OK, now we’re getting somewhere.
Following three years of investigation, Utah attorney general Mark Shurtleff confirmed to the USA Today that he’s decided to file an antitrust lawsuit in federal court against the BcS at some point in the next couple of months, claiming that the BcS is “an illegal monopoly” that violates antitrust regulations. The suit will also claim restraint of trade, with the ultimate goal of taking this legal path being “to go to a playoff and eliminate the BCS.”
Shurtleff said at least two additional attorney generals from unnamed states will likely join him in the suit.
“I think more will get involved,” Shurtleff says, “as they have a chance to look at what we’re talking about — that this isn’t about bragging rights, it isn’t some kind of frivolous deal, there are serious antitrust violations that are harming taxpayer-funded institutions to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. And the right thing to do, regardless of whether teams in your state benefit, is to go after the antitrust violations … all the way from the Sherman Act through price fixing.”
Regardless of the number of plaintiffs, the USA Today notes that “the suit could seek hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, which would be trebled if antitrust violations are found.” And could result in a playoff, regardless of the empty and hollow threats that will be made by individuals with a vested financial interest in the BcS, that they’ll simply revert back to the old bowl system if the current one is forcibly dismantled.
Shurtleff’s declaration is the latest in a long line of criticisms and threats of legal action thrown at the BcS.
Just last week, a group of leading law and economics professors and practitioners signed and sent a letter to the Assistant United States Attorney General, which asked “the Antitrust Division [of the Department of Justice] launch a formal investigation of the Bowl Championship Series (“BCS”), a cartel that controls distribution of competitive opportunities and benefits associated with major college football’s post-season.”
Shurtleff has met with members of the Justice Department multiple times over the past couple of years, including early November of 2010 and then this past February. The DOJ has suggested in the past that they may take antitrust action against the BcS, but Shurtleff said in the latter meeting the DOJ “suggested that, if the states started, they might follow” with their own parallel investigation.
As expected, BcS mouthpiece Bill Hancock defended the current system for determining a national champion in football.
“I’m not an attorney, but I know antitrust laws challenge entities that limit access and the BCS provides access in spades,” Hancock said, apparently with a straight face and everything.
“The BCS also doesn’t limit supply. There’s more (bowl) games than ever before. It’s created a national championship game that didn’t exist before. So in terms of access for the consumer and supply for the consumer, and just access in general, contrary to limiting that, the BCS has enhanced it.”
Unfortunately for Hancock and the BcS, and fortunately for the vast majority of college football fans that want some type of playoff, whether the current system enhanced or restrained trade will now be determined by the federal court system and eventually, hopefully, the Department of Justice.