

… Worse still is the fact that the BCS doesn’t even provide equal rewards for the schools they do allow into their games.

Instead, revenues from the BCS are distributed according to pre-arranged agreements, making performance on the field almost irrelevant.

By illustration, four conferences had exactly one team playing in a BCS in the 2008 post-season. Three of those conferences were guaranteed nearly $19 million to distribute among their schools. One of those conferences, the Mountain West, had to settle for slightly more than half that amount.

It was not because they were less deserving. In fact, as a conference, the teams from the Mountain West had a better overall record in inter-conference play than any of the automatic-bid conferences…

Yet even Hatch realizes how silly that argument gets if you follow it to its logical extension.

… BCS officials want more credit for these developments, acting as if the BCS were responsible for making Boise State good enough to beat Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl or giving Utah enough talent to rout Alabama in this year’s Sugar Bowl. However, these teams earned the attention they received as a result of these victories.

While no one can argue that the Mountain West is equal to the SEC in terms of competitive football teams, it is simply a fact that, in recent years, more and more teams from non-privileged conferences have been deserving of national attention…

(As an aside, how come the folks making arguments like this always gloss over Hawai’i in 2007?)

Hatch’s argument in essence is that because Utah, Boise State, Utah, BYU, Utah, TCU and Utah have been competitive programs of late (so has Utah, by the way), the mid-major conferences are all deserving of a far larger share of the postseason pie than they’ve been receiving.  Here’s a chart, via the website Econosseur, that illustrates what Hatch is vehement about changing.

As you can imagine, that’s getting a little interwebs buzz, particularly (natch) from sites and papers serving readers who are fans of mid-major programs.

The catch is that it ignores another sort of on field performance, one that Ed Gunther does a fine job of charting himself.

There’s a reason they’re called “mid-majors”, people.  They don’t have the passionate fan bases that the Big 6 do; they simply don’t draw enough attention to make them attractive bowl invitees.  The bowls don’t keep them out because they’re afraid of anything other than empty seats and declining TV ratings.  And, unfortunately, there’s nothing in Senator Hatch’s complaints and suggestions that can make that change.


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

21 responses to “Orrin Hatch would like to take a nunchuck upside the BCS’ head.

  1. Dog in Fla

    Sotomayor Knows Numchucks and explains them to Numbnuts in the The Foot Fist Way.


  2. 25K average for the precious, precious WAC. Way to go, guys.


  3. The Realist

    The MWC, in one of its best years ever, had a decrease in average home game attendance in 2008 compared to 2007. Not only that, but its attendance (per Sir Gunther) was the lowest this decade.

    Way to go, guys. You only need to increase your average home game attendance by 50% to overtake the Big East and have a legitimate argument for inclusion in the BCS.


  4. Nope, nope. Never heard of Hawaii or the 2007 football season. Didn’t exist. Quit trying to weaken their argument with facts. Senator, you of all people should know that lawyers will continue phrasing the same question in a different manner until they get the answer they want.


  5. Wolfman

    Actually, if we’re looking at the attendance graph, I think the “Big 6” might even be stretching it a little, seeing as how, by attendance numbers, the Big East seems to be more of a mid-major than a big player. Remember all that talk a few years ago about scratching the Big East from the BCS conversation? Where did that go? Aside from the WVU collapse a few years ago, no Big East team has been in the national title talk since the ACC raided them. If the BCS haters want to point to big bowl game wins and appearances, they’ve got more to point to than the Big East.

    But using the money analysis, the attendance numbers (since the raid) have been much closer to that of the Mountain West than any other major conference. I don’t know what kind of money the Big East teams have been bringing in, but is that even an argument worth considering? Maybe if I was Orrin Hatch I’d start going after the new guy that just replaced Tranghese. It’s not like he has much to do until basketball season, anyway. Plus, it might actually give us an interesting matchup in the Orange Bowl for once.


  6. kcits

    Although, I too wish he would keep his greasy hands off college football. His question is valid. If you can ban STICKS surely you can also ban guns.


  7. tensile

    Interesting argument – until I saw it framed this way, I was generally in agreement with the notion that “at least this is better than the pre-BCS bowl system.” I suppose the problem is that the BCS makes a claim to anointing the National Champion(tm), which is a claim based on very different premises than attendance or its demonic fellow, revenue. If the argument for the BCS is based merely on the money, then the old system(and its consequent confusion) are actually better in absolute terms, for more bizarre and intriguing matchups, and no more Rose Bowl naptimes, if not for those who would like a clear-cut Champion(tm).


  8. wheaton4prez

    “The bowls don’t keep them out because they’re afraid of anything other than empty seats and declining TV ratings.”

    Do you not see what is wrong with this? Maybe you do. Just want to clarify.


    • What’s wrong with that? If you were running a business (i.e. a bowl game), isn’t your objective to provide as much profit as possible for that business? Why would you put Utah or Boise State in your bowl game and sell maybe 10,000 tickets when you could put Ohio State or Notre Dame in and sell maybe 50,000 tickets? It’s simple Economics, my friend.

      The point that the Senator is making is that none of Orrin Hatch’s points will do anything to change that very reality, which is unfortunate for the Utah’s and Boise State’s of the world, but it is what it is.


      • wheaton4prez

        Just because something has profit-motive as an explanation doesn’t automatically make it a good thing. What is wrong with it is that it places the quantity of fans a team has higher in importance than how good at football that team is.

        Of course, there is nothing wrong with that if you are only interested in making a profit off of the game. However, if you are a fan of the sport of football and you value the integrity of the sport, it is a bad thing.

        There is absolutely no reason that it has to be “what it is.” There are many examples of play-off systems that reward merit of play over fan base size that are profitable. The notion that the current model of the BCS is the only way for it to be profitable is completely unfounded.


