Why Congress Can Boss Big-Time Sports Around
BCS playoff bill the latest in a long line of similar measures
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 10, 2009 1:00 PM CST
Members of the House Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection subcommittee discuss legislation pushing a college football playoff system.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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(Newser) – A House subcommittee ushered through a bill that would keep the BCS from billing its title game as the “national championship,” unless the NCAA institutes a playoff system. Where does Congress get off telling college administrators what to do? Well, sports are considered interstate commerce, according to the Explainer column in Slate. That gives lawmakers the jurisdiction to look into nearly any sports matter they please.

Some critics say the current system, which favors big conferences, violates antitrust laws, which Congress has power over, at least when it comes to college sports. As official “pastimes” rather than industries, the NBA, NFL, and MLB are exempt from antitrust laws. But in 1997 Congress decided that in exchange for that exemption, the leagues ought to submit to congressional oversight. Even without that, it could investigate use of steroids, which are banned under federal law.