Thursday, May 19, 2011

NCAA Has No Comment for Justice Department Probe of Football Championship Series

This posting was written by Jeffrey May, Editor of CCH Trade Regulation Reporter.

Earlier this month, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed at a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing that the Department of Justice was looking into college football's Bowl Championship Series (BCS) system. In response to questioning from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) at the May 4 hearing, the attorney general disclosed that the Justice Department had sent a letter to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) seeking feedback on the BCS system.

Yesterday, the NCAA released a letter from Mark Emmert, its president, to the Justice Department, stating that the association could not comment on the BCS. The May 18 letter suggested that questions about the BCS system and to what extent an alternative system could better serve the interests of fans, colleges, universities, and players would be best directed at the BCS and the group of institutions that operate the BCS system.

"Inasmuch as the BCS system does not fall under the purview of the NCAA, it is not appropriate for me to provide views on the system," Emmert said in the letter. The letter went on to say that the NCAA had no plans for an NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) football championship, unless the association's membership "decides to discontinue the existing BCS systems and formally proposes creation of a championship for FBS institutions." While Emmert has in the past expressed a willingness to help create a championship, he noted that "without membership impetus for a postseason playoff, the NCAA has no mandate to create and conduct an FBS football championship."

The disclosure of the inquiry into BCS comes after years of calls for an investigation into the legality and fairness of the BCS from Sen. Hatch and other congressional lawmakers. Sen. Hatch has suggested that the BCS violates the Sherman Act. At the May 4 oversight hearing, the senator called the BCS "a mess."

The BCS is described as "a five-game showcase of college football . . . designed to ensure that the two top-rated teams in the country meet in the national championship game, and to create exciting and competitive matchups among eight other highly regarded teams in four other bowl games." Some argue, however, that has not always been the case and have called for a single elimination post-season playoff system.

Under the current BCS system, there are five bowl games are the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, the Discover Orange Bowl, the Rose Bowl, the Allstate Sugar Bowl, and the BCS National Championship Game that is played at one of the bowl sites.

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