Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) wrote the head of the Bowl Cahmpionship Series (BCS) on Tuesday asking the college football confederation to release a litany of information related to its inner-workings.
The letter, which comes one day after President Barack Obama honored the BCS champion Alabama Crimson Tide at the White House, requests that BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock make available information pertaining to how television revenue under its new broadcast contract will be distributed, how the organization evaluates the standing of its teams, the legal standing of the organization and how it ranks teams.
BCS opponents have long accused the group of running a secretive operation that favors teams from large conferences as opposed to those that play in smaller conferences both in terms of revenue shares and opportunities to play for a national title.
The letter comes as the BCS is about to enter into a lucrative television contract with sports broadcasting giant ESPN reportedly worth $500 million over four years.
Hatch has long been an opponent of the BCS and has frequently lobbied the administration and Congressional leaders to launch inquiries into the system. Hatch's home state Utah Utes, who are considered a "mid-major" school, went undefeated in 2008 but did not receive a bid to play for the national title.
Baucus has been less outspoken on the BCS; his state does not have teams that play in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the top rung of the sport.
The BCS has come under special scrutiny from lawmakers in Washington since President Barack Obama took office. Obama has said publicly that he supports a playoff system over the BCS, which has sparked some skeptical lawmakers to ramp up attacks on the lucrative sytem which is viewed with scorn by many fans.
A bill was passed out of a House subcommittee that would have barred the it from advertising a national title game. The Department of Justice also said it is weighing an investigation into the BCS.
Larger schools that play in talent and money-rich conferences do gain a larger portion of bowl and television revenue from the BCS, which is a loosely confederated organization of 11 conferences that participate in BCS bowls, which are considered the top games.
But supporters of the BCS say that smaller conferences still get sizable portions of the bowl revenue pool. Overall the five "mid-major" conferences received $24 million in bowl revenue total. By comparison, the six larger conferences received at least $17 million each.
Hatch and Baucus say that schools that play in the top five BCS conferences, whose champions receive automatic bids to play in BCS games, received $600 million from the previous television contract while smaller schools only received $80 million. Smaller conferences only earn berths to the BCS games if they win their conferences and meet other competitive benchmarks.
The senators also asked for the BCS to disclose more information about its complex system of human and computer rankings that help decides which teams play in which games. The top two teams in the rankings are selected to play for the national title while the remaining 8 slots are filled with other top squads.
It is known that traditional rankings, such as the coaches and media poll, are used in the ranking system but Hatch and Baucus asked for more specific information about how those rankings are formulated.
The two senators also asked for Hancock to provide information about the organizational structure of the BCS, which has little formal staff and works more as coalition than an organization itself. But Hatch and Baucus specifically sought information on the hiring of former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer to serve as a communications consultant to the BCS.
Hancock responded to the letter in an e-mail, saying that the public doesn't want Congress to get involved with college football.
“I look forward to carefully reviewing the Senators’ letter with its many requests," he wrote. "However, it sure seems odd for Congress to worry so much about college football when the nation has so many important issues to deal with."