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Bowl alliance under attack on Senate floor

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Sen. Bob Bennett - a proud University of Utah graduate - revels in how well his alma mater is doing in the NCAA basketball tournament.

The senator is using that to again point out how its arch-rival Brigham Young University was robbed in football.He and allies gave long Senate speeches Thursday attacking the College Bowl Alliance that shunned BYU this year as a monopoly that needs to be broken - and maybe replaced with a fair national tournament similar to the one in basketball.

As Utah nears possibly going to the NCAA basketball Final Four, Bennett said whoever does arrive there is decided "on the playing field and not in the board room."

He added, "The decision will be made on the basis of how good they are and how entertaining they can be on television by virtue of their skill rather than how sharp the negotiators were that put together the stacked deck in advance of the final event."

But he said the opposite is true in how college football chooses its champion, where less well-known schools - which provide much of the fun in the basketball tournament - have little chance.

Bennett and other senators said their chief evidence is how BYU was "robbed" of a lucrative alliance bowl bid this year.

"Only one of the top seven teams did not appear in a lucrative alliance bowl. It happens to be from BYU," Bennett said.

He quoted Sports Illustrated saying BYU was locked out not because of its record, but because its fans have a reputation of not spending much at bowl games.

Also, while the alliance claims it is designed to crown a true national champion, Sports Illustrated said it is actually designed to keep big money bowls among only a few of the most powerful conferences.

"The message out of the alliance is `WAC (Western Athletic Conference) need not apply,' regardless of how good their teams are or have ever been," Bennett said.

For such reasons, Bennett and three other senators last week asked the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission to launch an inquiry into possible anti-trust violations by the alliance.

Bennett said the biggest losers in the current system may be fans who watch the games on TV "who are deprived of the opportunity of seeing the best game available on New Year's Day."

So Bennett urged ensuring "that the anti-trust laws apply here, and that a conspiracy in the boardroom does not take place to siphon off money to one group at the expense not only of the other group, but of the fans."

Joining Bennett in his call for an anti-trust investigation into the College Bowl Alliance were Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; and Mike Enzi and Craig Thomas, R-Wyo.