Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
to the sports world...
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
BCmesS: The 2008 Edition
The BCS has gotten old, or at least talking about it has. No, it's still not legal. No, the accomodationist reforms introduced in 2006 have not solved things. No, it's not all that interesting. After crowning a two-loss "champion" this week, the BCS system is something not even its creators and enablers seem to love.
In what can only be described as a cynical ploy to appease disgruntled boosters, UGA President and NCAA Executive Committee leader Michael Adams has now abandoned his 20 years of opposition to a playoff system and called for reform. SportsProf has some good analysis, concluding by asking the question, "What does the BCS really do?" (Think about how the lack of any real answer to this question would translate in terms of procompetitive justifications for trade restraints in an antitrust case).
In other amusing BCS news, Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), my former U.S. representative, has demonstrated why it is useful to have a law degree if one wants to be a lawmaker, declaring last month that the BCS was an unconstitutional antitrust violation (HT Lion in Oil via Hawaii Supreme Court blog):
Hawai'i Rep. Neil Abercrombie is prepared to propose a bill that would declare the Bowl Championship Series as unconstitutional and call for a playoff system.The amusing part of this is, of course, the labelling of anything one doesn't like as "unconstitutional."
The sad thing is that things almost worked out for the perfect antitrust claimant against the BCS this year. For a time, it seemed possible that Hawai`i would go undefeated yet miss the BCS. Had they done so, the WAC or the school itself would have been ideally situated to raise an antitrust objection to the current system. For better or for worse, the team made one of the big games, losing its ability to challenge the current system in court. Although last year's Boise State WAC victory over Oklahoma was thrilling, it may have been a fluke. From here out, one can safely expect that any WAC or Conference USA (and maybe even MAC) team which manages to end up undefeated will be given a BCS spot and then destroyed on the field. Once a school has a choice between the easy money for playing bowl patsie, or the long saga of litigating against the BCS cartel, it's hard to turn down the money.
Who is the next best hope? It seems to me like the Mountain West Conference has both the biggest gripe with the current system (among non-BCS conferences) and the best chance of effecting change. For some reason, the Big East is an "automatic berth" conference, and the Mountain West isn't. This is the case even though the top teams in the Mountain West (BYU and Utah) could likely compete in the PAC-10 against everyone but USC (which is a pretty fair description of most NCAA schools). One scenario: an undefeated Utah or BYU team gets a BCS bowl, while the other team, with one loss (to the undefeated team) and a win over a PAC 10 school, is excluded in favor of a one loss (or two loss) SEC team. Or what about a situation where an undefeated BYU or Utah team is excluded from a national title game in favor of a one or two loss "tie-in" school? Remember, BYU and Utah are not Hawai`i -- BYU has won a national championship and Utah has won a BCS game and gone undefeated. To be sure, Utah did not complain too loudly when it was excluded from the title game at the end of the 2004-2005 season (when both title contenders, as well as also-excluded Auburn, had perfect records), but should the Mountain West be happy with just a BCS berth every 2-3 years? It would seem that the current system would make it virtually impossible for a non-automatic berth conference team to ever earn a spot in the title game.