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Thursday, August 31, 2006
An Accommodationist Season Begins
College football begins here in Toledo at 8:00 pm EST tonight when the Toledo Rockets game against the Iowa State University Cyclones arrives via satellite. The other games of the day are the ESPN-featured Mississippi State – South Carolina matchup and Northwestern’s game at Miami of Ohio, which has been dedicated to the memory of late NWU coach Randy Walker.
This season promises to be an interesting one for college football and the once-embattled Bowl Championship Series (BCS). Longtime readers will recall early postings which questioned the legality of the BCS arrangement under federal antitrust laws, such as Greg’s post from November 2003, Rick’s post from October 2005, Mike’s December 2005 post and guest-blogger Chad McEvoy’s December 2005 post.
This season represents the first to be played under a “five-bowl” BCS system. The fifth bowl was agreed to back in 2004 as part of an effort to ward off threatened antitrust action against the BCS and its privileged conferences. Under the new system, the champion of a mid-major conference like the Mid-American Conference (MAC), Western Athletic Conference (WAC), or Conference USA can earn an automatic BCS bid provided that:
a. Such team is ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS Standings, or,However, if two or more mid-major champions would qualify under these rules, only the higher BCS-ranked team would earn an automatic berth, while the other would be limited to consideration for an at-large berth (something that, while possible, remains unlikely).
The additional bowl and possibility of an automatic berth for a mid-major conference champion drastically reduce the likelihood of an effective Sherman Act challenge against the BCS, if for no other reason that the odds are there won’t be two such teams in a given year. Since only an undefeated, mid-major conference champion would have standing to challenge the BCS system, the new approach takes away that potential plaintiff. Now, one would likely need two undefeated mid-major champions (or possibly one-loss teams with quality wins over major conference opponents) for there to be one excluded team legally capable of raising a challenge.
For those who still dream of a college-football playoff, I guess all this means cheering for the likes of Utah, TCU, Northern Illinois, Tulsa and Toledo.