January 30th, 2010
01:30 PM ET
11 years ago

DOJ mulls antitrust probe of college football championships

Washington (CNN) - The Obama administration is considering an investigation into the legality and fairness of college football's Bowl Championship Series and "the current lack of a college football national championship playoff."

In a letter to U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Welch says the issue "raises important questions affecting millions of fans, colleges and universities, players and other interested parties."

Hatch complained about the system to the Obama administration in October, and the Justice Department official told Hatch Friday it is reviewing whether to launch an inquiry into the BCS system to see if any U.S. anti-trust laws are being violated. Hatch's office passed along the Welch letter to CNN.

"Importantly, and in addition, the Administration also is exploring other options that might be available to address concerns with the college football post-season," said Welch, who noted along with Hatch that President Obama says the sport should have an eight-game playoff.

The options include encouraging the NCAA to take control of the post-season as it does with other sports; "asking a governmental or nongovernmental entity or a commission to study the benefits, costs and
feasibility of a playoff system;" requesting an examination by the Federal Trade Commission of the current system under consumer protection laws; looking into roles other agencies can play, and looking into legislative initiatives.

There are 11 BCS conferences and five bowls, including a national championship. The champions of six conferences automatically qualify for BCS bowls despite their national rankings. In contrast, only one team from outside those six can earn an automatic berth.

"Many believe the BCS is unfair to the conferences and schools that are not part of the automatically qualifying conferences," Welch said.

"The typical result of this selection system has been limited participation by schools outside the six automatic-qualifying conferences, with such teams typically securing at most one slot, although this year, for the first time, two such schools, TCU (Texas Christian University) and Boise State were selected for a BCS bowl game."

Hatch - who has complained that the BCS system denies outsiders a fair chance to compete with major conferences - was "encouraged" by the administration's response.

"The current system runs counter to basic fairness that every family tries to instill in their children from the day they are born. It is systematically unfair, jeopardizing students, players, education quality, ethics and true competition," Hatch said.

Filed under: Obama administration • Orrin Hatch
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. R in Maine

    If we are to have a valid playoff system, we will have to find a way to quit faking the officiating, including the blatant cheating on video replay by the SEC. Replay does not prevent point shaving, it just lets the official organization control it for themselves. Almost unlimited wealth is possible with what they are doing.

    January 30, 2010 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  2. Hugo

    Why don't they probe the Senate and House, then on to campaign funding and the Medicare and Medicaid rip offs... Why don't they probe something important that actually could clean up the system?

    January 30, 2010 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  3. Jimmy James

    Yes! Finally the government is going to spend time and resources on the real trouble with our economy and the main source of job loss. UGH!!!! This is where the goverment should be focusing its attention.

    Which schools get more Bowl money to divide amognst themselves is a waste of time. I know sports brings in massive $$$ for colleges but is this really something that should be handled by the government and at this moment in time?

    January 30, 2010 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  4. We the People....

    Just because that is what Obama wants doesn't mean that is the way it should be....

    Bust up the traditions of the country while you are at it....

    Another play in the Destroy America – Make Social-land.

    January 30, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  5. Biased

    Don't follow college football, but I guess if you are a Senator or President and you don't like something, just call in the DOJ to investigate. I wonder what or who might be next?

    January 30, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  6. Carole, California

    While this might be a nice thing to look into, doesn't the Obama administration have more pressing issues to deal with?

    January 30, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  7. GI Joe

    Oh – Hatch walked out of healthcare meetings so the BCS stuff could work it's way into an already overcrowded workload.

    BCS is NOT for the entire country. More important things should be first – like anti-trust Ins. Companies, Financial regulation, and on and on. Hatch sure knows how to get what he wants, doesn't he?

    January 30, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  8. JES

    Why don't you fix the government first. That will take the next 50 years.

    What business is it of our government to try and socialize college sports.

    January 30, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |