"Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself." -Mark Twain
For the first time ever, I programmed by DVR to record something on C-SPAN, and the BCS hearing did not disappoint. The cognitive dissonance coming out of current BCS chairman and ACC commissioner John Swofford was almost palpable, the grandstanding from the Congressmen was as grand as ever, and you could practically see the desperation oozing from every pore on Alamo Bowl president Derrick Fox.
Meanwhile MWC commissioner Craig Thompson and Boise State athletics director Gene Bleymaier were all business, ruthlessly on point and landing blow after blow against the BCS system. Bleymaier's "How many times must we go undefeated before we can play for a national championship?" line was especially poignant.
Swofford and Fox were doing plenty to dig the BCS's grave on Capitol Hill. However, the guys from Congress who showed up unfortunately undermined their anti-BCS cause by being overtly ridiculous in their pandering and being caught repeatedly by the cameras either chatting side conversations or trying not to fall asleep.
Swofford was the wrong guy to go, really. He teamed up with SEC commissioner Mike Slive to propose a plus one system just last year. I agree with Andy Staples that the lion of the BCS Jim Delaney should have been there. Although, there's always the possibility he could have undermined his cause by being too transparent in the fact that he only cares about helping out the Big Ten and not college football at large.
Anyway, there was plenty wrong with Swofford's and Fox's cases. All that was missing was Jarvis Moss swatting their weak stuff back in their faces.
As I said, Swofford was the wrong guy to be there. He's the president of a basketball conference and doesn't even believe in the current system himself. Regardless, he's the one who was there, so his words are the ones that must be skewered.
He began his opening remarks by announcing the BCS's goals and proclaiming that all of them were a success. One problem: none of the goals was "be fair to everyone." I mean, one of Microsoft's goals was once to crush Netscape through anti competitive practices. It was successful, but it ended up making the company a convicted monopolist in antitrust court. A successful goal means nothing.
He also banged the drum about the bowl system being composed of fund raising events for communities run by non profits that contribute to charities. Then, when asked about the patently unfair distribution of BCS voting rights and payouts, he said it was because of market forces. Technically those both can be true, but it's awfully weaselly.
Derrick Fox wants you to know that bowls are events, not games. Events, not games. You might think they're games, but you're wrong. They're events. EVENTS.
Basically, his entire testimony was in support of bowls in general. It's not so much that he's a fan of the BCS, but that he's afraid that a playoff would kill off the non-major bowls.
I don't think anyone would shed a tear if the Emerald Bowl, Papajohns.com Bowl, or San Diego County Credit Unions Poinsettia Bowl disappeared. They are to the bowls what Coca-Cola Santa is to Christmas: the corporate lampreys attached to a meaningful tradition.
It also doesn't help that at this point, many teams don't even make money off of bowl games. Boise State's Bleymaier also pointed out that he's involved with Boise's Humanitarian Bowl, and that event is not profitable. Bowls are good for civic pride, but the market that Swofford spoke of is going to snuff some of them out in the next decade if they don't get into the black.
Besides, his central argument was that a playoff would kill bowls. He actually said that if you had a group of games set apart from and given greater importance than the normal bowls that they'd suck up all the sponsor money and destroy all the other bowls.
The concept of having set-apart, more meaningful postseason games in college football sounds awfully familiar. Three letters are coming to mind. BSC? SBC? Something like along those lines...
Rep. Gene Greene brought up this point, but Fox didn't acknowledge that the BCS is just as separated from the rest of the bowls as playoff games would be. He also brought up a point about conference title games not selling out and specifically the 2007 Missouri-Oklahoma Big 12 title game in San Antonio. What both he and Swofford didn't mention, which I doubted they would, is that the SEC is the only conference that actually does the conference title game right. But, details details...
Thompson and Bleymaier
Thompson and Bleymaier did a very good job to make their cases. Their arguments sell themselves to the audience they were in front of, so all they had to do was recite their talking points and not screw them up. On that front, they did well. As an added bonus, each appeared to be sharp as a tack, which only helped their cause.
One thing they did not bring up unfortunately was the dollar value of winning a championship. They can complain all day about not being able to win a national title, but Congress should not, and I believe will not, be involved in bestowing symbolic titles like "champion."
However, if you attach a dollar value to winning a championship, then you've got an issue that Congress can act on. There's plenty of money involved to calculate too: merchandise, a bump in applications, TV revenue in the future, and an increase in donations are a start. I'm sure the data is out there to come up with a ball park figure.
Talking about the unfair payout schedule of BCS games is all well and good, but the payout of the national title game is the same as the other BCS bowls. From a contractual standpoint, there is nothing that sets the national title game apart.