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Tuesday, November 25, 2003

BCS - A Collection of 'Haves' and 'Have Nots': The Wall Street Journal has an article today discussing the conflict between the Bowl Championship Series and the schools that do not comprise the BCS. Currently, only the Big 10, Big 12, Pac 10, ACC, Big East and SEC (+ Notre Dame) are guaranteed at least one representative in the BCS. In 1998, Tulane's football team went 12-0 but did not receive a BCS bid. A similar controversy was avoided this year when TCU lost to Southern Miss, preventing an undefeated season.

Dr. Scott Cowen, the president of Tulane, has been the spokesman for the movement by the "unwanted" schools and has said he would file suit if Tulane again finished undefeated and was denied a BCS bid. Cowen claims this is a violation of antitrust law, as the "top" schools receive the excess of riches from the BCS (hundreds of millions) and those schools on the outside have no chance to join in. In Cowen's eyes, this results in "insurmountable barriers" that form the background of antitrust claims.

The BCS anticipated this at its formation, and hired Hogan & Hartson to assist them in avoiding problems of antitrust. Since a 1984 Supreme Court decision ruled the NCAA could not limit national telecasts to 1-2 games a week, the individual conferences have controlled their own television deals, leading to increased wealth for the "top" schools. In addition, each of the bowls is owned and controlled locally. Thus, Tulane may have an uphill battle to climb, but it has consulted with David Boies and Covington & Burling, among others.

There seems no way to avoid this problem unless college football switches to a play-off system. Schools like Tulane and TCU will never have the strength of schedule nor the drawing power to encourage BCS bowls to accept them as one of the two "at-large" schools. Thus, these teams will never have a chance to do what Gonzaga has done in basketball -- parlay a string of "Cinderella" runs in the postseason into increased exposure, better recruiting and an overall better program that now legitimately competes every year. For the time being, this journey seems impossible for schools to make in football, which in the long run will entrench the current schools and hurt the overall quality of the game.


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