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Tuesday, November 18, 2008
 
President-elect Obama and College Football Playoffs

Tim Lemke of the Washington Times examines President-elect Barack Obama's desire for college football to adopt a playoff system.

Tim interviewed me for the story, which covers the economic, legal, and political angles of the President-elect's apparently genuine interest in reforming college football's post-season. Here's an excerpt:

* * *

It's unclear how serious Obama is about the issue, and he has offered no specific plan of action nor promised he would push for action. But he has addressed the issue on multiple occasions.

"I'm going to throw my weight around a little bit," he said in the "60 Minutes" interview.

If, however, Obama did press the issue, he would have a number of options available to him, legal experts said - though they cautioned that few of them had strong legal backing.

For instance, they said Obama could potentially attempt to impose an executive order on the NCAA to create a playoff. But such a measure likely would be shot down because the NCAA has repeatedly defended its status as a private institution.

Obama also could ask the Justice Department to explore whether the BCS is a violation of antitrust law on grounds that the system often excludes teams from non-major conferences.

"I haven't seen a compelling argument," said Michael McCann, a professor at Boston College Law School and a contributor to Sports Illustrated. "I've seen different arguments offered that all seem somewhat flawed."


* * *
For the rest of the story, click here.

Note 1: The really cool photo above was taken by Rick Bowmer of the Associated Press. Note 2: Be sure to see Frank The Tank's excellent commentary on a college football playoff system.





14 Comments:

Prof. McCann:

I have never been to law school so consider this comment as one that originates from "the great unwashed masses".

I recall that one of the reasons the BCS came into existence was that the NCAA somehow ran afoul of the anti-trust laws and could no longer direct/oversee/command the TV contract negotiations of the member schools and conferences. My memory puts that event somewhere in the 1980s. I do not recall if that ruling came from a Federal Court or from a regulatory body of the Executive Branch.

What that says to me is that there is some kind of "vulnerability" there for the folks who run college football with regard to anti-trust laws. So, maybe a DoJ investigation might put enough pressure on the BCS and the NCAA to move toward a playoff?

In addition, recall that the former owners of the NIT sued the NCAA alleging monopolistic practices in terms of basketball tournaments. In that case the NCAA chose to settle the case with a payment in excess of $50M. Some might think that they paid that money because they did not want to defend themselves on those monopoly/anti-trust charges.

This might become very interesting...

Anonymous The Sports Curmudgeon -- 11/18/2008 6:54 PM  


TSC,

Thanks for the comment (and I encourage readers to check out your excellent blog).

I think you're on to something in terms of the relationship between the BCS and the NCAA, which though they are separate entities, they are largely comprised of the same folks and their interests seem to be in harmony. And that can raise red-flags.

But I still wonder about whether there is really evidence justifying a DOJ investigation into alleged law-breaking by the BCS or the NCAA. There are definitely arguments that their arrangement is unfair, but I haven't seen the legal argument that the arrangement is violating federal law (or state law, for that matter).

I think the best legal device for effecting post-season reform would be for Congress to re-evaluate, or to threaten to re-evaluate, the merits of the NCAA's tax exempt status -- that might encourage the NCAA and the BCS to work together on reforming the post-season.

Blogger Michael McCann -- 11/19/2008 11:07 AM  


That's a great point Mike re: the ability to dangle tax-exempt status as the carrot to create change in the BCS.

Blogger Chad McEvoy -- 11/19/2008 11:48 AM  


this is interstate commerce -- can't the legislature just pass a federal law requiring a playoff system?

Anonymous Anonymous -- 11/19/2008 8:40 PM  


this is interstate commerce -- can't the legislature just pass a federal law requiring a playoff system?

Anonymous Anonymous -- 11/19/2008 8:40 PM  


Obama's workin' on gaining my trust.

Gotta admit, this quote gave me a chuckle!

"...he has offered no specific plan of action..."

That's par for the course.

Anonymous Sam -- 11/19/2008 11:15 PM  


Go Go Obama.Support the leader.Cheers.

Anonymous Goobama -- 11/20/2008 8:55 AM  


FYI, "Frank the Tank's BCS concept" (and I use reference to his ownership of the idea loosely) closely, if not exactly, mimics former CBS President Neal Pilson's BCS plan as proposed as early as 2002. Just giving credit where credit is due.

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