Last spring the Justice Department asked NCAA President Mark Emmert to please justify the BCS, and explain why it isn’t a violation of antitrust law. Emmert replied by acting as if the BCS was a reeking skunk he preferred not to touch. By letter, he explained to the DOJ that all the he does is hand out licenses, and other than that, “the NCAA has no role to play in the BCS or the BCS system,” and any reform would have to come from the BCS members.
In other words, Emmert said, “Don’t look at me.” Which leaves the government.
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has a term for Hoolahan to consider. Lawsuit. Shurtleff has long been threatening to file an antitrust case against the BCS, and says that Hoolahan just helped him by passing over Boise State at 11-1, the fourth time the school has finished in the top 10 yet been left out of the elite bowls. Shurtleff seems inclined to investigate the strange basis of the Sugar Bowl bids. “There was some kind of mischief going on,” he told the Arizona Republic on Monday.
Government intervention or lawsuits are never a first choice. But the bowl fiefs have shown that they will only respond to legal threat.
Here’s what needs to happen. At risk of having a new championship structure dictated by a court or Congress, the conference commissioners should seize control of the bowls from CEOs like Hoolahan, and form an NCAA selection committee, just as in basketball. The bowls must become mere tournament sites, stripped of their special status, which they’ve so egregiously abused. The right to host should be dependent on the ability to meet rigorous good governance audits.
Right now there is only one bowl that meets such a standard, according to Sanderson, and it’s ironically the one with the most tradition, the Rose. Reward the Rose Bowl by designating it the host of the first clean, non-BCS national championship.
Do that, and the postseason will become again what it used to be, an ardent, spirited time of year, as opposed to a dour, cynical scheme that excites no one, and breeds apathy, with games drained of vitality, and rankings bled of meaning. It’s time to knock the whole thing down, and start all over again.