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Obama raps Bowl Championship Series: 'We need a playoff'

  • Story Highlights
  • Florida beat Oklahoma, 24-14, in Thursday night's BCS championship game
  • NCAA's Bowl Championship Series has been accused of unfairness
  • BCS relies on polls and rankings instead of actual competition
  • College Football Playoff Act of 2008 asks for "fair and equitable playoff system"
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From William Armsby and Sasha Johnson
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(CNN) -- President-elect Barack Obama left no doubt about his position on the hottest topic in the world of college football.

Florida came out on top over Oklahoma in Thursday night's BCS championship game.

Florida came out on top over Oklahoma in Thursday night's BCS championship game.

"We need a playoff," Obama told reporters after being asked about Florida's 24-14 victory over Oklahoma in Thursday night's BCS championship game. "If I'm Utah, or if I'm USC or if I'm Texas, I might still have some quibbles."

Since its inception in 1998, the NCAA's Bowl Championship Series has weathered criticism from nearly all directions.

The BCS is the system that chooses the contenders for college football's most prominent postseason games: the Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar bowls, as well the National Championship game, which this year put Oklahoma against Florida.

The BCS relies on a compilation of polls and rankings instead of, to the consternation of many, actual competition.

Florida, Oklahoma and Texas all finished the season with one loss. Texas actually handed Oklahoma its one defeat in October on a neutral field.

When the BCS computer system put Florida and Oklahoma in this year's national championship game, the annual back-and-forth over whether to have a college football playoff system was reignited.

Utah was the only college football team to finish the season undefeated, but its conference is considered less competitive and therefore was put at a statistical disadvantage in the BCS.

Friday was not the first time Obama stated his preference for a playoff system.

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"It would add three extra weeks to the season," Obama said in a "60 Minutes" interview just after his election. "You could trim back on the regular season. I don't know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this. So, I'm going to throw my weight around a little bit. I think it's the right thing to do."

Each year, Republicans and Democrats alike are angered by what they see as inherent unfairness in the BCS arrangement. In 2008, legislators -- for one reason or another -- drafted legislation to invalidate the BCS on grounds that it misdirects commerce. Video Watch how a playoff system could change college football »

In an April resolution, the House of Representatives formally, if not forcibly, condemned the BCS as "an illegal restraint of trade that violates the Sherman Anti-Trust Act" and also urged the Justice Department's Antitrust Division to investigate. Since this resolution, though, no serious action has been pursued.

On Thursday, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, reintroduced the College Football Playoff Act of 2008.

The bill, originally introduced December 10, would "prohibit, as an unfair and deceptive act or practice, the promotion, marketing, and advertising of any post-season NCAA Division I football game as a national championship game unless such game is the culmination of a fair and equitable playoff system."

If passed, this bill would apply to any game that occurs after January 31, 2011. It would be enforceable by the Federal Trade Commission.

Barton said Thursday that those watching the championship game are being "bamboozled."

"This year's BCS failure proves once again that it's time for college football to come up with a fair way to determine its champion," he said in a statement. "It does pit two very worthy teams against each other, but can anyone say unequivocally that the winner will be the best team in the country?"

The BCS governing body -- made up of the commissioners from all NCAA Division I-A conferences; the athletics director from Notre Dame, which isn't affiliated with a conference; and representatives from each bowl organization -- announced in spring 2008 that the system would be used through at least the 2014 season.

Later, ESPN outbid Fox for a four-year television rights deal with the BCS. To begin in 2011, this contract rests on the understanding that the current system will remain in place.

Barton, the ranking Republican in the Energy and Commerce Committee, represents the 6th District of Texas. Two of his co-sponsors, Republican Reps. Michael McCaul and Lamar Smith, represent districts 10 and 21, respectively -- two of the four districts that collectively represent Austin, home of the University of Texas.

Regardless of lawmakers' personal affiliation with home teams, the official motivation for college football reform is the same as for any similar economic reform: to help the little guy compete.

The BCS is composed of eleven conferences. The six traditionally dominant conferences -- the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Pacific 10 and Southeastern -- are guaranteed at least one berth in one of the BCS bowls. Each year, they are awarded $18 million, plus $4.5 million for each additional team that appears in a bowl game. Meanwhile, only one team from the smaller conferences -- Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt and Western Athletic -- is given this opportunity.

For the 2006-07 postseason, an average of $25.5 million in revenue was awarded per large conference, while the small conferences averaged $5 million each.

As the argument goes, the larger postseason earnings provide an advantage -- in athletic recruiting, as well as for each university as a whole -- to the "power" conferences.

This is not the first time lawmakers have voiced their discontent.

In 2005, Barton summoned a BCS official before an Energy and Commerce subcommittee, but legislation did not result.


And in 2003, both the House and Senate Judiciary committees held oversight hearings to examine the BCS system, though the combined result yielded not much more than a sound bite from current Vice President-elect Joe Biden:

"It looks un-American. ... It looks like a rigged deal."

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