- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Super Bowl Sunday has come and gone, but a lot of little guys with a big idea are still trying to suit up the worst idea of the season. So is a certain senator who ought to know better (and probably does).

Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a Republican who once was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has channeled several of the Founding Fathers and learned that they want Congress to organize a tournament to determine the national collegiate football championship. Mr. Hatch is pretty sure the champs will be the Utes of the University of Utah, or ought to be. No word yet which school gets the president’s vote, but he picked the Colts against the Saints. He should stick to basketball.

Once upon a time, both the president and the senator would have been hooted out of the game. That was when presidents and senators had their favorites, but looking after the country’s interests did not include scheduling football games.

Lou Holtz, the television commentator who as a coach once produced championship-caliber teams at Arkansas, Minnesota, Notre Dame and South Carolina, put this silly suggestion in correct perspective. “As a taxpayer, I have very low expectations,” he says. “I don’t expect our Congress to read a 1,500-page stimulus bill before they spend $787 billion we don’t have. I don’t expect them to read the 2,500 pages in the health care bill before we spend a trillion dollars [on it]. I don’t expect them to recognize how we went $1.4 trillion in debt in just four months, but I expect them to read the 32 pages of the Constitution, and I defy you to find somewhere in there where you should be worried about [the current system for picking a national college football champion].”

Mr. Hatch for one couldn’t disagree more. He wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to sic the Justice Department on the college football powers, to make them come up with a playoff system that would make it easier for Utah to win the national championship. “I have long believed that our antitrust laws play an essential role in ensuring our nation’s long-term prosperity,” he told the president. “I believe there is a strong case that the Bowl Championship Series [which determines the national championship] violates the Sherman Act.”

Mr. Hatch argues that the current system keeps the schools from less prestigious leagues — like Utah, which is a member of the Mountain West Conference — out of the championship game. But this is not so. The Utes only have to do what the other college teams do, win enough games impressively enough to earn the votes of the coaches and the computer programs, to finish the regular season as one of the top two teams in the country. This past season Texas Christian University, also a member of the Mountain West Conference, came within a hair of making it to the championship.

But it’s not just the senator. Like Mr. Hatch, Mr. Obama does not have enough to do, either. “I’m fed up with these computer rankings,” he said, and you could hear his frustration. With his teleprompter down for a tune-up the man regarded by the cult as having invented eloquence could only express his anger in sentence fragments: “Get eight teams. The top eight teams right at the end. You got a playoff. Decide on a national champion.”

Mr. Hatch was once regarded by conservatives as a fierce advocate of restricting the interpretation of the Constitution to what it actually says. Now, he has a more expansive view. In addition to helping the Utes to the national championship, he’s eager to get another congressional seat for the state of Utah. So he offered a trade of special interests, to give the Democrats a voting seat for the District of Columbia, which under the Constitution is not entitled to one, if congressional Democrats would vote to award another seat to Utah. This requires treating the District “as if it were a state.”

This a novel theory. Why not treat Utah as if it were California, and award it 40 more seats? Why not treat Orrin Hatch as if he were the president, and give him a ride to the game on Air Force One? Or more imaginative still, why not treat his Utes as if they were the Alabama Crimson Tide, and they would already be the national champions. The Constitution, as the senator would now tell you, is a living document.

• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.