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BCS fight heating up with new participants

The big picture will surely be overshadowed nationally by traditional rivalry games locally like Utah at BYU this weekend.

Aside from fan hate featured locally on talk radio, and all the blah, blah, blah rivalry riff cooked up these six days leading up to the mislabeled Holy War, there is a fight that really counts for something more than second-place pride.

In the trenches and behind the scenes there is a contest waged that could affect the BCS, today's system of determining a college football champion, and the end of seasons for teams like the Cougars, Utes and TCU.

In the past month, the wheels on BCS and anti-BCS war machines are getting greased.

Remember last summer when Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch chaired that Senate hearing on the BCS? Remember how we emphasized how the folks behind the BCS don't flinch a bit over the cartel's operations unless threatened by government intervention? Well, there's some flinching going on.

The Hatch hearing had something to do with it. But on Oct. 19, the day after the first BCS poll came out, a political action committee, PlayoffPAC, kicked off a lobby effort in Washington, D.C., to gather muscle from among public officials for a playoff instead of the BCS.

Flinch, flinch.

Since PlayoffPAC's announcement, it took about 30 days for the BCS (six conferences with automatic qualifiers) to hire spokesman Bill Hancock as executive director, a new, full-time position. Hancock's job is to put lipstick on a pig, make the devil as popular as a Wheaties box hero.

And a week after Hancock took the new BCS post, Hancock hired former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer and his public relations firm to help turn public opinion and anti-BCS sentiment among elected officials, including President Barack Obama.

Ari Fleischer? His previous job was selling the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

This BCS fight may be a war after all.

If anything, this signals just how dire the six elite conferences are to hold on to the money gravy train that gives monumental advantage in hiring coaches and recruiting players.

Sports Illustrated recently surveyed 30,000 Americans, and 90 percent said they prefer the old system or a playoff to determine a college football champion. This compares closely with a Gallup poll done at the end of the 2007 season that showed 85 percent disapproval of the BCS.

In weeks to come, there could be three undefeated football teams (TCU, Cincinnati and Boise State) that will likely be locked out of a national championship game. Last year it was undefeated Utah.

Think that is not going to hit the fan in the offseason? What this BCS hiring tells us is the political pressure is touching some nerves. Regular folks are sick of this money grab and elitism.

With Hatch's letter to the Department of Justice, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff moving forward on an antitrust lawsuit and the PlayoffPAC movement, a revolution is afoot in this game.

"This hire says a lot about the state of college football," said PlayoffPAC attorney Matthew Sanderson.

"The BCS needs highly paid mercenaries to sell the system because it's arbitrary and anti-competitive, and everyone knows it. But even a respected professional like Ari Fleischer will have a difficult time pitching a status quo that fans dislike.

"BCS officials somehow think this is a PR problem but it's really a problem with the product."

Hancock appeared on "The Dan Patrick Show" to talk about the BCS, and Patrick asked Hancock what he'd say to Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly when he doesn't get to play for a national championship.

Hancock's reply, explaining Kelly is his friend, "You guys have had a great season and you guys are to be congratulated for it. That is what you say. You guys had a great season. Yeah, they are undefeated, but right now there are six of them that are undefeated. Not everybody can play."


Why not?

Even the talented Fleischer can't answer that one with a straight face.