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Utah Attorney General Will File Antitrust Lawsuit Against BCS

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Last week, a panel of 21 economics and law professors wrote a letter to the Department of Justice asking it to investigate the BCS on antitrust grounds. At the time, I wondered what exactly would be the catalyst for making it happen.

It didn't take long to get an answer. Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff announced plans to challenge the BCS in court after having investigated the system for the last three years. It was three years ago that Utah went undefeated but locked out of the national championship game (for a second time), and if they had run the BCS system after the bowls (with the AP subbed in for the Harris Poll), we actually would have had the Utes as national champion instead of Florida.

In order for the BCS to fall in court, you have to make an argument strictly about money. Antitrust law is not based on intangibles like prestige.

The biggest fiscal problem with the system as it stands is the fact that AQ conferences get larger payouts for BCS appearances than non-AQ conferences do. The econ and law professors pointed out in their article that the BCS games involving non-AQ schools have pulled their weight in terms of ratings and ticket sales (and most times better than the Orange Bowl has), so the non-AQ conferences probably should get an equal payout.

Another key to the case would be establishing a dollar value on winning a national championship. It sucks that schools are practically shut out of winning a national title, but unless you can put a dollar value on it, that means nothing. I know that you can put a dollar value on it based on increased merchandising at the very least and perhaps on future ticket sales as well.

Ultimately, it's a be-careful-what-you-wish-for scenario for the non-AQ schools and conferences. As long as Jim Delany lives a breathes, a return to the old bowl system is more likely than a playoff if the BCS gets torn down in court. That would be a huge step backwards for the non-AQ schools.

The BCS grew out of the old Bowl Alliance/Bowl Coalition phase in the '90s, when a national championship game was set up without the Big Ten, Pac-10, and Rose Bowl being on board. They eventually gave in to get in on the money that was being generated. If a playoff was to grow out of the wreckage of the BCS, you'd have to do it that way most likely. University presidents are still by and large against a playoff though, so it's still not a probable scenario.

Regardless, I just want to see the BCS get its day in court. I'm frankly tired of the arguments back and forth about it, so let's just get a ruling once and for all.