Brainiacs now calling for DOJ to probe BcS ‘cartel’

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Many times over the past couple of years, people of varying degrees of influence — most vociferously Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch — have tossed out words like “antitrust” and “Justice Department investigation” when it came to describing the BcS and how to deal with it.

In most cases, the BcS brushed off the calls for a change by suggesting that the government, in essence, minds its own business.

Now, a group of really, really intelligent individuals has renewed the call for Department of Justice intervention.

Ahead of its release to the public, the Wall Street Journal has obtained a copy of a letter signed by 21 law and economics professors and practitioners which asks “the Antitrust Division [of the DOJ] launch a formal investigation of the Bowl Championship Series (“BCS”), a cartel that controls distribution of competitive opportunities and benefits associated with major college football’s post-season.”  Among the signatories are three professors from two SEC schools — Florida and South Carolina — as well as University of Chicago professor Richard H. Thaler, who I’m told is a pretty big deal in the world of economics.

You can read the entire letter sent by the group to the Assistant Attorney General  HERE, but PlayoffPac — a must-follow if you’re into Twitter and are pro-playoff for college football — has pulled out the salient points for easier consumption.

“The BCS secures a fixed and dominant portion of market access and revenue for its founding members …, regardless of their performance on the field or in the marketplace.  These acts injure schools in major college football’s five other conferences … and also harm consumers by restraining output, fixing prices, and reducing quality.  We believe the case here for government enforcement of the Sherman Antitrust Act is strong and potentially pursuable under multiple legal theories.”

“Market-access rules and conditions for BCS Bowls result in a system that is at odds with consumer preferences, as shown by BCS Bowl selection decisions, television ratings, and attendance figures.”

“The BCS revenue scheme is objectionable … because financial rewards do not correlate with consumer appeal.  In three of the past four post-seasons, non-AQs earned either the highest or second-highest game attendance figures of any BCS Bowl.  Furthermore, for three years in a row, BCS Bowls featuring non-AQs have garnered significantly better television ratings than contests between only AQs.”

“On-the-field performance, which drives market preferences, also fails to justify the BCS’s disparate revenue allocation.  AQs boast only a meager one-win, four-loss record against non-AQs in post-season BCS Bowls.  And in 2010, a year recognized as the high-water mark for “outsider” participation, the BCS handed each AQ conference that placed one BCS Bowl team $17.7 million but gave two non-AQ conferences just $9.8 million and $7.8 million, respectively, for accomplishing an identical feat.”

It remains to be seen what impact, if any, this letter will have on the DOJ’s desire to actually launch an investigation.

In January of 2010, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Welch sent a letter to Utah Senator Orrin Hatch in which Welch states the DOJ is looking at the option of opening an investigation into the BcS in order to determine whether the BcS violate antitrust laws.  In early November of last year, Utah attorney general Mark Shurtleff met with DOJ officials and came out of the meeting encouraged that the department has been “doing their due diligence” and working toward launching an investigation.

With this latest round of criticism of the cartel, though, we’re quite certain that we’ll get some spinning response along the lines of “it’s hard to imagine a bigger waste of taxpayer money than to involve the government in college football” from the BcS and its public mouthpiece.  We prefer, though, to have Mr. Shurtleff’s words from last November be the final say for now on this aspect of the issue.

“You get the DOJ behind [a probe], and the BCS will finally say, ‘OK, we’ll go to a playoff.'”

From your lips to the DOJ’s ears, sir.

Georgia Tech promotes Brent Key from interim to head coach

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
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Georgia Tech named interim coach Brent Key to the full-time position on Tuesday after he led the team to a 4-4 finish.

Key, 44, was in his fourth season as assistant head coach, run game coordinator and offensive line coach before Geoff Collins was fired on Sept. 26, two days after the Yellow Jackets lost 27-10 to Central Florida and dropped to 1-3.

Georgia Tech’s improvement under Key, who played for the Yellow Jackets and graduated in 2001, convinced Institute President Dr. Angel Cabrera and athletic director J Batt to make Key the full-time coach instead of looking outside the program for the hire.

“I am so proud and grateful to be the head coach at my alma mater, Georgia Tech,” Key said in a statement released by the school. “Like I’ve said many times over the past two months, I love this team, and I couldn’t be more excited to be their head coach. We will work unbelievably hard to make our fans, alumni and former players very proud of this program.”

Cabrera said Key’s history with Georgia Tech as a student, player and assistant coach was important.

“As an alum, he understands and cares deeply about this place and our extraordinary student-athletes,” Cabrera said. “He’s not only incredibly competitive but will do everything he can to make sure students grow as athletes, professionals and human beings.”

Georgia Tech had interest in Tulane coach Willie Fritz before choosing to promote Key.

