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Orrin Hatch's Folly: Senator, College Football Is About Conferences, Not Teams

Posted: Jul 16, 2009

After concluding Senate hearings about the BCS, Senator Orrin Hatch wrote an op-ed piece that appeared on ESPN.com.  Here's a selection of that article:

During the June 7 hearing before the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee, University of Nebraska Chancellor and Chairman of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) Presidential Oversight Committee Harvey Perlman was asked what more last year's University of Utah undefeated football team could have done to get a shot at the national championship.

His answer to this question perfectly described the problem that so many of us see with the BCS.

Put simply, Chancellor Perlman said that the one thing Utah could have done more to qualify for the national championship would have been to play the University of Nebraska's schedule.

However, as the Chairman undoubtedly knows, college football's regular season schedules are set years in advance and the majority of every team's schedule consists of teams from its own conference.

So, in essence, he argued that, if the University of Utah would have had the foresight a few years ago to cancel its 2008 conference schedule and fill it with games against Big 12 teams, it would have had a shot at a national championship.

Who knew it could be so easy?

Senator, it shouldn't be a surprise that you have missed the point of Chancellor Perlman.  Utah had a nice season in 2008.  Let's not take anything away from them, BUT let's also not kid ourselves about the realities of college football.

College football is a sport that relies on conferences and their relative strength to be determining factor in a team's post season value.  The understanding of conferences and their relative strengths and weaknesses are a critical part of how college football works.

Unlike the NFL which has only 32 teams, there are over 100 college football teams that are potentially eligible.  Conferences are the only way to recognize good teams and weed out lesser teams.

This is where Senator Hatch completely misunderstood Chancellor Perlman.  Does anyone really believe that Utah would have been undefeated if they would have had to play Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and other Big 12 teams?  Of course not.

Just like Texas should take up its BCS beef of losing out to Oklahoma on a Big 12 tie breaker with the Big 12, Utah and Senator Hatch should take up its beef with the Mountain West Conference.  Although there is little doubt that the Mountain West plays solid football, its current make up is to small to ever be recognized as long term power in today's college football landscape.

Even though we carry the banner of our southern region which includes the SEC, the ACC, and most of the Big 12 and Big East, we can also recognize that there is a lot of fine football being played west of the Rockies.  The problem is that there are three undersized conferences (the Pac 10, the Mountain West, and the WAC) when there should only really be two 12+ team conferences with associated championship games. 

Swampland asks Senator Hatch and his Utah buddies to spend their time and energy finding a way to create two 12 team conferences out west.  Our guess is that then the BCS will find a way for an automatic bid for both.

Still, it amazes us that everyone from politicians to ESPN fail to see that teams are never robbed of anything in college football.  These "robbed" teams are only as good as their conference.  Conferences must grow and build and become better.  That is the way to make the BCS or any successful post season work.  

Sorry, Senator.  Utah might have beaten Alabama, but a Mountain West schedule that had few quality out of conference wins (Oregon State?) hardly classifies them as elite.  Let's not forget that the Mountain West's #2, TCU, lost 35-10 to Oklahoma during the season.  Using the Hatch/Utah logic Middle Tennessee's victory over Maryland last season should have demanded that the Sun Belt champion be treated as an equal to the ACC champ.

Yes, the Swampland Footprint has conference issues of its own.  Clearly, the Big East, Conference USA, and the Sun Belt need to put their heads together and come up with some kind of swap plan for some of their teams.  We've written about this before, we look to update our plan soon.

Strong conferences make college football work.  Strong conferences make the BCS system work better.  A playoff would rob the regular season of its huge value.  For those that love college football, reformers send chills down our collective spines.  Stay away from our beloved college football pastime!

Swampland's answer: if want to see a better system by season's end, we ask that you take it up with your conferences.  This is our way of saying - Think Global, Act Local.

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