Lawmakers who have been trying to prod college football to replace the Bowl Championship Series with a playoff system now have the Washington equivalent of a booster club: a political action committee.
A group of college football fans launched the Playoff PAC Monday with the goal of electing similarly minded members of Congress. The hope is that if there’s enough pressure from Congress, the BCS – a complex system of computer rankings and polls that often draws criticism – will voluntarily change to a playoff system. The BCS released its first standings of the season on Sunday.
“We recognize this is not a top-of-the-line issue for members of Congress and for the public, but college football is financially and culturally important to a lot of people,” said one of the PAC’s founders, Washington lawyer Matthew Sanderson. “So we feel members of Congress should spend time on a national institution that’s financially and culturally important to their constituents. We also feel there will be a lot of support out there for this type of an effort.”
“What we wanted to do was put together an effective way to ratchet up the political pressure,” he added.
Sanderson worked as campaign finance lawyer for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. He is also a graduate of the University of Utah, whose football team was passed over for last season’s national championship even though it went undefeated in the regular season.
The current college bowl system features a championship game between the two top teams in the BCS standings, based on two polls and six computer rankings. After the title game, eight other schools fill in the remaining slots for Orange, Sugar, Fiesta and Rose bowls. Under the BCS, six conferences get automatic bids – the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Pacific-10 and Southeastern. Other conferences have to qualify.
For years, members of Congress have railed that the system is unfair. This year, Congress held two hearings on the BCS, and several lawmakers have introduced bills aimed at forcing a playoff system. But none of the bills has moved.
In a news release that featured quotes from three BCS critics in Congress, the PAC said that change will come only when there are more “college football reformers” in Congress.
“This ‘reform caucus’ must be expanded so BCS officials understand that federal intervention is imminent if they refuse to answer the public’s calls for change,” the PAC said.
Sanderson said that the PAC will raise money from college football fans.
“We fundamentally see ourselves as a grass roots effort,” he said.
In a statement, Harvey Perlman, chancellor of the University of Nebraska and chairman of the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee, called the BCS one of the best things to happen to postseason football.
“It modifies the traditional conference alignment with particular bowls to create the opportunity for the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams to meet in a bowl game, while preserving the bowl system to the benefit of 64 universities and many cities around the country,” he said.