Utah attorney general plans to sue BCS

April, 21, 2011
4/21/11
9:00
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We have heard the threats many times before, but now it seems Utah's attorney general is ready to do something about the perceived unfairness of the Bowl Championship Series.

Mark Shurtleff told USA Today that he plans to file suit against the BCS, claiming it violates antitrust rules because it is an "illegal monopoly." Shurtleff and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) have been leading the crusade against the BCS since Utah was left out of the national championship game following an undefeated season in 2008. Hatch has been a part of congressional hearings that have questioned whether the BCS violates antitrust rules.

[+] EnlargeMark Shurtleff
AP Photo/Steve C. WilsonUtah attorney general Mark Shurtleff said the BCS is guilty of "serious antitrust violations."
Shurtleff plans to pursue the action in federal court within a few months, and expects other states to join. Many wondered whether the state would continue to push for a more equitable postseason in college football now that the university is a member of the Pac-12. Shurtleff explained to the newspaper, "This isn't about bragging rights. It isn't some kind of frivolous deal. There are serious antitrust violations that are harming taxpayer-funded institutions to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. And the right thing to do, regardless of whether teams in your state benefit, is to go after the antitrust violations ... all the way from the Sherman Act through price fixing."

The BCS stirs controversy seemingly every year because of its structure, where only six conferences get automatic bids. Teams from outside those conferences have made it into BCS games, but have yet to get into a national championship game despite undefeated seasons. BCS chief Bill Hancock always maintains that the non-AQ schools have more access than ever before under the BCS system. While that is true, it still does not explain why an undefeated team should be denied playing a championship based on its conference.

Then there is the issue of the disparity in the payouts. The non-AQ conferences got a total of $24.7 million from the BCS last season, which was a record. But the six AQ conferences got $145 million.

Fans seem to want a playoff, but do not want the federal government involved. The university presidents and athletic directors who are in charge of the BCS do not want a playoff and will do whatever it takes to preserve the power structure currently in place. The courts are going to have to rule the BCS does in fact violate antitrust laws for anything to begin to change. Whether that happens remains to be seen.

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