Legislation which would require NCAA Division I football to change from the current Bowl Championship Series system to a playoff system was passed through a key House subcommittee a few hours ago. How wonderful.
I was actually in the room in Birmingham, AL when former SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer first unveiled the BCS system, and while there isn’t anyone who would like to see its demise more than I, congressional intervention is not the way to do it — and certainly not at this time.
To say that I saw this coming would be understatement of the year. To say that such a legislative effort is welcome, however, would be completely wrong. Somebody needs to call these folks and remind them about matters of priority and authority. Good grief.
First, from January 21, 2009 at America’s Right, in the context of looking at some of the bills which we would undoubtedly see again before the end of the year:
H.R. 390, by Texas Republican Joe Barton, addresses the need for a playoff system in Division I-A college football. As an Auburn University alum who spent much of January 2004 in a crappy mood after our undefeated team was denied a shot at the national title, I kind of like this bill. Still, it’s the unnecessary and unconstitutional involvement of the federal government. See the second-ever post here at America’s Right, On Baseball and Federalism, for a better idea why I begrudgingly think this bill is just another example of an overreaching federal government.
Then, from March 26, 2009, when it was Sen. Orrin Hatch spearheading the effort in the Senate:
Congress has no place whatsoever meddling in college football, and Utah Republican Orrin Hatch should be absolutely ashamed of himself for bringing it up, especially at a time when there is so many more important things that must be done.
Think about what happened just two days ago, when Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota grilled Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner about the expanded powers he was seeking, how she repeatedly prodded him to point out, in the United States Constitution, a provision which would justify as constitutional the authority sought. This is no different. As frustrating as the whole issue may be, as much as I bleed orange and blue, I simply cannot find anything about the Bowl Championship Series in Article I, Section 8, which lays out the limited power of our federal government, nor anything which could be reasonably interpreted as to vest such authority being sought by Hatch.
In that last piece, I laid out the reasons for which I am extremely in favor of a playoff system in college football. That’s no secret. But when it comes to matters of college football as it relates to congressional authority, I feel the same way I did back then, and long beforehand:
College football, however, is part of my soul. Auburn football in particular. I was in a foul mood for more than a month back in late 2004 and early 2005, from when the bowl selections were made until well after Oklahoma got destroyed in the championship game and we stayed undefeated. Still, as much as I love football, as frustrated as I am about the BCS, I love my country exponentially more, and it makes me downright angry that a lawmaker–no less a Republican, who should have his eyes on the proverbial economic ball–not only brings up an unnecessary expansion of government power, but does so at a time when all of the energy on the political right should be spent steeling ourselves to the policies being rammed down America’s throat and preparing ourselves for the elections in 2010, 2012 and beyond.
This frustrates me to no end. Over and over again, the GOP is hearing from the American public that we want less government intervention in our lives, that we want more adherence to our founders’ ideals and founding documents. This bill should have been shelved indefinitely, in that there is no constitutional authority whatsoever permitting congressional intervention in collegiate sports or anything even close, and that every legislative effort at this time should be focused on preventing the Democrats from murdering our economy with health care reform and cap-and-trade.
Of course, I realize that my questions as to the timing of this effort echoes objections made by congressional democrats. Even more important than the timing is the issue of constitutionality — in order to prevail in 2010, 2012 and beyond, the Republican Party absolutely must establish itself as the party of laissez faire governance, as the party which champions Jeffersonian and Madisonian ideals in terms of individual freedom. Getting involved in the BCS may be a populist political move, but it sets a dangerous precedent for the very same Republicans who, all next year, will need to argue with credibility that it has been Democrats who have led the charge with regard to governmental overreach.