College Sports

Dept. Of Justice Questions NCAA Over Football Playoff

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WASHINGTON, DC (Sports Network) – In a letter written to the NCAA, the Department of Justice addressed “serious questions” surrounding the postseason format for the Football Bowl Subdivision.

The letter, dated May 3, was sent to NCAA president Mark Emmert from the office of assistant attorney general Christine A. Varney, part of the justice department’s antitrust division.

She opened the letter by writing that “Serious questions continue to arise suggesting that the current Bowl Championship Series (BCS) system may not be conducted consistent with the competition principles expressed in the federal antitrust laws.”

The BCS has been in place since 1998 and uses its own standings to create a national championship game as well as four other matchups in prestigious bowls.

Champions from six large conferences have automatic bids to certain bowls, and critics of the BCS system maintain that it shortchanges teams in conferences without automatic bids and restricts opportunity to play for a title.

Varney said in her letter that Utah’s attorney general announced an intention to file an anti-trust lawsuit against the BCS, and that the Justice Department recently received a request to open an investigation into the BCS.

The letter cited a New York Times report that said the NCAA was willing to help create a playoff system, and posed a series of questions to Emmert. Varney said the Justice Department wanted Emmert’s views or plans on the following questions:

- “Why does the Football Bowl Subdivision not have a playoff, when so many other NCAA sports have NCAA-run playoffs or championships?”

- “What steps, if any, has the NCAA taken to create a playoff among Football Bowl Subdivision programs before or during your tenure? To the extent any steps were taken, why were they not successful? What steps does the NCAA plan to take to create a playoff at this time?”

- “Have you determined that there are aspects of the BCS system that do not serve the interests of fans, colleges, universities, and players? To what extent could an alternative system better serve those interests?”

The letter ended by saying that the NCAA’s views would be relevant to helping the Justice Department determine the best course of action.

The NCAA released a statement about the letter, which was also carbon copied to BCS executive director Bill Hancock, Wednesday.

“When we actually receive the letter from the Department of Justice we will respond to its questions directly,” said the statement from Bob Williams, NCAA vice president of communications. “It should be noted that President Emmert consistently has said, including in the New York Times article, that the NCAA is willing to help create a playoff format for Football Bowl Subdivision football if the FBS membership makes that decision.”

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