        • One more time: there are no restrictions, other than finishing first or second in the final BCS rankings, precluding any D-1 football team from playing in the BCS title game.

          The rest of those postseason games are freakin’ bowl games, man. That’s all they are. I love ’em and I watch ’em, but the idea that they’re supposed to be about rewarding merit of play regardless of commercial viability is unrealistic.


          • wheaton4prez

            Just because it is theoretically possible for a non-big-six team to play in an NC game doesn’t mean that the system doesn’t systematically work against that happening. There is no big-six team that could have gone undefeated last season and not played in the NC game.

            The things needed to get into that game (namely big games and resulting funds/market) are not offered on the same basis or same amounts. So, the means to improve/maintain a successful program are unequally available.

            A number of private parties have colluded a deal that works to substantially disadvantage other parties, for that purpose. As Hatch points out, that is the reason anti-trust laws were written. To prevent institutions from maintaining favorable market positions via agreement (collusion) rather than competition.

            The bowl games aren’t “just bowl games” any more. Getting into BCS games equals more market share and revenue for the program. Also, the whole reason for the change to the BCS system stems from public demand to know who is better than who. Fans are quite obviously very interested in rankings, competition and comparing teams. When a fan brags about making it to the Rose Bowl, they are saying that their team was good enough to do it. Not that their program was better marketed.

            There is nothing unrealistic about an alternative system to what the BCS has given us that is both less controversial and profitable.


            • As Hatch points out, that is the reason anti-trust laws were written. To prevent institutions from maintaining favorable market positions via agreement (collusion) rather than competition.

              Please give me an example of a sports league/conference on the professional or collegiate level that doesn’t collude to exclude membership.


        • The notion that the current model of the BCS is the only way for it to be profitable is completely unfounded.

          By the way, that’s not the issue for the Big 6. Their concern is whether a playoff would be less profitable for them.


          • wheaton4prez

            Exactly. They have colluded in order to avoid the risk that competition brings. They don’t want profits going elsewhere, even when they are out-competed.


            • “Out-competed” how exactly? The Big 6 draw more fans and have far better TV ratings than the mid-majors do in the regular season. And the mid-majors don’t draw as well for the bowls, either.

              As for competition, is there anything stopping the mid-majors from starting their own postseason tourney?


              • wheaton4prez

                Out-competed as in losing football games occasionally to over-achieving mid-majors. They get half the pay-out when this occurs.

                The fans of a large market team are going to travel to and watch their team wherever they play. If a mid-major is more competitive in a season, the fans of the large market team can take the ratings they bring to some other game. Those ratings continue to exist.

                There isn’t anything technically stopping alternate tournaments. Though, the agreements that the BCS has already established make it practically difficult, if not impossible.


                • Should mid-majors receive less money when they lose BCS games?


                • wheaton4prez

                  I meant losing games as in a spot being taken in a better bowl game. The pay-out doesn’t depend on who wins the BCS games.

                  The big six are guaranteed to make at least $17 million with their automatic bids, plus whatever other team might make it in. All of the other leagues split $9 million or $18 million if one of their teams makes the BCS. And more than one is prohibited.


        • I get your points, but the Senator kind of stole my thunder. The bowl games were never intended to reward merit of play on the field. They were originally organized to boost tourism during low-vacation times in areas that could sustain it; hence the number of bowl games in Florida and southern California.

          The bowls were originally seen as an exhibition game that was supposed to be fun for the teams involved and didn’t really mean anything. The national champion used to be decided before the bowl games for crying out loud. People’s beliefs about what bowls actually mean changed once the rankings to determine the national champion followed the bowls rather than preceded them. In the end, bowls outside the BCS Championship Game are just exhibitions that provide a nice vacation for the teams with a bunch of free swag.

          The general idea that bowl games are some kind of post-season similar to other sports is misleading. If the idea is to boost tourism in these areas, then as I alluded to in my point earlier, it doesn’t make sense to invite teams that aren’t going to travel well and not spend a lot of money in your locale. The bowls are vital parts of some communities where they get a nice influx of revenue every year due to these games. It’s for that reason alone that bowl committees are going to fight tooth and nail to keep the current system because going to an 8 team playoff would eliminate that.

          I never said that the current incarnation of the BCS is the only way to be profitable. Hell, the bowls were really profitable in the 1980s pre-Bowl Coalition and BCS, but the public demanded that there be a game to match the #1 and #2 ranked teams. The point I’ve continually made is that the conference commissioners, university presidents, and TV people will not be forced “at the point of a bayonet” to change because Utah and Orrin Hatch feel slighted. They will blow up the whole damn thing and just go back to the 1980s where the best bowl Utah could ever hope to play in is the Las Vegas Bowl.

          I realize this issue brings out a lot of emotions in people, but they’re too quick to resort to the “it would be so easy to fix this by doing this…” argument without realizing that the decision makers don’t care what you or I think as long as we keep spending money.


          • wheaton4prez

            Good points. You’re definitely correct about the origins of the bowl games. However, over the years, they have taken on a new role in the sport. That is due to the public demand to know who is better than who. That’s just the nature of all competitive sports and the reason why they all naturally gravitate to some form of play-off system.

            It’s not just Hatch and Utah that feel slighted. The vast majority of fans think the BCS is broken.

            The powers that be could try to blow things up all they want. Football and a play-off system would remain in high demand for some other company to market in a positive way and be just as profitable, if not more so over-all as an industry. The difference would simply be that more of the profits would make it out to the increasing number of up-and-coming teams we are seeing.

            The landscape of college football is changing fast. The market is broadening and I think it only adds to the interest and parity of the sport. We deserve a system that is designed for where college football is going. Not one that attempts to keep it the way the old guard prefers it.