Government Notifies NCAA Of Antitrust Investigation, Promised Lawsuit

The Justice Department announced it is conducting an inquiry into the working of the Bowl Championship Series, questioning whether it violates Federal antitrust statutes by excluding teams from non-BCS conferences.

The letter notifying the NCAA of the government's interest was released today (read full text here). From Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney, to NCAA President Mark Emmert, CC to BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock:

Series 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 Attorney General of Utah has announced an intention to file an antitrust lawsuit against the BCS. In addition we recently received a request to open an investigation of the BCS from a group of twenty-one professors, a copy of which is attached. Other prominent individuals also have publicly encouraged the Antitrust Division to take action against the BCS, arguing that it violates the antitrust laws.

The letter goes on to ask for clarification on three points, including the implementation of a playoff system and whose interests are being served by the BCS's existence.

The NCAA has been silent. But Bill Hancock played this card:

"Goodness gracious, with all that's going on in the world right now and with national and state budgets being what they are, it seems like a waste of taxpayers' money to have the government looking into how college football games are played," he said.

A LETTER FROM U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL CHRISTINE A. VARNEY REGARDING THE BCS [Utah Attorney General]