Utah lawmakers call for football playoff system

Utah lawmakers call for football playoff system

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah's state legislature is calling for a playoff system to determine college football's national champion after an undefeated University of Utah was shut out of the national title game for the second time in four years.

With University of Utah football players on hand, the state senate adopted a resolution Monday it wants sent to President Barack Obama urging the NCAA to abandon the Bowl Championship Series in favor of a playoff system.

Utah went 13-0 and was the only unbeaten team in the country, but finished No. 2 behind Florida in The Associated Press Top 25. In the final USA Today Coaches' poll, the Utes were fourth.

Under the BCS, champions from the six major conferences _ the ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-10 and SEC _ are guaranteed a spot in a BCS game. Notre Dame and schools from the other five conferences can only earn a spot in a BCS game if they finish the regular season rated high enough under a formula that relies on two human polls and six computer rankings.

The Mountain West Conference, which also had TCU (No. 7) and BYU (No. 25) in the poll, is pushing to get an automatic bid to the BCS. The Associated Press asked the BCS to stop using its poll in December 2004, after undefeated Auburn and Utah were left out of the BCS title game.

Utah's lawmakers contend the BCS formula is flawed and gives schools from the major conferences an unfair advantage that would make it impossible for a school like BYU to win the national title, as the Cougars did in 1984.

"You look at what happened this year, the University of Utah did everything physically possible to win that championship," said Senate Majority Whip Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City. "Unless they are arbitrarily put in to that championship game, they will never have the chance."

However, despite calls from fans and President Obama himself, a playoff is unlikely anytime soon. The BCS recently signed a four-year, $125 million deal with ESPN to televise the BCS national championship game, and the Orange, Fiesta and Sugar bowls, starting January 2011 and running through the 2014 bowls.

The current deal with Fox runs out after next season. The Rose Bowl has its own separate TV deal with ABC that runs through January 2014.

"You know, when this comes down to it, it's all about money. The fact is the BCS alliance controls large dollars, and to not be able to be in that group is not right," Jenkins said. "There's time to hold a playoff. You just got to do it."

Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner and BCS coordinator John Swofford has said the majority of university presidents and athletic directors oppose an expansive NFL-style playoff for major college football and that the BCS is in compliance with federal law.

Utah politicians are undeterred, though. Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is investigating whether the BCS is violating federal antitrust laws and Gov. Jon Huntsman has suggested having Florida and Utah play an extra game at a neutral site, which is highly unlikely.

Shurtleff and other leaders have taken some flak for using state resources on college football, but they say it's worth it.

"When you talk about the millions of dollars that potentially come to our universities through these programs, I hardly think it's frivolous," said Senate Majority Leader Sheldon Killpack, R-Syracuse.

The Utah House is expected to approve Senate Joint Resolution 11 later this week.


On the Net:

Senate Joint Resolution 11: http://le.utah.gov/2009/bills/sbillint/sjr011.htm

(Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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