It’s getting tougher for the NCAA to continue to dance around the antitrust issues entangled with the BCS system in college football.

In a recent letter to the NCAA, Christine Varney, the antitust chief for the Department of Justice (DOJ), said there are “serious questions” about the current BCS system in college football. In particular the letter wondered about the lack of a playoff system in NCAA Division I football. Every other NCAA-sanctioned sport, including lower-level football, utilizes a playoff to determine its champion. See: Feds to NCAA: Why no playoffs?

Varney said her office had received a request from 21 college professors to open an investigation of the BCS.

“Serious questions continue to arise suggesting the current Bowl Championship Series system may not be conducted consistent with the competition principles expressed in the federal antitrust laws,” said Varney.

Antitrust economist Andy Schwarz, whose efforts against the BCS helped spur the DOJ to take this initial action, argues that “the collusive steps the BCS has taken to insulate its weak championship game from competition from a better alternative [i.e., a playoff]” is likely an antitrust violation. See: BCS: Antitrust storm clouds gather

Schwarz believes the DOJ, NCAA and BCS will do battle and that the ultimate settlement could be a consent decree that would in effect bust up the BCS and “allow an entrepreneur like Mark Cuban, a network such as ESPN, or the NCAA itself to develop a playoff in competition with the BCS.”

On another front, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said this week that he intends to file an antitrust lawsuit sometime this summer against the BCS. See: Utah A.G. pleased feds look into BCS

“It is an illegal monopoly that benefits certain teams over others and hurts institutions of higher learning,” said Shurtleff.

Shurtleff’s lawsuit will seek damages for schools in the non-BCS conferences that have lost millions of dollars over the years because the existing system keeps nonpreferred conferences at a competitive advantage, according to Shurtleff.

Long-time BCS critic Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, also weighed in. He called the BCS a “mess” and said that “privileged conferences” have tremendous advantages over the unprivileged.

The League of Fans is calling for the abolishment of the unfair and unethical BCS system in favor of a 16-team playoff.


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