Sen. Hatch Talks BcS With CFT

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In what is either a signal that CFT’s move to NBC Sports has brought about some credibility to this website or one of the seven signs of the Apocalypse — there’s a definite lean toward the latter — we were able, via e-mail, to do a Q & A with Senator Orrin Hatch, the congressman from Utah who will head today’s Senate hearing regarding the Bowl Championship Series.

Sen. Hatch has been up-front and very public in questioning the fairness and, yes, legality, of the current system that crowns a national champion.  Ahead of a hearing entitled “”The Bowl Championship Series: Is it Fair and in Compliance with Antitrust Law?”, the senator was gracious enough to answer a few questions regarding the BcS, his reasoning behind the call for a hearing, and what may or may not come out of yet another face-to-face with those responsible for the current system.

CFT: What led you to call for these hearings and what do you hope to accomplish on July 7? 

Sen. Hatch: I called for the hearings because I believe there are a lot of legal and fairness issues surrounding the BCS. Most significantly, it creates inherent disadvantages for those conferences that don’t receive automatic bids. Nearly half of the all the teams in college football are left to share relatively small amounts of BCS revenue, while the teams from the six automatic-bid conferences each have a share in a much larger pot – even if they don’t win a single game. The BCS is currently attempting to extend the status quo – the same status quo that Members of Congress, the President, and millions of fans throughout the country have complained about – for an additional four years. All the Division I conferences have been told they have to sign the contract by July 9. I hope the hearing will shed some light on the legal issues surrounding the BCS, specifically, whether it violates Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. 

CFT: Could what transpires during that hearing potentially lead you further down the road toward a line of thinking that legislation might be the only way of fixing the inequities of the current system? 

Sen. Hatch: I hope we don’t have to get to that point, but I am considering legislation. I haven’t introduced it yet, but I hope to be able to work with my colleagues to examine this issue thoroughly to make sure we can come up with an appropriate approach if it is called for. This hearing may be helpful toward that end. 

CFT: In a recent newspaper interview, University of Nebraska-Lincoln chancellor and chairman of the BcS Presidential Oversight Committee Harvey Perlman warned that the demise of the current system would lead to a return to the old bowl system, not a playoff. I would just like your thoughts on what comes very close to being a “threat” by one of the most powerful men in the organization.

Sen. Hatch: I don’t know if that’s a threat from Mr. Perlman or if that’s just his opinion. Frankly, I find it hard to believe that the schools involved in the BCS would forego the increased revenues they’ve received under the BCS by reverting back to the old system. I think there’s an alternative out there that will address the revenue and market issues raised by the BCS’s proponents that’s also fair and legal. I’m not interested in getting Congress involved in the minute details of a new system. One thing’s for certain, the current BCS system is fundamentally unfair; I don’t think there’s any real fan of college football who disputes this. Something needs to be done as the status quo isn’t working and there are plenty of other options that are successful elsewhere but have not been tried before in college football. 

CFT: Also in a recent interview, current BcS coordinator Jim Swofford was quoted as saying the following:”The BCS is voluntary. If a conference decided it did not want to be a part of the BCS there is certainly no requirement that it do so. Obviously if certain conferences said they were not going to be a part of it, that could be a factor in its continuation–depending on which conferences, that is.”Isn’t that an express admission that the BcS is all about a handful of conferences, and thus a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act? That while technically included, unless a conference is part of the Big Six — or, more likely, Big Four — their presence is merely an act of appeasement and they do not want those “lesser” conferences to realize the full benefits of BcS membership? 

Sen. Hatch: There are most definitely antitrust issues involved here. I’ve argued from the beginning that the system is specifically designed to favor some conferences and disfavor others. I think that the antitrust laws are designed to prevent such arrangements among what are supposed to be competitors. These are the issues we’ll be addressing in today’s hearing.  

CFT: Do you have a specific playoff plan that you would like to see instituted?

Sen. Hatch: I, like most college football fans, would like to see a playoff system, but it is my hope that the people with the power to reform the BCS system will do so without government involvement. Almost anything would be better than the current system. However, I don’t think it’s Congress’s place to devise its own playoff format. 

CFT: What will be your next step following this hearing? Is it entirely dependent on what you hear from all the parties involved? 

Sen. Hatch: First, I expect that we’ll get a clearer picture of the BCS problem from the hearings and, as a result, I think there’s a decent chance the Justice Department will look into the system. We may also see private litigation at some point down the line, and, as I said, I’m considering legislation to address this problem too. However, it’s not my desire to have the Senate regulating college football nor have the matter taken to the courts, so hopefully it will not have to get to that point.

CFT: How do you answer the criticism from some in the media that “Congress has better things to do” than meddle in college football? 

Sen. Hatch: Well, if there are antitrust violations going on here, and I think there very well may be, should we ignore them simply because they involve college football? If Congress were to ignore a similar unfair business arrangement in another industry, I think many of these same people would claim that we were shirking our responsibility. With the BCS, we’re dealing with colleges and universities. Should we be holding them to a lower standard than we would hold a purely commercial business? If anything, I think that standard should be higher.

WATCH: Duke surprises walk-on DE Danny Doyle with scholarship

DURHAM, NC - SEPTEMBER 26:  Rain on the helmet of the Duke Blue Devils during their game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Wallace Wade Stadium on September 26, 2015 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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College football programs periodically post videos surprising walk-ons with scholarships, and it’s just the darndest thing. Every time a new video released, a dust storm happens to descend upon CFT’s remote offices.

