NEW YORK (AP) - Called in by the Department of Justice to explain how major college football crowns a champion, the head of the Bowl Championship Series spent an hour and a half making a case for the much-criticized system.
BCS executive director Bill Hancock met Thursday with 10 officials from the department’s antitrust division in Washington.
Hancock said the tone of the meeting was friendly and that justice officials asked about how the BCS operates, how teams qualify to play in college football’s five most lucrative bowl games, and its finances and history.
“I went into the meeting very confident that the BCS does not break the law and I came out of it confident that we explained what we do and why the BCS doesn’t pose any antitrust concerns,” he told The Associated Press in a phone interview.
The Justice Department initially raised its concerns with the NCAA about major college football’s postseason system, asking why there wasn’t a playoff. The department said previously there were “serious questions” about whether the BCS complies with antitrust laws.
NCAA President Mark Emmert directed the department to the BCS. So the DOJ asked for a meeting with BCS officials.
Hancock said he brought two attorneys to the meeting and that he came away from it with no sense of whether he would be hearing from the Department of Justice again. He added that the department did not request any records or documents.
Department of Justice spokeswoman Gina Talamona declined to confirm the meeting took place.
Critics and playoff proponents, such as those who formed Playoff PAC, have urged the department to investigate the BCS because they contend it unfairly gives some schools preferential access to the title game and other top-tier postseason games _ along with the money that comes with it.
Hancock and other BCS supporters insist the system has benefited all schools that play college football.
Under the BCS, the champions of six conferences have automatic bids to play in top-tier bowl games; the other five conferences don’t. But Hancock said the BCS, which was established in 1998, has improved access to such bowls for those other five conferences.
Hancock said he told the Department of Justice that Utah’s Sugar Bowl appearance after the 2008 regular season earned the Mountain West Conference $9.8 million.
“And if there had not been a BCS, Utah would have been in the Las Vegas Bowl … and that payout was about $900,000,” he said. “To be able to talk about that type of benefit was an opportunity that I was looking forward to. An opportunity I was happy to get.”
Matthew Sanderson, one of the co-founders of Playoff PAC, said Hancock isn’t telling the whole story about Utah and the BCS. “Mr. Hancock isn’t telling us the dirty little secret _ disfavored teams receive only half of a preferred team’s share for playing in an identical game, and drawing an identical number of fans and TV viewers,” he said.
The BCS also provides a game between its system’s No. 1 vs. No. 2 to end the season, something that only occasionally happened in the old bowl setup. But critics say the way the BCS decides which teams play for the national championship is flawed.
Even if there is no federal investigation, the BCS is already under fire from at least one state. The attorney general of Utah, Mark Shurtleff, has said he plans to file an antitrust lawsuit against the BCS.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
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