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BCS responds to Hatch, says Congress should leave system alone

Published June 7, 2010 11:36 am

College football • Group's director releases a letter responding to Hatch's criticism.
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The executive director of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) defended college football's often-controversial postseason in a letter that sought to counter the criticism levied by Sen. Orrin Hatch.

The Utah senator has argued the BCS unfairly benefits universities from automatic qualifying conferences to the detriment of those on the outside. But BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock said in his letter sent Thursday that the system has helped smaller schools gain access to big bowl games — and big paydays — while at the same time enhancing the importance of each regular season game.

And he used the University of Utah as an example.

He said if it wasn't for the BCS, the Utes would have likely played in the 2009 Las Vegas Bowl instead of the much more prestigious Sugar Bowl, which is part of the BCS. The Vegas Bowl payday would have been $900,000, while Utah received about $9 million for its Sugar Bowl appearance.

"Obviously the difference is significant," Hancock wrote.

The BCS is a mixture of human polls and computer rankings that determine the competitors in a national championship game and four other top bowls. Critics, such as Hatch, have argued the system is exclusionary because it offers guaranteed spots to the winners of six conferences and that it would be fairer to have a playoff like every other college sport.

Hatch and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, sent Hancock a letter in March outlining their concerns and demanding information on the revenue sharing and the secretive computer rankings.

Hancock's response makes it clear that BCS officials are tired of lawmakers weighing in on the topic.

"I believe that decisions about college football should be made by university presidents, athletics directors, coaches and conference commissioners rather than by members of Congress," he wrote.

Hatch fumed at Hancock's response Thursday. He agreed that the universities should make the decisions, but "the problem is that the small number of privileged schools" now control the system.

"Our letter gave them an opportunity to reply with openness and transparency about how the BCS system actually works. In response, we got an arrogant rebuke and a series of incomplete and evasive answers to simple questions," Hatch said.

Hancock argues the larger bowl system allows more teams to participate than a playoff would and he touts an increase in BCS revenue going to the nonautomatic qualifiers than in years past.

"We are proud of the benefits that it has brought to this great game," he wrote.

Hancock's letter shows that the automatic qualifying conferences get more money than those who must earn a spot from an outside conference. But Hancock said nonautomatic qualifying conferences have the ability to earn an automatic bid with their play on the field, gauged over a four-year time span.

He didn't divulge the details of the computer rankings, saying they were proprietary, but he did say the rankings were based on strength of schedule, game results and where they were played among other factors.

"If the computer formulas are there to make sure the system is objective," Hatch said, "why does the BCS's administrator refuse to provide fans with more detail?"

mcanham@sltrib.com