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 There's only so much our nation's politicians can do in their limited time in Washington, D.C., and only so many issues they can tackle.
A national health care plan promises to be a big topic this summer, and there will likely be a vote on a new Supreme Court nominee. There are two wars to monitor, and bills to be passed to keep the economy afloat.
And, of course, there's the Bowl Championship Series to fix.
The Senate plunges into that on Tuesday with yet another hearing on the evils of big schools beating up on little schools and the ensuing damage it does to college athletics. Proving that there is no offseason in pandering to the constituents, Sen. Orrin Hatch sought the hearing, ostensibly to debate possible antitrust violations by the BCS.
Hatch, for those who don't know, is one of the most influential Republicans in the Senate, so when he asks for something he often gets it. He's also the senior senator from the state of Utah, home of what very well may have been the best college football team in the nation last year.
op-ed piece in Sports Illustrated last week, which identified him only as the Senate's senior Republican. In the piece, Hatch railed about how the Mountain West Conference received only half the money bigger conferences did from the bowl series and said it was clear that no changes would be made unless Congress stepped into the matter.
On the last point, Hatch is probably right. The major conferences aren't about to let anyone in on their lucrative cartel unless absolutely forced to, as shown last month when the BCS presidents rejected a proposal by the Mountain West to create an eight-team playoff to determine a true national champion.
They did so with an arrogance born of the certainty that they are untouchable. And perhaps they are, armed with a new $125 million a year contract that gives ESPN the right to televise the major bowls through 2014.
The big conferences have the money, and they have the bowls. Not much need to toss the smaller schools a bone when you're invincible.
That's led to a lot of grumbling in places where teams begin practice next month with no chance for anything bigger than the Chick-fil-A Bowl if they don't win every game. The University of Utah did just that last year and was lucky to get a spot in the Sugar Bowl, while the BCS championship game was played between Oklahoma and Florida, which both had one loss.
ttee hearing will be Michael Young, president of the University of Utah. Young will presumably speak out about the unfairness of having a great football team but having no shot at a national title because the biggest conferences are making up the rules and pocketing the profits.
It's not the first time Congress has tackled the issue. There have been hearings before, including one in May when on a bill by a Texas congressman that would prohibit the NCAA from declaring any team a national champion unless there was a playoff system.
Rep. Joe Barton warned BCS coordinator John Swofford then that if something wasn't done in two months the bill would move forward. Expect some new warnings at the latest hearing, though it's unlikely even Hatch's influence would be enough to get the Justice Department to take up a serious antitrust investigation of the big conferences.
The First Fan, President Barack Obama, can't even break the cartel. Obama has not only spoken out against the BCS, but said the one thing he would like to change in sports is to create a playoff in college football.
Hatch may be playing to the home fans with his mini-campaign against the BCS, but at least he's making an effort. Yes, he wouldn't have been nearly as interested had the Utes gone 5-7 last season, but that's not really the point.
ost favored status. He's making a case on behalf of football fans everywhere who want a national playoff because it's the only real way to settle the score.
Unfortunately, it may end up taking an act of Congress to get it done.
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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org

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