WASHINGTON — Forget health care and Afghanistan. A House subcommittee on Wednesday swung into one of the most heated topics: How college football decides which two teams will play in the national championship game.
In the end, the commerce and consumer protection subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on a voice vote backed legislation that would effectively overturn college football's Bowl Championship Series, or BCS, as the current selection system is known.
The new legislation is designed to force the BCS to create a playoff system. Currently, the BCS selects the two teams for the national championship through an average of two polls and six independent computer systems that weigh teams by won-loss records and other data and determine which are the top two.
The new legislation would bar the BCS from referring to its big final game as the national championship, require that all conferences be considered equally in the current ranking system, and distribute television revenue and other income equally among all conferences.
The legislation faces an uncertain future. Karen Lightfoot, a spokeswoman for Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who'd have to push the bill, said Waxman hopes the subcommittee vote "will spur the colleges to address this issue on their own to create a fair and equitable college football playoff system."
The BCS was dismissive, however.
"With all the serious matters facing our country, surely Congress has more important issues than spending taxpayer money to dictate how college football is played," BCS executive director Bill Hancock said in a statement. "The consensus among the presidents, athletics directors, coaches and faculty from the 120 major universities is that the current system is the best."
The legislation was sparked by the BCS's determination this year that the country's top football teams are the University of Texas and the University of Alabama, both of which were undefeated. They'll meet on Jan. 7 in Pasadena, Calif., for the BCS National Championship.
However, three other teams also are undefeated — Texas Christian University, Boise State and the University of Cincinnati — and proponents of the legislation say the BCS system unfairly discriminated against them.
"What can we say? It's December, and the BCS is in chaos again. We have two excellent undefeated teams that are going to play for the so-called national championship," said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who proposed the legislation.
However, he added, TCU, Boise State and Cincinnati "have played the same number of games, played the same number of opponents and their players and fans have no chance to say that they might play in the ultimate game of football and be the national champions."
TCU and Boise State will meet in the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix on Jan. 4. Cincinnati will play Florida in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on Jan. 1.
Barton, whose congressional district borders Fort Worth, the home of TCU, decried the BCS as an economic cartel.
He was joined in his push by a bipartisan majority, including the subcommittee's chairman, Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill. Only one dissenting voice was heard when the vote was taken, from Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga.
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