Though it's been a few years since Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) forced Congress to consider the plight of college football and the Bowl Championship Series, his crusade is finally getting some real legal backing.
The Department of Justice announced Wednesday afternoon that it has opened an official inquiry into whether the BCS violates federal antitrust laws.
In a letter sent to Mark Emmert, current NCAA president, the head of the DOJ's Antitrust Section questioned whether the BCS is in the best interests of college football, and asked why football is the only major NCAA sport without a playoff system.
While this is just the beginning of the inquiry, there is some evidence that BCS antitrust violations exist.
For quite some time, the BCS has claimed that it is not an actual corporation or legal entity. However, it is a group of entities who, through contractual agreement, collectively control the process by which teams are chosen to play in collegiate bowl games.
The Sherman Act does not only prohibit monopolization, it prohibits contracts in restraint of trade.
It's been argued that the BCS algorithm and profit sharing agreement strongly favors the six largest conferences at the expense of the smaller conferences that get less air time. The cycle perpetuates itself, rarely allowing these teams to receive any recognition, and thus money, on the national stage.
Because this system is the outcome a group of contractual relationships, the entities that make up the BCS can be said to be party to an illegal contract in restraint of trade.
If the DOJ decides that BCS antitrust liability doesn't exist, it isn't the end of the inquiry. Utah's attorney general is currently looking for outside counsel to launch a federal antitrust lawsuit.
- DoJ Begins Antitrust Inquiry Into BC (FindLaw's Courtside)
- DOJ to BCS: Why, Exactly, Do You Exist? (Wall Street Journal)
- BCS Fair? Congress Eyes Bowl Championship Series (FindLaw's Tarnished Twenty)
- Could Federal BCS Probe Lead to College Football Playoff? (FindLaw's Tarnished Twenty)