HOUSTON (AP) – Calling the Bowl Championship Series “deeply flawed,” the chairman of a congressional committee has called a hearing on the controversial system used to determine college football’s national champion.

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, charged with regulating America’s sports industry, announced Friday it will conduct a hearing on the BCS next week, after this season’s bowl matchups are determined.

“College football is not just an exhilarating sport, but a billion-dollar business that Congress cannot ignore,” said committee Chairman Joe Barton, a Texas Republican. Barton’s panel is separate from the House Government Reform panel that tackled steroids in baseball.

The committee announcement called the hearing, scheduled for next Wednesday, a “comprehensive review” of the BCS and postseason college football.

“Too often college football ends in sniping and controversy, rather than winners and losers,” Barton said. “The current system of determining who’s No. 1 appears deeply flawed.”

Barton said he does not have legislation in mind to force a change, but said he hopes congressional hearings will spur discussion and improvements. It won’t be the first time Congress has looked at the BCS. In 2003, the Senate probed whether the system was unfairly tilted against smaller schools.

NCAA Division I-A football does not have a playoff. The Bowl Championship Series was established in 1998 to determine a national champion using the traditional bowl system and a mix of computer and human polls to set up a championship game.

Because of the controversy surrounding the bowl selection process last season, The Associated Press told BCS officials to stop using its writers polls in its formula.

The committee invited testimony from Big 12 Commissioner Kevin Weiberg, the current chairman of the BCS.

“If members of the subcommittee have ideas on how the college football postseason can be improved, we welcome that input,” Weiberg said.

“The current structure is designed to match the No. 1 and 2 ranked teams, identified through a ranking system, in a bowl game. It is an extension of the bowl system and a method to determine a national champion through the bowls,” Weiberg said. “It has paired teams in bowl games that would not have been possible under the bowl arrangements existing before its creation.”

Along with the acclaim of a national champion, the BCS also created a financial windfall with tens of millions of dollars at stake for teams and conferences who participate.

But it has seldom been without controversy.

For example, undefeated Southeastern Conference champion Auburn was undefeated in 2004 but was shut out of the BCS title game, which matched USC against Oklahoma. Utah also finished the season undefeated but could not play for the title.

The Jan. 4 Rose Bowl is the site of this year’s BCS championship game. Other games with BCS ties are the Orange, Sugar and Fiesta bowls, with a rotating schedule for hosting the championship matchup.

AP-ES-12-02-05 1754EST

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