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College playoffs are federal case

December 13, 2005|by TIM ROWLAND

Ah, we've finally found something Congress is good for: Regulating sports. Hey, they might as well, no one else pays any attention to them.

Anytime a group such as Big Oil or Big Tobacco or Big Agriculture is called before a congressional panel, eight or 10 jowly executives sit up at the table looking bored and saying "Yeah, yeah, OK. Now which way to the ham and cheese platter?"

But if you can't win over Big Oil, take on Big Sydney.

You have to believe that Congress' success in moving Major League Baseball on the steroids issue stunned even Congress. Someone forgot to tell baseball Commissioner Bud Selig that threats of congressional action are as meaningless as Matchbox 20 song lyrics.

So now, after crushing baseball like a bug, Congress is taking on college football, specifically something called the Bowl Championship Series, which is supposed to determine the best team in the country, but usually doesn't.

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Every other sport you can think of determines its champion through a playoff system in which the winning team advances on to play another winning team until only one is left standing. College football does not do this. Instead, in its answer to preschool soccer where they don't keep score because "that makes everyone a winner," just about every team with a winning record is in invited to a bowl game sponsored by a city and some corporation you've never heard of. That leads to such stupid names as "The Culpeper Virginia BFI Toasted Semiconductor Chip.com Bowl" featuring Dragnet University playing West Dakota State.

This year, for example, the only team not invited to a bowl game was 0-10 Temple. (The best line about Temple came on the Jim Rome show, where an angry e-mailer - after Temple had just been edged 70-7 by Bowling Green - raised cain over such a "lousy, pathetic, embarrassing" defensive effort. "How in the world," the writer wanted to know, "can your defense allow Temple to hang seven points on you?")

Congress wants to fix all this, so the House Subcommittee on Commerce Trade and Consumer Protection rumbled into action and called everyone in for a hearing. The only person missing was James Madison, who you really wish you could have seen there, sitting in the back, scratching his neck and muttering, "Where did we go wrong?"

Under intense congressional grilling, BCS coordinator Kevin Weiberg gave this airtight reason for not having a college football playoff system: "We have chosen not to."

Oh. OK. Well, I guess that's it then. Thanks for coming. Help yourself to the ham and cheese.

Intelligent as they are, you still cannot expect congressmen to rebut such a logical, well-designed argument. So the opposition just kind of melted away. Selig has to be slapping himself in the forehead. It was as simple as that? Just say we don't have a meaningful drug policy because "we have chosen not to?" Who knew?

In case you don't keep up with these things, every sports commentator opining on the BCS grows about three extra veins to stand out on their temples in fury over the injustice of it all. They literally spend hours and hours and hours arguing loudly about it on their talk shows.

In fact, the worst thing that could happen to college football commentators would be the adoption of the college football playoff system that they say they so dearly want. Because there would be nothing left for them to argue about.

They would sit around with a lot of dead air time, tapping their pencils on their desks trying to think of something to say.

Lee Corso: "So ... Kirk ... You looking forward to that college football playoff?"

Kirk Herbstreit: "Yes Lee. Yes I am. Yes indeedy."

As a person who loves arguing, I am strongly in favor of the bowl system as it currently exists. I like all the "who's going where" chatter and the indignity that arises when an unworthy team gets vaulted above better teams to a better bowl strictly on the basis of its television appeal, not that I am speaking about Notre Dame.

So forget it, Congress. Save your wisdom for things that matter. Like whether the Yankees payroll should be capped at $50.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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