This time around Duke walk-on defensive end Danny Doyle received this proverbial pot of gold, and head coach David Cutcliffe presented him with the scholarship after conspiring with the young lad’s parents.

Police report details how forklift ran over Michigan RB Drake Johnson

ANN ARBOR, MI - APRIL 01: Drake Johnson #20 of the Michigan Wolverines runs the ball during the Michigan Football Spring Game on April 1, 2016 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Jim Harbaugh called it a “miracle” Wolverines running back Drake Johnson was not seriously harmed when he was run over by a forklift in April, and a police report unearthed Tuesday detailed exactly how it happened.

According to the document obtained by the Detroit News, a forklift operator identified named Matt Johnson was operating his vehicle at Michigan’s indoor track facility “and felt a bump, stating he thought he ran over a starting block, when he saw Drake Johnson, a student-athlete, roll from under the forklift. And M. Johnson realized he had ran over Drake Johnson who was sitting on the track floor stretching.”

The operator only realized he ran over the running back when he rolled out from under the vehicle.

Johnson was examined by a Michigan athletic trainer at the scene, then again at Schembechler Hall before being transported to U-M Hospital’s emergency room by athletic staff.

“All I can say is thank god,” Johnson later tweeted.

“I can tell you this, it would have killed a lesser man, but he is blue twisted steel, very flexible and amazing,” Harbaugh said on the call. “But it’s one of those miraculous things and he is doing well.”

“It’s a miracle right up there with Easter. Just thanking God he is all right, that’s my thoughts on it.”

Pac-12 to tamper down on select #Pac12AfterDark kickoffs

TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 07:  Pac-12 Commissioner, Larry Scott stands in front of the Stanford Cardinal as they celebrate the Pac 12 Championship after defeating the Arizona State Sun Devils 38-14 at Sun Devil Stadium on December 7, 2013 in Tempe, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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When you allow television networks to pay you $3 billion to broadcast football games and happen to be located on the West Coast, you’re going to pay for it in the form of late kickoffs. ESPN and Fox want eyeballs on their networks as long as possible on fall Saturdays, and they’re not putting SEC games on at 10 p.m. Eastern time.

So, naturally, the Pac-12 drew those time slots.

And they absolutely hated it.

Remember, this is a conference that only recently joined the 21st century. For decades, the conference was happy with its 10 teams, its football games played on Saturday afternoons and its basketball schedule diced into a handy Thursday-Saturday format. Larry Scott was hired in 2009 to modernize the league while increasing the bottom line, and part of that required late kickoffs.

But on Tuesday the conference announced it has worked with its television partners to reduce the number of late kickoffs. ESPN and Fox won’t change their late slots, but the conference has received clearance to play Pac-12 Network games in previously exclusive windows of 2 p.m. or 6:30 p.m. local time. The change is expected to reduce the late night kickoffs by “up to” four games.

“The Pac-12 has some of the most loyal fans in college athletics and we appreciate our television partners working with us on this important issue for fans,” Oregon AD Rob Mullens said in a statement. “The increased exposure and revenue from our contracts with ESPN and FOX Sports have been instrumental to our success, but we continue to work hard to minimize as much as possible the negative impact late start times have on our fans who travel great distances to see our teams in person.”

Additionally, the conference announced it has instituted a field storming fine structure of $25,000 for a first offense, $50,000 for a second offense and $100,000 for a third offense. The SEC has a similar structure on its books.

“The Pac-12 Council carefully considered this policy and its impact on our fans who loyally support our teams,” Cal AD Mike Williams said. “This enhanced policy underscores the importance our universities place on the safety and welfare of our student-athletes, officials and fans, and will allow us to educate staffs and fans on procedures going forward.”

Finally, Pac-12 Network will start broadcasting eSports contests between member schools. Clear your schedule now.

Washington promotes Jennifer Cohen to athletics director

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When Scott Woodward left his post as Washington’s athletics director for the same job at Texas A&M in January, the Huskies promoted Jennifer Cohen to be the program’s interim AD.

Washington spent the next four months searching far and wide for Woodward’s replacement, and ended up finding her already sitting in Woodward’s old chair.

“I am very pleased to announce Jen’s appointment,” Washington president Ana Mari Cauce said in a statement. “She has all the skills and energy to provide exceptional leadership for Husky athletics. Her years of experience leading its fundraising program, along with her direct involvement overseeing football, provide a strong foundation for assuming overall leadership for the department.  This is the right time for her, and I look forward to a very exciting time for our students, coaches and fans of Husky athletics.”   

The Tacoma native joined the Huskies’ athletics department in 1998 as an assistant director of development and eventually rose to handle all of UW’s fundraising efforts. Before becoming interim AD, Cohen also oversaw the Huskies’ football and baseball programs.

“I am humbled, honored, and extremely thankful for this opportunity,” said Cohen. “The University of Washington has been part of my life for nearly two decades, and I believe our department is poised to accomplish great things. Together, we will work to positively impact our student-athletes, inspire a championship culture, and build and unite our community. I believe there is no better place to achieve these things than at Washington, and I can’t wait to get started.”

From a football standpoint, Cohen inherits a program on more stable footing than it’s been in a decade and a half — and considering the turmoil the Rose Bowl-bound 2001 Huskies experienced off the field, one may have to go back to the national championship days under Don James in the early 1990’s to find a rosier time for Huskies football. Chris Petersen is entrenched as head coach and has Washington positioned to be the nation’s top sleeper heading into this fall, and Husky Stadium recently underwent $50 million in renovations that Cohen herself fundraised.

Cohen also arrives to the position with Petersen’s enthusiastic approval.