College football's cliquish bowl series is on the brink of collapse.
U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Arlington, is ready to give it a push.
Within a week, we'll know where the TCU Horned Frogs will play their bowl game this year and whether Barton will help shape a new system for the future.
"It's a cartel," Barton said Friday by phone, watching undefeated Auburn rally past Alabama.
"It is extremely hypocritical. It claims to be about a championship. It is about maximizing revenue for a few entrenched, elite schools, and to heck with everybody else."
But Barton will be out of the game unless he stages his own rally.
He's campaigning with House leaders to come back as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which hears bills on oil spills, climate change and also on the oily scam called the Bowl Championship Series.
Obviously, football isn't Job 1 for the committee. But he'd like to keep pushing for a playoff system.
As if sent by central casting, Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee emerged last week as a new, bow-tied, starched target for Barton.
The E. must stand for Elite.
Neither TCU nor Boise State should ever make a championship game over Big Ten or Southeastern Conference schools, Gee said, because "we do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor."
"We play very fine schools on any given day," Gee said, explaining condescendingly that until TCU or Boise plays in a tougher league, "there's some reason to believe that they [would] not be the best teams."
To Barton, it was another example of how some university presidents "think the BCS is their little playground."
Last year, the colleges and conferences that founded the BCS shared about $115 million of the $140-million-plus in bowl revenue.
"This is all about control," Barton said. "It's a play toy for these college presidents. They get wined and dined. They have big parties. It is not about the fans or the student-athletes."
In a rare example of Washington bipartisanship, Barton has President Barack Obama's support. U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., co-authored a 2009 consumer protection bill barring the BCS from advertising a "championship" game without a playoff.
The bill died in committee.
Barton pointed to a pending IRS investigation of the BCS and said the challenge to higher education's ruling class "has a life of its own."
Whether or not he's in the game.
Read more of Bud Kennedy at Star-Telegram.com