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Game-changing call to college football: playoff

WASHINGTON — Tackling an issue sure to rouse sports fans, lawmakers pressed college football officials Friday to switch the Bowl Championship Series to a playoff, with one Texas Republican likening the current system to communism and joking it should be labeled “BS,” not “BCS.”

John Swofford, the coordinator of the BCS, rejected the idea of switching to a playoff, telling a House panel that it would threaten the existence of celebrated bowl games.

Sponsorships and TV revenue that now go to bowl games would instead be spent on playoff games, “meaning that it will be very difficult for any bowl, including the current BCS bowls, which are among the oldest and most established in the game’s history, to survive,” Swofford said.

Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, who has introduced legislation that would prevent the NCAA from calling a game a national championship unless it’s the outcome of a playoff, bluntly warned Swofford: “If we don’t see some action in the next two months, on a voluntary switch to a playoff system, then you will see this bill move.”

After the hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee commerce, trade and consumer protection subcommittee, Swofford told reporters: “Any time Congress speaks, you take it seriously.”

Yet it is unclear whether lawmakers will try to legislate how college football picks its No. 1 before the first kickoff of the fall season. Congress is grappling with a crowded agenda of budgets, health care overhaul and climate change, and though President Barack Obama favors a playoff, he hasn’t made it a legislative priority.

College football’s multimillion-dollar television contract also could be an obstacle.

The BCS’s new four-year deal with ESPN, worth $125 million per year, begins with the 2011 bowl games. That deal was negotiated using the current BCS format. While ESPN has said it would not stand in the way if the BCS wanted to change, the new deal allows the BCS to put off making major changes until the 2014 season.

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