Playoff Advocate Goes Homeless Against the BCS
Saturday, July 25, 2009
The homeless man walked among U.S. senators. He wore a rumpled pink button-down shirt and dirt-stained khakis and nervously fidgeted with a blue pen, as if he knew he was somewhere he did not belong. In his hands, he held the three-page document that has consumed him for a better part of the year.
"Some call it obsessed," he said. "I call it dedicated."
Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building provided the setting during a Senate Judiciary subcommittee meeting on June 7. The participants included Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) , the lone panel member for most of the session, and four men who testified for or against the use of the Bowl Championship Series to determine a national champion in college football.
Fans, television pundits and even elected officials have debated the BCS since its inception in 1998. The system has been controversial in part because it relies on computers, not a playoff, to determine who plays for the championship and because some believe it marginalizes teams from smaller conferences.
But very few fans have as much desire for change as Brandon Kennedy, 21, of Cheney, Wash. And there are even fewer who have taken such extreme steps to try to make it happen.
He has drafted a paper, "The Kennedy Proposal," that outlines a new system. He sapped nearly all of his $450 bank account to fly from his home in Washington state to Washington, D.C., and has taken up residence underneath bridges and trees in Georgetown, living homeless for the past 13 weeks as he lobbies for change. He has sent, by his estimate, more than 15,000 e-mails and letters to college athletic conference commissioners, athletic directors and NCAA officials over the past year.
"You just look at history and the things that have been accomplished," Kennedy said. "Everyone's had to go to great lengths to accomplish something that's been great. This really just seems like the only way for me to do it."
The current system of deciding the national college football champion likely won't change until the BCS's television contract expires in January 2015. But that has not deterred some fans who think their idea is the best. At a given time, Bill Hancock, the BCS administrator, will collect 300 to 500 proposals for a new format.
Kennedy is one of those fans, and he attended the Senate hearing last month like the other faces in the crowd. But his proposal was not involved in the discussion of the men testifying, and he has not gained much attention.
Despite the long odds, Kennedy sat in the hearing and envisioned a day when his proposal would be discussed on Capitol Hill. He showed up first to the wood-paneled room and sat in the third row when the proceeding started. When it ended, he approached the important figures in attendance, including those who testified, to try to get more exposure for his plan.
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Kennedy had a much different football career before this. He was an all-state wide receiver and defensive back at Gonzaga Preparatory School in Spokane, Wash., and went on to play at Central Washington, a Division II university in Ellensburg, Wash. He holds the school's career records for interception return yardage (373) and interceptions returned for a touchdown (five). He transferred to Eastern Washington, a division I-AA university in Cheney, Wash., but did not have the money to stay enrolled and dropped out in the fall.