Non-BCS conferences get record payout

WASHINGTON -- The five conferences that don't get automatic bids to the Bowl Championship Series will receive a record $24 million from this year's BCS bowl games, augmented by the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl matchup of TCU and Boise State.

BCS figures obtained by The Associated Press on Monday show the bulk of that money will go to TCU's Mountain West Conference, $9.8 million, and Boise State's Western Athletic Conference, $7.8 million, as non-BCS leagues sent two teams into the premier bowls for the first time.

The other three non-BCS conferences will divide the remainder.

The figures still lag behind the six BCS conferences. The Big Ten and Southeastern conferences received $22.2 million each, with $17.7 million going to each of the other four BCS conferences.

Critics in Congress who have taken aim at the BCS have cited what they consider an unfair distribution of BCS revenue. BCS executive director Bill Hancock told the AP the new numbers show the distribution is "fair and appropriate."

Boise State finished 2009 with a 14-0 record after toppling TCU in the Fiesta Bowl.

Boise State, ranked sixth in the BCS standings to finish the season, beat No. 4 TCU 17-10 after the Horned Frogs had dispatched the Broncos last season in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.

TCU, then ranked 11th in the BCS, prevailed 17-16 in the 2008 Poinsettia to edge the then-No. 9 Broncos.

Under the BCS system, the six BCS conferences get automatic bids to participate in top-tier bowl games while the other five don't.

According to Hancock, the distribution numbers support the current BCS system.

"It's an opportunity for us to remind people that every conference had a chance to earn automatic qualification, and will again, based on the current evaluation," he said.

Hancock said that the BCS has helped all 11 conferences get more access, revenue and opportunity to play in the postseason. The previous record for non-BCS conferences was $19.3 million, set last year, he said.

Still, the figures aren't likely to win over critics in Congress.

Rep. Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, has cited the revenue discrepancy as a reason for his legislation that would ban the promotion of a postseason NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision game as a national championship unless it results from a playoff. The bill passed a subcommittee last month but faces an uphill battle in Congress.

In a telephone interview Monday, Barton responded to the figures with a shrug.

"What is the BCS theoretically about? I thought it was about the best teams playing the best teams," he said. "This simply acknowledges the reality that's it's not about that, but about revenue sharing. It's an economic cartel."

In the Senate, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has called on President Barack Obama to ask the Justice Department to investigate whether the BCS violated antitrust laws, arguing that the millions of dollars at stake justify oversight by the federal government.

"The BCS system favors one set of schools over others," Hatch said in an e-mail. "While the money being divided up by the privileged conferences at the expense of nonprivileged conferences is astounding, the principles being violated are even more astounding."

Craig Thompson, commissioner of the Mountain West Conference, last year called the money distribution system "grossly inequitable."

Thompson did not return phone calls seeking comment on the BCS numbers.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.