To U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, the old college football championship system was “communism” and a “cartel” in need of House subcommittee review.
If you thought Barton hated the old way, ask him now.
Calling the College Football Playoff the “least possible system” that skirts federal oversight, Barton said he will object to the way Big 12 Conference co-champions TCU and Baylor were manipulated up and down weekly rankings, then ultimately dumped in favor of football megapower Ohio State.
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“That doesn’t make sense at all. It’s not fair to TCU, and I could make a little argument that the system overall wasn’t fair to Baylor either. If this had been Texas or Oklahoma, they’d be in the top four.”
Barton said he will complain to the Irving-based CFP Selection Committee and consider calling a subcommittee hearing later, after the National Championship Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium, coincidentally in his congressional district.
Asked if he’ll be at the game, Barton laughed and said: “Talk about a skunk at a garden party.”
Barton, chairman emeritus of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, hauled college presidents to Washington for two congressional hearings in connection with a consumer fraud and antitrust investigation.
He eventually passed a bill out of subcommittee that would have made it illegal to market the old Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game as a genuine playoff.
Back then, Barton argued for an eight-team playoff, or at least six.
Had a six-team playoff been adopted, TCU would be preparing for a first-round game against No. 3 Florida State. Baylor would have been matched against No. 4 Ohio State, with the winners to play Alabama and Oregon in semifinals.
Instead, TCU will play No. 9 Mississippi on New Year’s Eve morning in a meaningless Chick-fil-A Gator Bowl game in Atlanta. Baylor will play No. 8 Michigan State on New Year’s morning in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic in AT&T Stadium.
“The good news is, you had people making decisions this year instead of computers,” Barton said.
His fellow subcommittee members “don’t want to come down too hard,” he said, because at least there’s a playoff.
“But it didn’t take a genius to know that somebody was going to get left out,” he said.
“I think TV markets came into play. Ohio State won so convincingly [59-0 at Wisconsin]. The TV markets in the Midwest and Ohio State’s pedigree overwhelmed TCU and Baylor … This is what was wrong before. The teams with the better TV markets and ratings got in.”
Barton predicted college football will move to a more inclusive playoff, “and I don’t want it to be in 15 or 19 years — I’d say the next year or two,” he said.
Playoff ratings and advertising will be strong this year, but some teams’ attendance lagged late in the season when they fell out of contention.
(Imagine if a committee hand-picked only four premium Texas high school teams to play for a championship instead of the current 128 in each classification. Other games would look lonely in November.)
Barton pulls for Texas A&M, eliminated from playoff contention Oct. 11.
“We were out early, but imagine if more teams had a chance to get that last playoff spot,” he said.
“When the committee sees the playoff excitement, they’ll want more.”
Barton expects more.
Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538