Thursday, July 2, 2009

Earth to Congress: Keep Your Hands Off of College Football and Pay Attention to Real Issues!

Earlier this week, Senator Orrin Hatch (Republican, Utah) whined in an opinion essay (for Real Clear Politics) that the Senate needed more time to review the "large and complex record" of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Perhaps Hatch and the other members of the Judiciary Committee could devote more attention to Sotomayor if they canceled a hearing, scheduled for next week, to investigate the College Bowl Champion Series (BCS). The upcoming hearing is a colossal waste of time.

Hatch, who sits on the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, sought the hearing to determine whether the BCS violates any antitrust laws. Keep in mind that the Judiciary Committee must first approve Sotomayor before the process moves to the full Senate.

Although reviewing Sotomayor's record has supposedly stymied Hatch, he found time to write yet another essay (published in Sports Illustrated), which explains his theory of the possible antitrust issues related to the BCS. Hatch believes the automatic bid for the major NCAA conferences might violate the law. This sounds preposterous to me, but I am not an antitrust scholar. Neither is Orrin Hatch.

BCS Is the New Wasteful Obsession for Congress
Next week's BCS hearing is the second to take place in Congress this year. In May, Representative Joe Barton (Republican, Texas) hauled BCS officials into the House to testify before the Committee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Barton has sponsored legislation that would prohibit "the marketing, promotion, and advertising of a post-season game as a 'national championship' football game" unless the victor was chosen through a playoff system. And if the NCCA fails to comply, Barton's proposal would allow the Federal Trade Commission to prosecute the organization for an "unfair or deceptive act or practice."

Apparently, the First Amendment means nothing to Barton. Neither does the need for serious legislation. Also, calling the victor of the BCS Championship game the "national champion" cannot deceive the public when the public already knows that the BCS does not utilize a playoff system. Barton, however, says that calling the victor the national champion is "patently deceptive" because a computer chooses the competitors. Barton's statement distorts the selection process that the BCS utilizes.

Furthermore, under Barton's logic, Major League Baseball violates consumer protection laws because it sponsors the World Series and calls the victor the "world champion." Many professional baseball teams exist outside of the United States, but the MLB world champions do not compete with any of them (except for the one Canadian team that remains a part of MLB). Even if baseball only existed in the United States, the MLB champion cannot accurately claim a "world" title for a geographically localized sport. In fact, doing so seems far more deceptive than picking a national champion under the BCS system.

Conservatives Sponsoring "Big Government"
Despite the economic crisis, Barton apparently believes that the FTC should expend resources forcing the NCAA to select a champion in a way that the federal government deems appropriate. Perhaps Congress could hold hearings next year to redesign the uniforms worn by NCAA football teams as well.

The BCS hearings demonstrate that Congress continues to have an unhealthy fascination with sports figures and athletic organizations. Every year, some athlete makes the trek to Washington to deny (or fail to recall) using steroids. Steroid use by wealthy athletes is hardly a vital national issue that warrants intense congressional scrutiny. The manner that the NCAA picks its championship team also fails to warrant a hearing in Congress.

Finally, it seems extremely contradictory that Barton and Hatch, two "limited government" conservative Republicans, would support this wasteful and invasive process. But if hypocrisy disqualified people from politics, Washington would become a ghost town. Also, Barton and Hatch are lawmakers from Texas and Utah. The University of Texas and the University of Utah both believe that they received a raw deal from the BCS this year because they were not selected to play in the highly profitable and prestigious championship game. Barton and Hatch have discarded their purported conservative values in order to gain points with the folks back home and, possibly, to direct some cash to their states. Apparently, big government is not a problem for Barton and Hatch if it can win them some votes. Great!

PS: Earlier this year, President Obama foolishly placed his voice in this debate as well, calling explicitly for a playoff system.

17 comments:

Infidel753 said...

Sotomayor? Bah. I demand a Congressional investigation of why the BBC chose an actor I've never heard of to play Dr. Who!

As for the football thing, they should just follow the Bush-Gore precedent and have the Supreme Court award the championship to whichever team scored fewer points.

liberal dissent said...

I have never understood the idiotic obsession with sports in this country. Well, in all countries, I guess.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Liberal Dissent: I enjoy sports. The suspense, the competition, the athleticism, the sweat....But having the government on the field is unseemly.

Infidel: I love the idea of the SCT deciding the winner! That would bring it full circle. Sorry to hear about the Dr. Who thing....Too bad Orrin Hatch isn't going to the UK to teach the BBC a lesson.

Anonymous said...

Totally agreed Prof. Hutchinson. While I don't know that Hatch's call for more time to review documents is meritless, the idea that our govt is wasting time on college football playoffs is absurd.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Hey, Anonymous: Thanks. I believe this is one for the "private" sector to handle. People complain a lot, but the bowls are part of football history. If this is altered, it should not happen because Washington said so. Obviously, if the system was clearly illegal, I would have a different view, but the BCS simply cannot violate the antitrust laws (and only get noticed 10 years after its formation).

Anonymous said...

Nonsense. Let 'em screw around with sports all they want. When they pay attention to "real issues", they only make things worse.

Robert said...

Next thing you know the government is going to make all football players wear helmets and all kinds of padding - what a bunch of wimps they would look! And then in compensation the govt. would help pay for all those huge stadiums by giving the teams huge tax breaks - nah, that could never happen!

Fearsome Comrade said...

And that's why I believe in term limits.

Anonymous said...

It is better that incompetents and bunglers that compose the Congress busy themselves with micromanaging sport, something they are interested in, rather than passing complex laws that unravel American freedoms with 1,000 pages bills they never read.

Anonymous said...

Ditto Anonymous. Let them screw up football instead of the country.

Jon said...

This is like when Sen. Spector (traitorous jerk) was making noise about investigating the NE Patriots video taping non-scandal last year. Seriously, do these guys have nothing better to do? Perhaps there are more important things for the Federal Government to be dealing with - I'm just saying....

Anonymous said...

The NCAA is the worst violator of anti-trust laws there is, and the BCS system is one of the worst abuses.

And of course, I'd much rather the Senate passed such a resolution than a carbon tax.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Anonymous said: "The NCAA is the worst violator of anti-trust laws there is, and the BCS system is one of the worst abuses."

You have anything to back up that claim? Here's one lawyer's take (disclaimer: Lawyer seems like a pro-business antitrust lawyer): Antitrust and the Bowl Championship Series

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Robert said: "Next thing you know the government is going to make all football players wear helmets and all kinds of padding - what a bunch of wimps they would look! And then in compensation the govt. would help pay for all those huge stadiums by giving the teams huge tax breaks - nah, that could never happen!"

LOL!

Anonymous said...

It might be different if they were flawlessly performing their Constitutionally-appointed duties.

No it wouldn't.

Aspasia said...

"Perhaps Congress could hold hearings next year to redesign the uniforms worn by NCAA football teams as well."

That would be legislation brought for by Rep. Anna Wintour (I-NY) right? :P

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Aspasia: Well, I guess they could hold the fashionista hearings to pick a designer.

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