Department Of Justice Sends Letter To NCAA Regarding Why BCS And Not A Playoff System

The Justice Department's assistant attorney general for antitrust, Christine Varney, sent a letter to NCAA President Dr. Emmert inquiring about why the NCAA does not run a football at the FBS level and to broach the subject brought forth by Utah's Attorney General Mark Shurtleff saying that the BCS violates anti-trust laws.

Thanks to Playoff Pac, here is the full letter:

Dear Dr. Emmert:

Serious questions continue to arise suggesting that the current Bowl Championship Series (DCS) 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, a copy of which is attached. Other prominent individuals also have publicly encouraged the Antitrust Division to take action against the BCS, arguing that it violates the antitrust laws.

On March 2, 2011, the New York Times reported that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was "willing to help create a playoff format to decide a national championship for the top level of college football." In that context, 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?

Your views would be relevant in helping us to determine the best course of action with regard to the BCS. Therefore, we thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter.

This is two years in the making since the DOJ has said they would begin looking into this issue when time permits.

In quick fashion the NCAA has responded:

When we actually receive the letter from the Department of Justice we will respond to its questions directly. It should be noted that President Emmert consistently has said, including in the New York Times article, that the NCAA is willing to help create a playoff format for Football Bowl Subdivision football if the FBS membership makes that decision.

Umm... NCAA there was a letter sent from the DOJ on this issue. Perhaps they want a letter from the top? The NCAA's response is more of ‘hey it's not our decision on a playoff, but if YOU want one we will help.' Great, this early response does not give me any confidence that anything will change.

A good point is made over at Dr. Saturday to why there is not a playoff at the FBS level and is is because the NCAA does not have the law on their side to create a playoff:

The NCAA hasn't made a significant move on individual conferences' right to make their own schedules, negotiate their own television contracts and organize their own postseason cabals in 25 years, since the Supreme Court decided the Association's efforts to exert control over television contracts amounted to an antitrust violation in 1984. University presidents and conference commissioners have had virtually free reign from the NCAA ever since, and ever-escalating payouts from television contracts and the BCS are the fruit of their endeavor. From the NCAA's perspective, there's no NCAA-sanctioned playoff because the NCAA doesn't have the authority - legally or practically - to impose one on constituents that don't want it.

So, the decision yet again goes back to the current athletic directors, school presidents and conference commissioners who make the decisions on the college football post season, and we know what their stance on a playoff are. The BCS leagues take in the most money and there is no incentive to change the system to share the wealth to all the leagues. They would rather take in a larger piece of the pie then get a substantial amount more of money with the non-BCS league getting a near equal share.

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