By now, I presume most of you have heard Senator Hatch’s announcement that the Senate Judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee will hold hearings on the BCS. (If you haven’t, the Wiz has a good summary here.) While certainly upping the rhetorical ante with the usage of the term “un-American” – something previously reserved for the likes of smelly hippies opposed to the Iraq War and Michael Schiavo – makes it sound like the subcommittee will be loaded for bear, it’s hard to take someone who says this…
Many of you may not be aware that when I was in high school, I had a promising future in football. But things didn’t work out. BYU already had a half-back, and I couldn’t seem to go to my left. Well, some things never change. I still don’t go to the left.
But on a serious note, I am pleased that the Judiciary Committee is examining the competitive effects of the BCS because the notion of basic fairness is called into question by the current BCS system. I believe there is value to ensuring fairness in our society whenever we can. And while life may not be fair, the moment that we stop caring that it isn’t, we chip away at the American dream.
… completely seriously.
And if you read Tony Barnhart’s post on the subject yesterday, he makes a good point about antitrust and the BCS.
… And finally, the BCS doesn’t violate antitrust law and the folks who will investigate the BCS already know that. If you’ve ever cracked a law book you know that.
Tom Rhodes of the Atlanta firm of Smith, Gambrell & Russell is one of the best antitrust lawyers in the country. He could barely contain his amusement when I asked him a while back if the BCS violates antitrust law.
“If this was illegal somebody would have already sued them a long time ago,” Rhodes said. “Tulane thought about suing in 2002 but they got their lawyers all cranked up and didn’t file.”
On the other hand, anybody who’s ever cracked open a lawbook can also tell you that there’s a nuisance value to any threatened legal action that has to be evaluated. Even if a lawsuit is a loser, it still means that the other side has to expend time, effort and money to defend it. Sometimes it really is much more cost effective to settle, even when you’re in the right.
And the one comment from these Congressional clowns that should give the lords of the BCS pause for thought is this one.
“The BCS system leaves nearly half of all the teams in college football at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to qualifying for the millions of dollars paid out every year,” a joint statement read.
That doesn’t sound like something that can be bought off with a “plus-one” format. If Hatch and his cohorts on the subcommittee are serious about redistributing college football revenues from the haves to the have-nots – and I thought Obama was the only socialist in Washington! – that has the potential to set up a major clash with the BCS conferences. Bernie Machen’s naivete aside, what SEC president, for example, is going to hand over some of that new TV money to the likes of San Diego State?
And, yes, if you think about it, that’s where the fight is headed. If Congress favors a large scale postseason, that’s bound to impact the regular season. CBS simply isn’t going to fork over the same bucks to the SEC in a “December Madness” world.
How hard is government willing to push on this? It seems ludicrous to contemplate, but impossible to discount completely. One thing seems clear to me, and that is that if things get too far, the BCS conferences are far more likely to take their ball and go home than to roll over for the likes of Hatch. Maybe in the end we’ll be looking at the birth of a college football super division of eighty or so schools out of this. That actually might be a very good thing. Even if Orrin Hatch never got the chance to crack the two-deep at dear old BYU.