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March 31st, 2009
08:03 AM ET

Congress wants playoffs

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Congress is now debating how college football teams will compete to become national champions."]

March Madness and who will rule college basketball is topic number one right now in the sports world. So why exactly are the Senate, the House, and even the President also talking up another game?

Three big letters: BCS. That’s why.

BCS stands for the college football “Bowl Championship Series”. There may be nothing more controversial in the intercollegiate athletics than the way the football champion is crowned every year.

Unlike all other major college sports, football does not have a series of playoff games that result in the last man standing. Instead they use a complicated formula based on polls to determine team rankings. At the end of the season, the 2 teams with the highest rankings play each other in one of the major bowls games to determine who actually is number one. The other teams ranked below them play in other bowls, but the winner of the top bowl game has always been crowned national champion. The past season it was Florida, which was ranked #1, beating Oklahoma, which was ranked #2, by the score 24-14. Read the story.

Ever wonder what formula a mathematician would use to combine the poll data to come up with number one? Well, here it is:

BCSAvg = ( HP/2825 + UP/1550 + (C1+C2+C3+C4)/100 ) / 3

To figure it out, you need to know what everything stands for: BCSAvg is the overall BCS average for a given team, following the procedure (algorithm.) HP is the total points the given team is awarded in the Harris Interactive Poll. UP is the total points the given team is awarded in the USA Today Coaches Poll. C1, C2, C3, and C4 are the four point totals assigned by the four computer-ranking polls.

Got it now? Don’t feel badly. Virtually no one else does either. And there are people in Congress who share your pain.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) saw his undefeated University of Utah team barred from the championship game this year because the formula placed them 6th, and therefore ineligible to compete for number one. See the standings. Senator Hatch calls the BCS system un-American, and he’s got it on the agenda of his Senate Antitrust Subcommittee this term. Read the story.

Over in the House of Representatives, several congressmen have gotten into the act. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) even has a bill that would force the BCS to scrap the name “National Champion” from the national title game unless they have a playoff series.

What does the NCAA think of all of this? Here’s their statement when CNN contacted them on Monday:

“We understand people in DC need to respond to their hearts and constituents….we think leaders of higher education are the better group to manage post season football.” (Bill Hancock—BCS Administrator)

What will come of all of this? Congress has broached the subject before, but never passed legislation. Will this time be different? Having the President of the United States on your side doesn’t hurt. When asked in January by reporters about the matter, President Obama replied simply: “We need a playoff.”

Filed under: Sports
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Mike Finley

    A playoff could be done so easily. There are about 120 teams at the major college level. Some already have division play, so no one can "dodge" other conference teams. Combine some conferences, remember the old Southwestern Conference, and the Big Eight?
    Get it down to eight conference champions, and play it out! I have written the NCAA about this for years, never got a response from them.

    May 1, 2009 at 1:49 pm |
  2. Yvonne Todd

    Hearings on college football playoffs is a BIG waste of taxpapers dollars. Let's send those legislators home and vote it some citizens that realize we have real problems in America and leave football playoffs to the colleges.

    March 31, 2009 at 10:27 am |
  3. jim

    First of all, I was going to say exactly what you said shawn but no point in creating an echo in here.

    Second of all, on top of the more pressing issues congress should be focused on what validity will it do to have a playoff?
    A) you add four games to an 11 game season thats almost half.
    B) the top eight teams are going to the playoffs which are still selected by polls generated with the same formulas that BCS is generated
    C) you will still have people upset and arguing who should be in the playoffs and who got snubbed (look at basketball 65 teams and still better schools get snubbed because of conference having to many good teams)
    D) that means several players will have extra games to pad stats
    E) more chances for for top tier recruits to have a career ending injury (example: Willis Mcgahee broke his leg against Ohio State in the Championship imagine if that was the first round of the playoffs)
    F) that said, playoff time rolls around and those kids are going to be pressured to play injured and will hurt themselves more.
    G) More time that football players will be away from school and missing class
    H) ECHO-ECHO CONGRESS SHOULD NOT BE INVOLVED dont they have a country to run? I think they should all be voted out of office next term.

    If you truly want a playoff system in college football the number of division one schools that can compete need to be cut. allow for 8 major conferences with 12 teams max per conference split into two divisions and the conference champion represents the conference in a playoff. that will be the only fair way to get a playoff system based totally on the teams performance. it wont work because 30 or 40 programs will lose there division 1 status to make this happen.

    March 31, 2009 at 9:13 am |
  4. Bob

    The President and the members of Congress could better serve the citizens of this country by, perhaps, devoting this time to reading their own legislation prior to voting or signing off on it. They might avoid such debacles as the AIG bonuses.

    March 31, 2009 at 9:09 am |
  5. Thomas Collins

    Congress IS supposed to work for all of us, and busting this college football cabul is something they should do!
    What many fail to realize is the money that we are talking about. Why should a given city get the Rose Bowl, or the Fiesta, or the Orange Bowl and the TV crews, and the parade, etc.. etc,, every year, when there is no way that these can find the champ?
    With a playoff, at least the MONEY will move amoung the large citys of America, and we can see who is the best, instead of guessing! I think any city can be a geat host for these games.

