- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2008

It’s nice that President-elect Barack Obama is concerned enough about college football to want changes in the ludicrous Bowl Championship Series … but why? Doesn’t he have enough other matters about which to worry, worry and worry some more?

Somehow I doubt members of Obama’s core constituency, the troubled middle class, are sitting at the kitchen table moaning that, say, Penn State might not get to play for the BCS championship.

OK, so college football needs reform, but nobody among those 66 million who voted for Obama did so because of his views therein. In fact, most people didn’t know or care that he cared until he expressed his feelings on ESPN on the eve of the election and again Sunday night on “60 Minutes.”

Here’s one more bit of advice for a man who must be getting zillions of ‘em: Why not appoint his defeated rival, Sen. John McCain, as college football czar? After all, McCain has been involved in sports before, principally as an author of legislation designed to clean up boxing. (Now, that’s what I call a hopeless campaign.)

If McCain would rather remain in the world’s greatest deliberative body, how about Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton? As college football’s ultimate CEO, she could avoid all that annoying speculation about being named secretary of state.

And when you select Hillary for anything, you get two for the price of one. Bill would seem ideal as, say, supervisor of cheerleaders.

As colleague Tim Lemke noted Tuesday in The Washington Times, President Obama’s options for reforming football would be somewhat limited. Mostly they would involve using what Teddy Roosevelt - the real one, not the hapless Nationals mascot - called the bully pulpit.

Imagine this scene at a presidential news conference:

REPORTER: “Mr. President, specifically what kind of revisions would you like to see in college football?”

OBAMA: Well, there is no question … that it must undergo … change we can believe in. I will name a commission including … such distinguished coaches … as Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes and Eddie Robinson … to study every aspect.”

REPORTER: “But, Mr. President, those coaches are dead.”

OBAMA: “Well, then, how about Chicago’s own Amos Alonzo Stagg?”

Seriously, folks, what could President Obama do other than rant and rave? Not much, I’m afraid. He could (a) issue an executive order demanding an eight-team playoff system, (b) ask the Justice Department to investigate whether the NCAA violates antitrust laws by excluding teams from non-major conferences or (c) stomp his foot and throw a tantrum. All these options appear unlikely and unhelpful.

This issue appears likely to disappear from the presidential agenda faster than you can say, “What ever happened to Joe Biden?” If the BCS is to be scrapped, it likely will have to be done by university presidents and the NCAA. Obama’s playoff idea is favored by many others, but the problem is that it would necessitate shortening everybody’s regular season by a week or two.

In retrospect, it should be no surprise that Obama spoke out on the matter. Presidents love to portray themselves as sports fans - even when, as in the case of Woodrow Wilson, they are less so than their wives. It’s the common touch, y’know.

Some of our recent presidents indeed have football backgrounds of one sort or another. John Kennedy espoused the touch variety, you’ll recall. Richard Nixon played at Whittier College and Gerald Ford at Michigan. Ronald Reagan frequently referred to himself as “the Gipper” decades after portraying Notre Dame’s tragic George Gipp in a movie.

Elsewhere on the sporting scene, George H.W. Bush played baseball at Yale, and his oldest son ran the Texas Rangers. So the connection between jockdom and politics is strong, as evidenced by all the sports metaphors you hear on the hustings.

It’s a little hard, though, to envision Obama in a football uniform. Our 44th president is so skinny, any respectable linebacker could break him across a knee.

Perhaps President Obama should just keep his nose to the White House grindstone and out of college football. The NCAA got itself into the BCS mess, and it should find a way out.

Just don’t hold your breath.



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