Lawmakers want IRS to probe college bowls' tax status

A bipartisan group of four lawmakers wants the IRS to review the tax-exempt status of four major college bowl games after a group filed complaint urging an investigation.

The members of Congress wrote a letter to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman on Tuesday asking the agency to review the complaint against the Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl "and carefully scrutinize these BCS bowls' records to ascertain if any violations occurred."

PlayoffPAC, a political group that wants the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) abolished in favor of a playoff system, filed a complaint with the IRS late last month. It alleged that the three bowls violated their tax-exempt status as nonprofits by paying their executives lavish salaries and offering them special perks such as first-class airfare and private club dues.

Lawmakers in Congress have pushed for mandating reforms of the BCS for some time. They argue that the system is unfair to smaller schools because the BCS's human and computer ranking system that selects the competitors for the national championship games is unfairly weighted toward large, big-revenue schools. 

In the early days of his presidency, President Obama said he prefers a playoff system, but did not say whether he supported congressional intervention to force the issue.

House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Reps. Gene Green (D-Texas), Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) all signed the letter. All of them represent districts that include or are near so-called "mid-major" college football programs.

Barton helped usher anti-BCS legislation through an Energy and Commerce subcommittee last winter, but the bill was not taken up by the full committee. 

The BCS has argued that Congress should not involve itself in college sports and that its system upholds the tradition of college football bowls while providing a decisive national championship game.

A spokesman for the Fiesta Bowl declined to comment.