Hundreds of thousands spent on college football bill lobbying efforts

Several organizations interested in the Bowl Championships Series (BCS) have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars this year lobbying Congress on efforts to regulate major college football’s postseason.

The money has flowed in as the House of Representatives has seen two legislative measures introduced to encourage the creation of a playoffs system in favor of the BCS.

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The BCS currently selects participants to participate in the national championship game and other top bowl games based on human and computer rankings.

H.R. 380, which passed a House subcommittee last week, would bar the BCS from advertising a “national championship game” unless it came as the result of a single-elimination playoff system. H.R. 599, which Congress has not acted upon, would cut off federal funds to schools that participate in college football’s (the Football Bowl Subdivision) top rung unless they convert to a playoff format.

The BCS itself has spent $70,000 on federal lobbying regarding “antitrust issues” through the third quarter of this year.

Since 2003, the group that selects the participants in major college football’s championship game has spent $670,000 in federal lobbying, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The BCS has employed former Republican Rep. J.C. Watts' (R-Okla.) public affairs firm to lobby Congress. Watts, who retired from Congress in 2003, played quarterback for the University of Oklahoma in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

News Corp., whose FOX television network broadcasts several BCS bowl games, has also registered this year to lobby on one of the playoff bills. FOX broadcasts the FedEx Orange Bowl, Allstate Sugar Bowl and Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. ABC televises the Rose Bowl Presented by Citi and the Citi National Championship Game.

The Football Bowl Association, a pro-BCS group, has also spent $30,000 combined in the second and third quarter of this year lobbying on the bill. The firm hired Washington area-lawyer Phil Hochberg to do its lobbying. Hochberg is a former PA announcer for the Washington Redskins.

Two schools that play in the large Big 10 Conference, the University of Michigan and Purdue University, have registered to lobby on the measures.  U of M lobbied on one of the proposals (H.R. 599) while Purdue lobbied on both.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), college sports’ governing body, also lobbied on H.R. 599.

The Atlantic Coast Conference, whose commissioner John Swofford serves as BCS coordinator, dropped $250,000 on its lobbying effort on H.R. 390.

A main opponent of the BCS has also lobbied against the measures. The Mountain West Conference, which is considered a “mid-major” conference, has spent $250,000 this year lobbying for reform of the championship system.

Mountain West schools, such as The University of Utah in 2008 and Boise State in 2009, had undefeated seasons but were not selected to play in the national championship game.

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