Justice Department Questions NCAA

I have to say, this topic really piqued my interest. In a country that seems on the verge of bankruptcy, with the federal and state governments sinking in debt, our Justice Department has decided it is interested in the way the NCAA and the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) determines the way the champion of college football is determined. Admittedly, the bowls that are currently played really do not make a lot of sense, unless you are the bowl committee. I am sure it makes a lot of cents to them, pun fully intended. College football bowls are a very lucrative business, both for the bowls and their hosts, and for the colleges who are good/lucky enough to be chosen to play in one of them. Accordingly, the Justice Department has sent a letter to the NCAA that asks the question, why do they not have a playoff to determine the national champion of college football. From CNN:

BCS LogoIn a letter to the NCAA disclosed Wednesday, the Justice Department said it has received several requests for an antitrust investigation into the current Bowl Championship Series system, and it wants information to help it decide what to do.

That controversial system makes it very difficult for teams in some athletic conferences to qualify for major bowl games, potentially costing millions of dollars in revenue to those not chosen.

“Serious questions continue to arise suggesting that the current BCS system may not be conducted consistent with the competition principles expressed in federal antitrust laws,” Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney told NCAA President Mark Emmert.

The decision to release the letter came hours after Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a major opponent of the current system, demanded further consideration of the issue in a face-to-face appearance with Attorney General Eric Holder at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Holder responded by disclosing the Justice Department had sent a letter to the NCAA on the issue Tuesday.

In her letter, Varney asked Emmert to explain why college football does not have a playoff when so many other college sports do. She also asked what steps, if any, the NCAA has taken to create a playoff, and whether the NCAA has determined that there are aspects of the BCS system that do not serve interests of fans, colleges, universities, and players.

For the record, I do not follow a lot of sports, but I am aware of how the national champion of college football is determined each year. I have already said that college football bowl games really make no sense, when it comes to determining the champion. I will go so far as to suggest that the question Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney asked is a legitimate one. I would also point out that it should be fairly simple to figure out why the bowl games are still in existence in the current form. Can anyone say “$$$$$”? All one has to do is look at the amount of money involved to understand the underlying factor that controls how the NCAA champion is born every year. It’s all about the money.

My concern with this can be summed up by asking a couple of questions. First, does the fact that the those in control of the championship and the bowl games want to protect their financial interests constitute an antitrust violation? Second, doesn’t the U.S. Department of Justice have bigger fish to fry than to be questioning the way the NCAA college football champion is chosen? I’m just saying.

About LD Jackson

LD Jackson has written 2031 posts in this blog.

Founder and author of the political and news commentary blog Political Realities. I have always loved to write, but never have I felt my writing was more important than in this present day. If I have changed one mind or impressed one American about the direction our country is headed, then I will consider my endeavors a success. I take the tag line on this blog very seriously. Above all else, in search of the truth.

28 comments to Justice Department Questions NCAA

  • I guess the President’s team didn’t make it to the finals. YAWN!!!

  • Wow…what a colossal waste of our taxpayer dollars Larry…again. It seems there are more pressing issues than this. Red Herring.

  • Actually, I’m not sure this is as frivolous as you guys may think. Besides being a bizarre way to “crown” a champion (without facing all deserving opponents), the BCS has all the markings of organized crime and Bernie Madoff under the blessing of a few, powerful universities. The smaller schools that get “fortunate” enough to receive an invitation to one of the games, often end up losing a lot of money as they are required to pay outrageous per seat prices for unsold tickets, and other costs. The BCS is big business – a crooked business – under the guise of higher education. Here are two links for you:
    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/football/ncaa/03/29/fiesta-bowl-junker/index.html
    http://www.playoffpac.com/news/Read.aspx?ID=393

    • I understand your point, OneMom, but this is the same Justice Department that claims it doesn’t hve the resources to defend DOMA. Mind you, I agree with the president that it is unconstitutional (on federalist grounds, if nothing else), but I find it disturbing that the JD will ignore its core mission (defending the laws of the land) in favor of other issues.

      I live in Ohio State Buckeye country, and these folks are rabid about OSU football. I just want to interject that more people could tell you the names of every player in the incoming recruiting class than could tell you what the two mandates of the Fed are. If Justice is supposed to represent the actual interests of the citizenry, this is the right case for them to pick up.

      • I just want to interject that more people could tell you the names of every player in the incoming recruiting class than could tell you what the two mandates of the Fed are.

        I think I could safely say the same thing about some of the OU Sooner fans around here. I have nothing against sports, but I am afraid it tells a sad tale about where the priorities of a lot of Americans actually lie.

