Rep. Joe Barton: BCS Is College Football's Biggest Problem

Playoff system would level the field for all NCAA football teams.

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Joe Barton is a Republican c ongressman from Texas's Sixth District and ranking member of House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

College football is as much a part of the holiday season as leftover turkey and the ball drop in Times Square.

In a three-week span, there are 34 games, from the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho, to the FedEx Orange Bowl in Miami, the Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., and the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. Each football game offers players a chance to cap off their season with a win and gives fans an opportunity to visit a new location.

It's one of the many reasons that college football is my favorite sport, but it also displays­—in grand style—the game's biggest problem: the Bowl Championship Series.

The deception starts in the name. The principal goal of the BCS is not and never was to fairly determine a national champion. It was designed to maximize revenue for its members while limiting true competition. That makes it a cartel. If you ask me, they can still call it the BCS—just change the words to Bowl Cartel Series.

Let's look at the numbers. Of the 89 sports sanctioned by the NCAA, big-time college football is the only one whose champion is not determined on the field of competition through a playoff, meet, or tournament. Instead, the BCS determines the participants in its "national championship game" using opinion polls and complicated computer algorithms. Can it be right and every other sport be wrong?

The BCS has created a class system—the haves ("automatic qualifying conferences") and the have-nots ("nonautomatic qualifying conferences"). This means that more than half of the 120 teams are out of the running for the national championship before they ever strap on their helmets in August.

Need proof? Just check out this telling statistic: Since the BCS began in 1998, only 11 teams have played in its mythical national championship game. Every year, it seems a deserving team is excluded.

While Alabama and Texas battle it out at the Citigroup-sponsored Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., on January 7, Texas Christian University, Cincinnati, and Boise State­—also undefeated—will be home watching on television.

Who knows who would win if they were all involved in a playoff? But you can bet millions of college football fans, including me, would be watching.

Instead, the BCS shirks the true spirit of competition and focuses on what matters most to it­: money. The current system rewards teams in BCS conferences even if they hardly ever play in bowl games, while smaller schools that win constantly on the field lose financially.

To illustrate my point, let's match up Texas Christian (Mountain West, non-BCS conference) versus Baylor University (Big 12, BCS conference). Here is the tale of the tape from 2005 to 2008:

TCU Horned Frogs: 37-10 regular season record; 4-0 bowl record.

Baylor Bears: 16-31 regular season record; zero bowl games (the university's last bowl win was in 1992).

During that time, the two teams have squared off twice, with TCU winning both games. But thanks to the BCS, Baylor has been paid millions more than TCU by bowl games it never appeared in—simply because it is in a BCS conference.

To be clear, I am not bashing Baylor. I grew up not too far from campus, and my mother and brother went to school there. But it is the perfect example of the inequities in the BCS system.

If Exxon Mobil and Chevron-Texaco did in the oil business what the BCS does in college football, they would be prosecuted for violating antitrust laws.

In January 2009, I introduced the College Football Playoff Act of 2009. This isn't a government gridiron takeover. It simply says that the BCS can't call a game the "national championship" unless the participants are determined by a playoff. It doesn't dictate what kind of playoff or how many teams have to be involved—those decisions would rest with the BCS or NCAA.

The biggest complaint about my bill is that Congress shouldn't get involved. While this doesn't rise to the level of healthcare reform or climate change legislation, it is more important than honoring the 2,560th anniversary of the birth of Confucius—one of dozens of resolutions passed by the House in the past few months (I voted against it).