Washington » Convinced the only way to reform the Bowl Championship Series is with congressional action, a group of college football fans have started a political action committee designed to raise funds for politicians who support a national playoff.
The Playoff PAC, launched by Utahn Matt Sanderson and several other sports fans, plans to raise cash and then donate to candidates and incumbents who support busting up the BCS, a system of polls and computers that doles out bowl game spots to the winners of six major conferences and four other teams.
"There's a lot of groups that are selling T-shirts or getting people to sign petitions online or asking people to boycott BCS sponsors like Tostitos," says Sanderson, a Washington lawyer and former campaign finance counsel for Sen. John McCain's presidential bid. "And we just thought at the end of the day those efforts are good but they're not going to put in place the framework or apply the right type of pressure to bring about change."
Congress has been hesitant to weigh into the BCS controversy, but the Senate Judiciary anti-trust subcommittee recently held a hearing on the subject at the urging of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who called the series an "illegal monopoly."
Both sides of the argument, though, are shelling out big money to Washington lobbyists. The conferences backing the BCS as well as the Football Bowl Association have spent $720,000 on lobbyists so far while the Mountain West Conference, in which the University of Utah and Brigham Young University play, has spent $200,000.
The Utes, a team not in the six conferences that make up the BCS, have twice earned major bowl berths after undefeated seasons, and Boise State University and Hawaii have also earned spots.
Bryson Morgan, a Utah graduate now attending Harvard Law School and a founding member of the political action committee, says it was important to organize the BCS opposition and try to propel the reform effort in Congress.
"It's incredible that the intense opposition to the BCS hasn't been mobilized," Morgan said. "We saw an angle that people aren't taking."
The founders of the Playoff PAC, who say they are already raising money and hoping fans will donate, note that their Web site, www.playoffpac.com, will also serve as a clearinghouse for information on why the BCS should be jettisoned in favor of a true playoff system.
The BCS defends its system, saying a playoff would erode the quality of the regular system and hurt smaller bowl games.