The BCS: Antitrust Goes Bowling?

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Gregory Curtner, Atleen Kaur, Robert Wierenga, May 28, 2009

The Bowl Championship Series (“BCS”) has received a great amount of attention over the past few years, as many fans have expressed displeasure with its mechanism for selecting a (mythical) “national champion” in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”)’s Division I’s Football Bowl Subdivision (“FBS”). While football bowl games have been played since the turn of the century, the BCS has existed in its current form only since 1998. Public debate over the BCS drew renewed attention last November when newly elected President Obama, in an interview on the popular television show 60 Minutes, voiced his preference for a playoff system leading to a national championship and indicated that he might use his influence to change the current system.

The BCS has also drawn the attention of legislators. There are currently three Bills pending regarding the BCS and the method by which a champion in NCAA Division I FBS college football is determined… …This pending legislation and the public debate about the BCS have focused on its alleged “anticompetitive” character. Critics largely argue that the BCS is a means by which the elite football institutions restrain the opportunity for non-BCS schools to participate in the most elite Bowls, and the ultimate championship, which results in lower economic gains for the non-BCS schools. But, is the BCS an antitrust violation? Or, alternatively, does the BCS result in anticompetitive harm that requires legislation to remedy?

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