Sacrifice the bowls for fairness?

Testifying before Congress recently were representatives of Bowl Championship Series (BCS) schools and representatives of non-BCS schools, with the fate of the BCS bowl selection system perhaps hanging in the balance.

For Alabama fans who have been clamoring for NCAA reform -- particularly as it relates to who gets punished, when and for what -- this testimony may seem irrelevant. But it may not be.

The committee before which NCAA President Myles Brand testified contained such heavy hitters as Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. Hatch, in addition to being a high-ranking Republican, is a graduate of Brigham Young University -- a non-BCS school.

Neither Biden nor Hatch seemed particularly interested in the NCAA's position that the BCS was a fine-working entity. They strongly recommended something be done to change the system, and made a veiled threat that Congress would step in if the NCAA would not.

Coach Paul Bryant and Joe Namath talk in the locker room after Alabama defeated Oklahoma in the 1963 Orange Bowl (note the 17-0 score written on the blackboard). The long-standing bowl system is one thing that supporters say makes college football unique from other sports.

This could be the fly in the ointment for the NCAA as a whole. If the NCAA digs in its heels and attempts to play hardball with Congress -- particularly against the likes of Biden and Hatch -- it becomes very likely that Congress will strike back.

And if Congress feels the need to take time away from matters of the economy and the war in Iraq to deal with the NCAA, it's unlikely that Congress will stop at simply tweaking the BCS.

If Congress did intervene, it becomes safe to assume that the NCAA would be forced into developing some type of playoff system that opens the postseason process up to teams not playing in major conferences. Should that happen, the bowl system would possibly be killed off.

As horrible as that would be, however, it might be a necessary evil in the fight to finally see some Congressional oversight for the archaic and arbitrary NCAA. And if Alabama sees such a fight coming on, that would be the time to exert a full-court press on Sen. Jeff Sessions, Sen. Richard Shelby and the state's delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives to get involved.

While Alabama's Congressional delegation has been proactive in steering money towards academic projects -- check out the new Shelby Hall, for example -- the delegation has so far ignored the plight of Alabama's football team and its unadulterated mishandling at the hands of NCAA investigators, judges and appeals committee members last year.

It is inconceivable (or at least it should be) that Alabama's delegation would sit idly by while the program was threatened with the death penalty, considering such a development would bring disaster to the Tuscaloosa economy and make a substantial dent in the metro Birmingham-area economy, as well. But so far, that's what has happened. is pleased to announce that Jess Nicholas, a veteran Journalist and long-time Internet commentator on college sports, will be writing for the website. Jess is hardly a stranger to the ‘BAMA Magazine family--or to the Alabama Internet community. For the past three years he has been a major contributor to the annual ‘BAMA Football Yearbook, and he has also written for the magazine.

His full-time job as managing editor for The Daily Sentinel in Scottsboro keeps him busy, but Jess always finds time to write about Alabama football, a subject close to his heart. An avid sports fan in general, Jess graduated from Alabama and has followed Crimson Tide athletics essentially all of his life.

If Shelby, Sessions and Alabama's representatives are looking for an excuse to tweak the NCAA's noses, this may be their chance. Alternatively, this might be the chance for the top 70 or so schools to jump the NCAA ship and start their own governing body. Either way, Alabama would be in a far better situation than where it is now.

Such changes come with a price, though, and that price is probably the disappearance of the bowl system that has made the game special. But is the loss of the bowl system worth it if it means Alabama is treated more fairly? In my mind, absolutely.

Now, all that is needed is for Alabama's representatives to step up accordingly.

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