        • LD, my main priorities in life right now are intertwined – my family, and saving the country FOR my family. Thus, my sports takes the form of playing soccer with my son, going to (free) Kenyon College games, etc. The kids at the college are really great, and they appreciate when locals come out to watch. The fun(ny) part is my son doesn’t know the difference. He asked one player when they were going to play the Cleveland Browns! It’s kind of fun for students who know this is the end of their football careers to know that there are kids in the stands who look up to them as if they played in the NFL.

    • Hi Kerry. First, let me say that I agree wholeheartedly that the BCS and bowl game system of “crowning” a college football champion is totally ludicrous. It makes no sense to not have a playoff of some kind. I think if the powers that be really put their heads to work, they could probably come up with a system that would be legitimate and still retain some of the bigger bowl games.

      However, the idea that the Justice Department is raising questions about this still seems over the top to me. It is worth noting that Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican, is backing the Justice Department in it’s query. It reminds me of Congress trying to investigate the number of head injuries sustained in the NFL.

  • Whether this should be handled by the justice department or not, I don’t know. What is apparent is the BCS is a racket, and a few people are living the high life on dollars that should be supporting higher education. As a matter of sport, if Boise has the best football team in college ball, they should have an equal chance to play for the champion title, just like Butler and George Mason in college basketball.

    • As a sports matter I couldn’t agree with you more. College football is about the last sport I pay any attention to, in part because my little boy likes it. I find the whole BCS/Non-BCS conference distinction repulsive. That TCU would feel compelled to join the Big East because of this discriminatory system is ridiculous.

  • Perhaps someone at the justice department wasn’t happy that their alma mater got passed up for the BCS championship?

    I agree that this is a colossal waste of time, money and resources. I hate the bowl system just as much as the next good college football fan, but do we really need the damn government getting into it?

    With the limited number of games that a school can play in a season, you can’t really make school schedules harder depending on the team. The bigger programs will always want to play against each other because that makes them better. If you only played crappy teams the entire season, then you get to the national championship game against a team that plays all good teams, you’re likely to get curb-stomped.

    I really would love a play-off system akin to the NCAA Basketball tournament, but I don’t think the justice department needs to get in and stop them.

    • Are corruption and anti-trust law violations any less serious just because it’s in college football. Considering the price of higher education these days, somebody needs to investigate the BCS – somebody from outside of the NCAA – this is about much more than who plays for the championship.

    • All good points, Jack, up to and including the part about the Justice Department staying out of this. As I said in the post, they have much bigger fish to fry.

  • **sigh**

    The madness just grows and grows.

    What am I thinking, “Bread and circuses”?

  • Jimmie Kreizenbeck

    The DOJ getting involved in the BCS system makes about as much sense as a lot of the other things the government has gotten into. However, we must remember how Obama loves his sports. He probably wanted someone else in the title bowl.

    While I do favor the playoff system over the way they do it now, I don’t think it will change any time soon, because as you said, it does make “cents”.

    We need to keep saying 2012, 2012, ………..

  • Well, they do have all the staff available that aren’t allowed to defend DOMA, or investigate the Black Panthers…

  • Redistributive competing or winning teams? What a backwards Justice Dept. to think the NCAA is one of the most important issues to focus on. We should rename the Justice Dept. the Injustice department.

  • I have no opinion on the matter at hand – my ignorance about college football is infinite.
    But I see a cranny of opportunity to deliver a challenge to an issue that has been bothering me for some time – that of the raison d’être of the Department of Justice and the Attorney General. The Judiciary Act of 1789 that created the office of the AG place him on the “Service” of the President (and appointed by the President) instead of being at the
    “service” of the American people.

    It was not until 1870 that the DOJ was created as support for the office of the Attorney General – a backwards process if there is one. Initially, the AG was created by the first Congress of the United States to “represent” the Executive before the Supreme court, and nothing else. The evolution and bastardly ramifications and power graving that has been borne out of this up-side-down process is one of the sore points and most obvious defects in the constitutional organigram of this country.

    In short: the “American people” have nobody to represent them at the Federal level unless it is by the grace and consent of the executive. A cozy arrangement that a Russian autocrat would love.

    This is the issue for me.

  • It certainly seems like the Congress could find something a little more important to do than worry about college football. This reminds me of when President Bush mentioned in a SOTU speech that baseball needed to be investigated for steriod use–how much time did the Congress wast on that issue?

    • It also reminds me of how Congress has tried to get involved in the way football is played in the NFL. It makes me wonder what part of “contact sport” do they not understand.

  • It’s another symptom of government run amok. No corner of our lives is safe.


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