Congress Condemns BCS

Three Members of Congress are claiming that the NCAA Bowl Championship Series is illegal and demanding a playoff.

Forget government corruption or corporate fraud. Three members of Congress want the Justice Department to investigate whether college football’s Bowl Championship Series is an illegal enterprise.

Reps. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., and Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, are introducing a resolution rejecting the oft-criticized bowl system as an illegal restriction on trade because only the largest universities compete in most of the major bowl games. The resolution would require Justice’s antitrust division to investigate whether the system violates federal law.

The measure also would put Congress on record as supporting a college football playoff.

“Who elected these NCAA people? Who are they to decide who competes for the championship?” Abercrombie said at a press conference Thursday on Capitol Hill, gripping a souvenir University of Hawaii football.

Now, granted, these are just three comparatively minor Members and this will likely go nowhere. Still, this is asinine. As Sean Hackbarth points out, Congress has more important matters on its plate.

Moreover, the answer to “Who elected these NCAA people?” is the presidents of its constituent universities. Who better to decide how college sports should be governed than the leaders of the colleges? Surely, not a group of people with demonstrably no business sense.

Personally, I’d prefer a playoff to the current system. But that’s a matter for the colleges to decide, with some pressure from the market. It’s certainly not within the legitimate purview of the legislature.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. jainphx says:

    The government gets involved in so many things that they are not constitutionally powered to do, some how some way we have to get back to the original intent of the government.

  2. jpe says:

    Look at the states they represent. This is just doing some due diligence to make sure they keep the low-information voters in their corner. “I don’t know what he stands for, but I know he supports Boise football! Wooo!”

  3. KJ says:

    Why not let them get involved. They can’t fix any of our real problems so it seems reasonable to believe they will not be any more successful dealing with this either. Status quo maintained until the NCAA does something.

  4. Steve Plunk says:

    I’d prefer the old system of individual bowl champions and just let the coaches and writers pick a national champion or co-champions. With each bowl champion there is something to celebrate about college football. Why do we need a national champion anyway? On any given day there are about twenty teams that could beat any other team.

  5. Bithead says:

    I suppose that were an investigation ever mounted, it would find that the people who wrote the bill, lost a whole pile of money when their brackets melted.


  6. Richard Gardner says:

    Next up, Congress condemns the shifting of the Seattle Sonics to become the Oklahoma City Sooners. Noted (I’m guessing on the new name). Lots of political drama, no impact.

  7. Brian J. says:

    I dunno, this sounds like it falls directly under the Interstate Commerce Clause. Of course, with the advent of the Internet, what doesn’t?

  8. James Joyner says:

    I dunno, this sounds like it falls directly under the Interstate Commerce Clause.

    I’m not arguing that they’re Constitutionally excluded from looking into intercollegiate athletics, just that this isn’t their businesses. If there were major fraud or betting scandals or some such, it could well deserve Congressional attention.

    The format used for deciding championships, however, clearly isn’t their business. Especially when the system has more-or-less been this way for decades, with tweaks only around the margins. There’s never been a playoff system in big-time college football.

  9. No Meat says:

    The sad part about this isn’t that these members are wasting their time on an issue that has no bearing on their responsibilities as members of Congress. It is that they are doing it while ignoring the glaring injustice of the NCAA’s enjoying billions of dollars of tax free revenue by engaging in blatantly commercial activities while organized as a not for profit enterprise.

    Of course no member of Congress wants to be the one to criticize something as popular as the NCAA, but responsible oversight of the tax code is one of the few things Congress should be doing. It is galling these Members would weigh in on something so stupid while ignoring the ways the NCAA and their Congressional minders are really giving taxpayers the hose.

  10. Bill H says:

    This is no more stupid than many of the other things that Congress “investigates” or “forms committees” on. Congress does not exist, today, to direct the well-being of the United States. Congress exists to pursue the re-election of its members, to line the pockets of its members with money, and to pursue the self-aggrandizement of its members pursuant to those two purposes.

    The thought of Congress doing anything useful is actually laughable. They are too busy passing bills to, for instance, “recognize the groundhog as an ecological balancing influence in the state of” whatever Congress-critter sponsored the bill.