    March 31, 2009 at 9:08 am |
  6. Jessica

    This has to be a joke. Football playoffs. No one cares about football playoffs. Why should I have to pay congress with my taxes to talk about football. Let them do that on there own terms. Let's talk bout the war and what is the next move.
    Let's talk about how if Obama keeps spending at this rate a load of bread is going to be 12 dollars. This is ridiculous.

    March 31, 2009 at 9:07 am |
  7. kenneth


    March 31, 2009 at 9:06 am |
  8. kathy

    Why should a computer/mathematical formula choose a winner in a physical competition? Makes no sense at all.... and yes, congress should weigh in. There is more to "American Life" than the economy, healthcare, energy, and education. They have probably accomplished more, worked harder in 70 days then most congress's do in the first year – get off their case yeesh!

    March 31, 2009 at 9:04 am |
  9. John Troxell

    No Mr. Roberts I think indeed it is a joke, apparently congress gets payed by the hours they waste on trivial personal interests, while people die everyday from a lack of healthcare, lack of food and no shelter.
    And while I know Obama commented on this I see two Republicans names here Hatch and Barton. When can we just switch to direct electronic voting system and get rid of congress all together?
    John Troxell

    March 31, 2009 at 9:04 am |
  10. David

    Do you think congress should be more worried about our children getting an education and paying for it over passing laws about football. When are we going to hold our congress accountable? Also why are you,CNN giving this press?

    March 31, 2009 at 9:03 am |
  11. Amber W

    Football playoffs.....our nation is in a severe recession, if not on the brink of a depression and our Congress, our elected officials, are concerning themselves with football playoffs?!

    I would hope that the residents of the states of the officials involved in this will remember that while our nation was floundering, their elected officials were goofing off and will vote out these clowns next election term.

    A similar, stupid thing happened in the state congress in WV this year, with one of the representatives wanting a ban on Barbi....yes, you read correctly. Trust me, this will be remembered next election term.

    March 31, 2009 at 9:03 am |
  12. Jose Ruiz

    I am not a true fan of the BCS especially after last year when my team Texas did not go to the BCS Championship game, despite winning over Oklahoma. However this is truly ridiculous to know that our country is going down a very long recession and congress is spending time with this stuff. Apparently this shows how far apart the government really is with its citizens. No one is going to care if NCAA football gets a playoff, when we are losing homes, jobs, and our financial security. Mr. Government where is your priorities?

    March 31, 2009 at 9:03 am |
  13. Bill C.

    Do not spend one red cent of my taxes on this!!! Congress has no business meddling in college football because Orin Hatch is upset that his home team didn't make it. Just like Congress, regulate college football but deregulate Wall Street.

    March 31, 2009 at 9:01 am |
  14. Neil

    I don't think that the Congress will burn the midnight oil stressing out over this issue and it will not be a high priority. However, as a college football fanatic, I am glad that they are at least trying to step in and address that there is a problem with the current BCS method.

    March 31, 2009 at 9:00 am |
  15. Marty

    Oh yes this is sooooo important. I am very concerned about college playoffs. I can't find a job that will keep my head above water but that doesn't matter compared to some congressman's alma matter not making it to a bowl game. I am glad that our government has it's priorities in order. A GAME is so much more important than the economy of what used to be a great nation that took care of it's people.

    March 31, 2009 at 8:59 am |
  16. Jason

    As far as I'm concerned until a century long world peace has been achieved this topic should be shelved by congress.

    March 31, 2009 at 8:58 am |
  17. Fran in Virginia

    This is what is wrong with these "politicians". They care more about stuff that does not help the majority of the people only a small number. This ignorant playoff system needs to be handled by the "college graduates" that participate in the games, not Congress. What is next............only 1 ply or 2 ply toilet paper is to be sold at the store!!!!??? PLEASE GIVE ME A FRIGGING BREAK!!!!!

    March 31, 2009 at 8:58 am |
  18. justin

    This a waste of time for the Congress, and just as big of a waste of time for CNN. Pathetic!

    March 31, 2009 at 8:58 am |
  19. Bob

    At least Kiran Chetry is hot today.

    March 31, 2009 at 8:57 am |
  20. Bob

    Where is the thumbs down button!

    March 31, 2009 at 8:56 am |
  21. dwight m lee

    I got laid off by IBM last thursday and instead of helping me recover, my government is battling about college football... no wonder things are bad...

    March 31, 2009 at 8:55 am |
  22. nancy

    I agree with you Shawn 100%. What on earth are they thinking? Football teams and the commission can take care of their "bowls". What does Congress have to do with this? We elected officials to take care of "important" issues ~~ economy ~~ jobs ~~ war ~~ foreclosures. Concentrate on that.

    March 31, 2009 at 8:43 am |
  23. Shawn

    Congress wants playoffs?? Are you kidding me with this?? There are so many other much more important issues plaguing this country today than football playoffs. This is absurd for us as taxpayers to be paying congress for them to meet on issues as off the wall as this one. What about jobs, foreclosures, ending the war, getting the economy going again?? These must not be as important as football playoffs. I'm outraged that this is even being talked about.

    March 31, 2009 at 8:09 am |