BCS Can Stand Up to Feds

May 9, 2011

Written by Jon Miller

Hawkeye Nation

According to Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, the BCS can stand up to the scrutiny that may be coming its way from the Federal Government.

Last week, Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney wrote a letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert expressing antitrust issues with the BCS system.

Here is a snippet from that letter, which is linked here in its entirety:

Dear Dr. Emmert,

Serious questions continue to arise suggesting that the current Bowl Championship Series (BCS) system may not be conducted consistent with the competition principles expressed in the federal antitrust laws. The Attorney General of Utah has announced an intention to file an antitrust lawsuit against the BCS. In addition, we recently received a request to open an investigation of the BCS from a group of twenty-one professors. Other prominent individuals also have publicly encouraged the Antitrust Division to take action against the BCS, arguing that it violates the antitrust laws.

it would be helpful for us to understand your views and/or plans on the following:

1. Why does the Football Bowl Subdivision not have a playoff, when so many other NCAA sports have NCAA-run playoffs or championships?
2. What steps, if any, has the NCAA taken to create a playoff among Football Bowl Subdivision programs before or during your tenure? To the extent any steps were taken, why were they not successful? What steps does the NCAA plan to take to create a playoff at this time?
3. Have you determined that there are aspects of the BCS system that do not serve the interests of fans, colleges, universities, and players? To what extent could an alternative system better serve those interests?

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Emmert and other NCAA brass have yet to publicly respond to this, but Delany has:

“You never should be overconfident on legal matters. Like anything else, once they’re in a courtroom or in front of a jury, you can’t predict outcomes. Having said that, we know what (the college football postseason once) was, and we know what is. And we know there was a thorough vetting of all antitrust issues at the beginning and during (the life of the BCS) because our presidents have always wanted to know the legal basis on which we operate.”

Then, Delany closed with the money shot: “There’s no judge or jury in the world that can make you enter into an four-team, eight-team or 16-team playoff.”

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Put aside your thoughts on the BCS and a college football playoff for a moment; we have all summer to dive back into that topic if we wish. Focus on that last quote..

Delany’s right on. If the NCAA and the Presidents of the member institutions do not want a college football playoff at the FBS level, there is not going to be a college football at the FBS level.

The government might be able to step in and seriously harm or eliminate the BCS System as it stands now; I think that is possible, if unlikely. However, the government CANNOT make the NCAA instituted a playoff if it doesn’t want a playoff.

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Interests from Utah have pushed this to the government…that was before they became a member of the printing press now known as the Pac 12…Utah has probably improved its status among FBS teams more than any other program in the nation in the past 12 months…I wonder if Senator Hatch would have been so bull dogged in his pursuits of the BCS had Utah already been in a BCS Conference? Yeah, not likely.

But back to the matter at hand…the government cannot make the NCAA institute a playoff at the FBS level if it does not want one. Which is why there is not going to be a college football playoff unless and until the NCAA decides that is in the best interests of the NCAA and based on the smoke signals we have been reading the past several years, that’s not coming anytime soon.

Could we see a ‘Plus 1’ set up? Possibly. But an eight or 16-team playoff?

Just read Jim Delany’s quotes again…he is one of the biggest power brokers in college athletics and isn’t known to be some lone wolf. I am guessing he is not just speaking out because he’s irritated, which he may be. I would guess it’s a purpose pitch and he has been (unofficially) chosen a front lines pitch man.

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