Just a few years ago, these same execs were claiming before Congress that they were legitimate charities. These days they're being confronted with their own financial reports that say otherwise.

The system's also facing attack on the antitrust front. Only the six biggest conferences — plus the Notre Dame athletic director — have voting rights within the BCS. The BCS picks the teams for the top five bowls. These six leagues also receive the largest revenue cuts, leaving the five remaining Division 1 conferences at their mercy.

Sports economist Andrew Zimbalist likens it to Major League Baseball allowing the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies to decide who makes the playoffs — and guarantee themselves the biggest paydays. So he and 21 other economists filed a complaint last spring urging the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the BCS for antitrust violations.

Despite having access to the country's best mathematicians, many argue, the BCS can't even get its computer rankings right. Famed sports statistician Bill James has said they're based on "nonsense math." Hal Stern, a professor at the University of California-Irvine, has even called for a BCS boycott in the Journal of Quantitative Analysis.

Then there are the university presidents. Faced with continuous funding cuts, at some point they're bound to go looking for new revenue.

Because March Madness generates more than $600 million a year, schools might belatedly realize that a playoff for football, the more popular sport, is sure to bring a torrent of cash. Fortunately, even those short on courage tend to find it when free money's in sight.

Hancock seems to know the end is near, though he won't say it outright. The BCS contract expires in 2014, and Hancock acknowledges that dozens of new proposals are floating around college football.

History says the insiders will try to change as little as possible. They've offered minor concessions every few years since the dawning of the BCS, just enough to keep attorneys general and nosy congressmen at bay. But the bowls' duplicity is so obvious they can't hold on much longer.

"I want what's best for the students," Hancock says.

If he's being honest with himself, he can't help but push for reform. After all, he has to know that at the bottom of this insiders' pyramid are those who can afford it least — the kids paying tuition.

"What's really egregious is they shift that burden to their students," says Morgan.

And that's the unholiest part of it all.

— With reporting from Tim Elfrink

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