Does the BCS violate Antitrust Laws?

by Paul Grossinger
(Baltimore, MD)

I know, I know, it’s a stale issue. Everyone from Barack Obama to my great uncle Joe has voiced their displeasure with the structure of the BCS system to no avail. Indeed, Barack Obama’s pledge to use a drop of his post-electoral political capital to pursue a playoff system came to an embarrassing halt last spring before it had even really started.

However, I must thank Orrin Hatch, the Senator from the great state of Utah, for rescuing my article from the trash bin of dead issues. This morning, the President publically asked the President to open a Justice System probe into the BCS’ violation of anti-trust laws. Hatch apparently told Obama that a “strong case” can be made that the BCS is in violation of anti-trust laws and, in any case, “the BCS system is in dire need of reform .”

Does Hatch’s antitrust case in fact have any merit? Let us examine the bedrock of any potential anti-trust suit and, in the process, switch to a formal writing style that might convince the reader I know what I’m talking about. The prosecutor’s points would likely be that, first, some conferences get automatic bids while others do not, the BCS actively works to limit the ceiling for mid-majors regardless of actual performance, and, finally, that the system controls all of Division I College Football and has no competition. Given these three primary contentions, does the case have merit?

I would argue in favor of Hatch’s case. The main reason for this is because the BCS has no rival and completely controls Division I College Football. Considering the billions of dollars in college football and the millions of viewers, this qualifies as a major antitrust issue. Furthermore, the BCS clearly does favor certain conferences based on their money draws rather than their merit. For instance, despite its status as the weakest of the major conferences last year, the Big 10 received two BCS berths. Predictably, both lost and Penn State was defeated by USC in convincing fashion while more deserving teams were sitting by their TV sets in early January.

Ultimately, I think everyone would prefer to see the BCS reform itself. Anti-trust suits are messy; particularly when they involve something as dear to Americans as college football. However, the BCS has shown itself to be completely opposed to any kind of reform, even at the insistence of the President of the United States, so its hand may have to be forced.

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Dec 30, 2009
by: Uomo Del Ghiaccio

I'm not a lawyer, but the BCS system does smack of corruption. It casts a foul smell that needs to be corrected. Until there is a playoff I will no longer support any team that has an automatic bid.

The SEC is among the worst offenders as they have the tendency not to play non-bcs teams on a home and away basis. The money distribution on bowl games is biased as well.

To me TCU has as good of argument as Alabama or Texas to be allowed to play in the national "Mythical" championship. Instead the gutless wonders put Boise State against TCU to ensure that no BSC team would suffer the humiliating defeat that Alabama was handed by Utah last year.

The whole BSC system is a disgrace and should be discarded promptly.

Jan 04, 2010
by: cover-up

Prior to the BCS , #1 played #2 in a bowl game only 8 times in over 50 years . Conferences had contracts with individual bowls, and small Ivy league colleges who played lacross or cricket as their main sport were allowed to make policy that was binding on major colleges. These same small colleges also were able to determine how the moneys generated by the major colleges was distributed.

The BCS has explained plainly their grading criteria , their are no secrets. More is required to be in the championship game than just being undefeated against weak competition.

Oct 28, 2010
pro playoff monopoly
by: Anonymous

The original purpose of the anti-trust laws was to prevent monopolies. But pro playoff has a near monopoly of the sports world. Pro playoff is thoughtlessly anti-different.

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