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Mountain West trying to force a football playoff

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Any college football fan in the country will tell you that the BCS in its present form doesn't work and does little to determine a true champion. If you are from Utah you can make the argument that even though the Ute's were last years only undefeated team and knocked off Alabama to end the season in the Sugar Bowl they had no chance to be crowned national champion.

The powers that be who run the BCS won't tell you that is is very successful because they make record amounts of money, exclude the smaller conferences, avoid antitrust up to now, and preserve the existing cartel of traditional bowls. Those same powers will tell you that they don't want a playoff for academic reasons because extending the season a week or two for a couple of teams would be too tough on the players academics.

A week from now 64 college basketball teams will be play in the NCAA tournament and plenty of others will be playing in the NIT, CBI, and some other new tournament I can't remember the name of. The college basketball season stretches from November to the end of March and for some reason the profits reaped from those tournaments override the academic concerns that come with playing a season that lasts for five months.

The Mountain West is one of those conferences on the outside looking in as far as the BCS is concerned. The MWC has a legitimate beef because they have proved they can play the game at a high level. Perhaps a lot higher than the remains of the fractured Big East Conference which is still part of the cartel despite losing the membership of Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Miami.

The limitation of 85 scholarships has created a lot more parity in college football. It means that the traditional have-nots now have a much better chance of competing against the haves. An example was played out West this past season when a rebuilding Pac 10 was dominated by MWC and WAC foes in regular season play.

A Florida newspaper columnist Gene Frenette had this to say about the MWC's latest move at lobbying congress to force a change.

All the lobbying on Capitol Hill by Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson to change the football cartel that is the Bowl Championship Series might not bring us any closer to a true playoff system. Any saber-rattling about Utah not having equal access with Florida or Oklahoma to a No. 1 ranking might do nothing more than create a few headlines.

But if nobody speaks up or forces the college football dictators to confront the blatant discrimination they sign off on every fall, how can a broken system get fixed?

We'll just continue the present haves-vs.-have-nots existence and act like it's perfectly fine to rig the process in favor of six BCS conferences and Notre Dame, while leaving 51 other schools from five non-BCS leagues to fight for the crumbs.

ACC commissioner John Swofford, the present BCS coordinator, and his brethren don't like being called out by anybody. They want the status quo, at least until they can figure out a playoff system that will funnel a bigger pile of money into their league coffers.

The Mountain West Conference posted a four page release on their website this week which outlines their proposal to create an eight team playoff which would supposedly balance the inequitable system.

Under the proposal there will be five BCS bowl games and they will consist of the Rose, Orange, Fiesta, Sugar and a bowl to be named later such at the Cotton.

The top eight teams in the country would play in the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, and Orange Bowls on New Years Day. The winners would advance over the following two weekends to determine a true champion. The fifth bowl featuring the ninth and tenth ranked teams would just conclude their season on January 1st but would share in the big BCS pot of money generated by the playoff. 

Computers would no longer determine the BCS rankings.  An impartial twelve member board would determine the final rankings of who gets in and who stays at home. By the way, have you ever seen an impartial twelve man board?

Traditional conference tie-ins such as the Pac Ten/Big Ten relationship with the Rose Bowl would be preserved under the plan. However the bids would not be automatic since the teams would be forced to finish in the top eight to qualify. If they don't they would be bounced into the proposed fifth bowl.

The proposal makes sense but why would the Pac Ten and Big Ten agree to it when they already have an automatic bid to the Granddaddy of them all? It is conceivable that the two conferences could even withdraw from the BCS scuttling the entire plan if anyone even suggests taking away the automatic bids for the Rose Bowl.

Amateur sports, especially when represented by educational institutions, should be about a sense of fair play. But here we have six conferences and Notre Dame conspiring to horde $18 million apiece for each BCS entrant among four major bowls ($144 million in most years), to divide among themselves. Meanwhile, the five non-BCS leagues are guaranteed only $9 million total.

Cartels such as this eventually get struck down by the Supreme Court. It is only a matter of time till the challenge is mounted and the BCS has to capitulate to the smaller conferences and even out the playing field. That doesn't mean that they will cave in right away because a successful challenge can take a decade to get to fruition.

Supposedly we don't have an equitable playoff format because of concerns about the social welfare and academic standing of the players participating. What it is really about is hoarding all the money and preserving the good old boy relationship the NCCA  and BCS has had with the people who run the bowl games.

In the end it will be interesting to see how this all works out for the football playing schools. Don't count on the big guys to roll over with this idle threat. It will take an act of Congress or a ruling in the US Supreme Court to balance the situation.

As we eagerly anticipate another exciting month of March Madness we can only wonder how exciting it would be if the same equity that allowed schools such as Gonzaga, Davidson, Tulane, and Memphis to compete with the big boys existed in the college football arena.