“There was strong interest from across the country to be the next head coach at Georgia Tech, and we conducted an exhaustive national search,” Batt said. “At the beginning and end of the search, it was clear that the best choice for Georgia Tech is Brent Key.”

ESPN was first to report Georgia Tech had focused its search on Key.

Collins was 10-28 in his fourth season. When announcing the move with Collins, Georgia Tech also fired athletic director Todd Stansbury, who hired Collins. The school hired Batt, a former deputy athletic director at Alabama, as its athletic director on Oct. 14.

After Key was named interim coach, the Yellow Jackets beat two ranked teams, Pittsburgh and North Carolina, on the road. Georgia Tech finished 5-7 overall following Saturday’s 37-14 loss at No. 1 Georgia.

Even in the loss, Georgia Tech’s improvement showed. The Yellow Jackets trailed Georgia only 10-7 at halftime.

Key was Alabama’s offensive line coach from 2016-18 following 11 seasons at UCF. At UCF, Key coached under George O'Leary, who was his coach at Georgia Tech.

O’Leary said Georgia Tech made “a great decision” in promoting Key.

“I watched very closely this season as Brent took over and saw things move in the right direction,” O’Leary said. “It was clear that the team responded to the changes he made and played hard for him.”

Hugh Freeze asks Auburn fans for ‘chance to earn your trust’

Jake Crandall / USA TODAY NETWORK
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AUBURN, Ala. – Hugh Freeze‘s checkered past in the Southeastern Conference means he’ll have to win more than just games. He’ll also have to win over Auburn fans.

Freeze’s return to the league more than five years after his scandal-plagued exit was greeted by considerable backlash on social media from wary fans. The former Mississippi and Liberty coach had to talk about his past during Tuesday’s introductory news conference as much as his belief that Auburn can make a quick turnaround, urging fans to “please give me a chance to earn your trust.”

“Give me some time. Get to know us. Get to know our family. Get to know the truth of our story,” Freeze said. “And I think the ones who have done that have said, `Man, you know what, I kinda like this guy and this family.’

“But that’s all you can ask is, man, give us a chance to earn your trust and I think you’ll like the end result.”

His message clearly resonated with athletic director John Cohen. Now he has to win over fans tired of embarrassments, including the failed 21-game tenure of former coach Bryan Harsin.

Auburn gave Freeze a six-year contract worth at least $6.5 million annually, making him the eighth-highest paid coach in the SEC. The buyout, if Freeze is fired without cause, would be 75% of his remaining contract.

Freeze resigned from Ole Miss in the summer of 2017 after school officials uncovered a “pattern of personal misconduct” starting with a call to a number used by an escort service from a university-issued cellphone. The program ultimately landed on NCAA probation for 21 violations of academic, booster and recruiting misconduct mostly under Freeze’s watch.

Still Cohen, who was at Mississippi State at the time, said Freeze was his top choice from the outset.

“Coach Freeze was completely transparent about his past transgressions,” Cohen said. “He showed remorse, and he’s had an accountability plan that he’s used for the last five-plus years.

“Everything he disclosed to us turned out to be accurate, after speaking with credible industry sources. In this way, Coach Freeze was honest and truthful.”

Freeze’s hiring was delayed after a former Liberty student emailed Auburn officials about a direct message the coach had sent her defending the Flames athletic director after she had made critical comments. The woman said she was sexually assaulted at Liberty and had reached a settlement, a case that pre-dated Freeze’s arrival.

Cohen did not take questions from reporters at the news conference and later declined to comment when asked about the direct message by The Associated Press.

Freeze has gone 103-47 on the field in 13 seasons at four programs, but 27 of those wins at Ole Miss were vacated because of NCAA violations. He spent the last four seasons at Liberty.

Freeze’s first move was to keep Carnell Williams on staff as running backs coach and associate head coach. Williams, a former Auburn All-America running back, was interim coach for the final four games.

He was a candidate for the head job, interviewing with Cohen about a week ago. Williams expressed his support of Freeze.

“I did have the opportunity to state my case, but look, that’s old news,” said Williams, who attended the news conference. “Like I told them whenever they brought me the news, honestly, they looked more disappointed than me. They were, `I’m sorry.’ But I’m like, I’m disappointed, (but) I’m not upset.”

Freeze isn’t the first high-profile coach with NCAA baggage that Auburn has hired. Bruce Pearl was hired while in the final months of a show-cause penalty stemming from violations that led to his ouster from Tennessee.

Pearl has turned the program into an SEC power, but not without more trouble.

Auburn self-imposed a postseason ban two years ago stemming from a bribery scheme involving former assistant coach Chuck Person. Pearl served a two-game suspension and players Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy were ruled ineligible for at least one season. Person later pleaded guilty to a bribery conspiracy charge.

Now, Freeze is getting his own second chance to change the script in the SEC.

“I don’t know if rewriting the story is exactly the right word,” he said. “But it’s going to make for a good ending.”