BcS to be slapped with antitrust suit by Utah attorney general

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OK, now we’re getting somewhere.

After years of huffing and puffing by individuals at all levels of government, it appears at least one person with the power to do so is actually going to take action against the BcS cartel.

Following three years of investigation, Utah attorney general Mark Shurtleff confirmed to the USA Today that he’s decided to file an antitrust lawsuit in federal court against the BcS at some point in the next couple of months, claiming that the BcS is “an illegal monopoly” that violates antitrust regulations.  The suit will also claim restraint of trade, with the ultimate goal of taking this legal path being “to go to a playoff and eliminate the BCS.”

Shurtleff said at least two additional attorney generals from unnamed states Will Likely join him in the suit.

“I think more will get involved,” Shurtleff says, “as they have a chance to look at what we’re talking about — that this isn’t about bragging rights, it isn’t some kind of frivolous deal, there are serious antitrust violations that are harming taxpayer-funded institutions to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. And the right thing to do, regardless of whether teams in your state benefit, is to go after the antitrust violations … all the way from the Sherman Act through price fixing.”

Regardless of the number of plaintiffs, the USA Today notes that “the suit could seek hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, which would be trebled if antitrust violations are found.”  And could result in a playoff, regardless of the empty and hollow threats that will be made by individuals with a vested financial interest in the BcS, that they’ll simply revert back to the old bowl system if the current one is forcibly dismantled.

Shurtleff’s declaration is the latest in a long line of criticisms and threats of legal action thrown at the BcS.

Just last week, a group of leading law and economics professors and practitioners signed and sent a letter to the Assistant United States Attorney General, which asked “the Antitrust Division [of the Department of Justice] 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.”

Shurtleff has met with members of the Justice Department multiple times over the past couple of years, including early November of 2010 and then this past February.  The DOJ has suggested in the past that they may take antitrust action against the BcS, but Shurtleff said in the latter meeting the DOJ “suggested that, if the states started, they might follow” with their own parallel investigation.

As expected, BcS mouthpiece Bill Hancock defended the current system for determining a national champion in football.

“I’m not an attorney, but I know antitrust laws challenge entities that limit access and the BCS provides access in spades,” Hancock said, apparently with a straight face and everything.

“The BCS also doesn’t limit supply. There’s more (bowl) games than ever before. It’s created a national championship game that didn’t exist before. So in terms of access for the consumer and supply for the consumer, and just access in general, contrary to limiting that, the BCS has enhanced it.”

Unfortunately for Hancock and the BcS, and fortunately for the vast majority of college football fans that want some type of playoff, whether the current system enhanced or restrained trade will now be determined by the federal court system and eventually, hopefully, the Department of Justice.

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.

CFP expansion talks head toward October after 7-hour meeting

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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ROSEMONT, Ill. — The conference commissioners who manage the College Football Playoff met for almost seven hours Tuesday to work on expanding the postseason system from four to 12 teams as soon as the 2024 season.

There is still much work to be done.

“We will not wrap up this week,” CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said.

The CFP management committee, comprised of 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, is scheduled to convene again at the Big Ten offices for a few hours Wednesday morning. They are set to meet again in person in Dallas on Oct. 20.

“That’ll be important,” Hancock said.

Expansion talks were revived by the university presidents and chancellors who oversee the College Football Playoff last month.

By adopting a 12-team plan that had been on the table since the spring of 2021, the presidents pushed the commissioners to try to implement a new format before the end of the CFP’s current contract with ESPN. That deal ends after the 2025 season.

Expanding from four to 12 in 2024 and ’25 will require rescheduling semifinals and championship games that already have dates and sites set, plus adding four new first-round games in mid-December to be played on campus sites.

Squeezing it all into about a month and working around the NFL for television will be challenging.

Hancock said the idea of moving up the start of the college football season to the week before Labor Day to create more room at the end for the playoff has been discussed, but more for beyond the 2025 season.

“I think most people view that as a future item. As long-term item and not an immediacy item,” Hancock said. “Remember, there’s so many details.”

Hancock said CFP officials have spoken to bowl partners and hosts cities that are set to hold semifinals and championship games after the 2024 and ’25 seasons, but they have not been presented definitive new dates.

Atlanta already has been chosen as the host city for the championship game to be played following the 2024 season, on Jan. 6, 2025. The game would have to be pushed back about two weeks if the playoff grows from four teams to 12.

“(Atlanta organizers) have some work to do because of other businesses in the community,” Hancock said. “Other meeting-type business, hotel business and Convention Center business there. They’ve been great to work with.”