The Obama administration is considering several steps that would review the legality of the controversial Bowl Championship Series, the Justice Department said in a letter Friday to a senator who had asked for an antitrust review.
In the letter to Sen. Orrin Hatch, obtained by The Associated Press, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote that the Justice Department is reviewing Hatch's request and other materials to determine whether to open an investigation into whether the BCS violates antitrust laws.
"Importantly, and in addition, the administration also is exploring other options that might be available to address concerns with the college football postseason," Weich wrote, including asking the Federal Trade Commission to review the legality of the BCS under consumer protection laws.
File this one under be careful for what you wish for.
A couple of things to start off with if you are new to this site and/or are not familiar with our positions regarding the news item above from the AP.
First, we despise the BCS. Our stated position is to either scrap the thing entirely and go back to the old bowl system where the national champion is voted on at the end of the bowl season or.... scrap the thing entirely and go with an 8 or 16 team playoff system. This bastardized hybrid of old bowl system and quasi-playoffs (conference championship games in the Big 12 and SEC have served as de-facto semifinals in recent years) needs to be junked.
Secondly, and we know you were asking yourself the question as you read that news item, doesn’t our government and particularly Congress have better things to do than screw around with amateur athletics?
Congress has a long and proud (and perfectly legal) tradition of injecting itself into this country’s sporting pastimes. Congress has granted anti-trust exemptions for professional football and baseball and have never shied away from threatening to remove the same in order to leverage action from the NFL and MLB in way of things like free agency and drug testing.
Of course, the flip side to this is that Congress has done such a bang-up job of late with things like the economy and healthcare legislation, what could possibly go wrong?
At this point, and we hate to be this way, we’re going to take the squishy middle ground and just see how this plays out.
The President, in taking leadership in this issue, is after all, fulfilling a campaign promise to “throw his weight around a little” with respect to the BCS and the cynic in us believes that a distraction towards college football and away from the economy is just what the economy needs currently.
However, the degree by which the government intervenes is going to be key. We’re all in favor of a little saber-rattling in way of Congressional hearings with the anti-trust exemptions held aloft. Saber-rattling effected some positive change with respect to the BCS a few years ago by opening the door for “little guys” namely from the Mountain West Conference to participate in BCS bowl games (BYU and Utah, two MWC schools, are in Hatch’s home turf) and with drug testing in baseball. Without that Congressional leaning-on a recalcitrant BCS and MLB would not have made those changes.
What we don’t want to see though, and the track record thus far is atrocious, is a top-down cram-down approach like which was taken with General Motors, Chrysler, the Wall St. bailouts (started under Bush and continued under Obama), healthcare and cap and trade legislation where bullying, smear campaigns, backroom deals, bribes and blunt force politics of the worse manner were the order of the day. Again, these are legislative bodies currently run by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi – think of the possibilities.
It will be fascinating to see just how this all unfolds. Trust us, we’ll keep you posted.