Saturday, May 2, 2009

Football bowls: market design by Congress?

Sports fans will no doubt be relieved to learn that the Feds are on the case: Congress examining fairness, financing of BCS system .

"Tackling an issue sure to rouse sports fans, lawmakers pressed college football officials Friday on switching the Bowl Championship Series to a playoff, with one Texas Republican calling the current system as unworkable as communism and joking it should be labeled "BS," not "BCS."
John Swofford, the coordinator of the BCS, rejected the idea of switching to a playoff, arguing it would threaten the existence of celebrated bowl games. Sponsorships and TV revenue that now go to bowl games would instead be spent on playoff games, "meaning that it will be very difficult for any bowl, including the current BCS bowls, which are among the oldest and most established in the game's history, to survive," Swofford said.
Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, who has introduced legislation that would prevent the NCAA from labeling a game a national championship unless it's the outcome of a playoff system, said that efforts to tinker with the BCS were bound to fail.
"It's like communism," he said at the House Energy and Commerce Committee's commerce, trade and consumer protection subcommittee hearing. "You can't fix it." "

While the BCS system is already a kind of camel (i.e. a horse designed by a committee), it is a considerable improvement over the unraveled market that came before it, in which bowl matchups were frequently mis-matches arranged several weeks before the end of the regular season, see
Frechette, Guillaume, Alvin E. Roth, and M. Utku Unver, "Unraveling Yields Inefficient Matchings: Evidence from Post-Season College Football Bowls," Rand Journal of Economics, 38, 4, Winter 2007, 967-982, with an online appendix).

I'm skeptical that Congress will push this very far, but it is good to know that the country is in such good shape that some of our Congress persons can devote their efforts to this.

HT: Utku Unver