SAN DIEGO - NOVEMBER 20: The Utah Utes get ready to take the field for the game with the San Diego State Aztecs at Qualcomm Stadium on November 20 2010 in San Diego California. Utah won 38-34. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Utah AG Mark Shurtleff Searching For Legal Team In BCS Antitrust Lawsuit

Also, the Department of Justice is wading ankle-deep into the lack of a college football playoff at the sport's highest level, which we're sure will end well for everyone involved.

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BCS Director Bill Hancock 'Confident' Following Department Of Justice Meeting

The BCS and the Justice Department had their long-anticipated meeting Thursday. Bill Hancock sat down with the DOJ for 90 minutes to discuss concerns about fairness and anti-trust legislation. Hancock came away from the meetings "confident."

"I went into it confident that the BCS complies with the law, and I left the meeting even more confident," Hancock said. ". . . They asked good questions. They asked how the BCS operates, and talked about access and finances. I gave them some history.

"We had an opportunity to explain what we do and why it doesn't pose any antitrust concerns . . . that it improved access (to top-tier bowls) and attendance and the (championship) game is much more of a national game and fans have benefited.

Hancock also slyly mentioned "No. 1 and 2 have met 13 of 13 years by our standards," which is a sneaky way of throwing that out there, especially since the BCS' "standards" of what constitutes the No. 1 team and the No. 2 team have not always been eye-to-eye with other voting bodies.

A Justice spokesperson said there would be no comment from the department. Alrighty.

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Mark Shurtleff Summoning Legal Team For BCS Antitrust Battle

After announcing that he would file an antitrust lawsuit against the BCS, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is now seeking law firms to join his case against the football entity. The Deseret News reported that Shurtleff's office filed a request of information on a government website designed for law firms. Readers are directed to this link to see the filing.

From there it is possible to read the 11-page filing, which includes a list of questions to be answered. Outside of fee arrangements, the questions ask if the answering law firm has had experience litigating the BCS or similar institutions.

Respondents have until Aug. 8 to submit their paperwork, so we shouldn't expect anything a legal team to appear overnight and challenge the BCS immediately. However, the BCS will also need to look out for the United States Department of Justice, which will hold a meeting with BCS officials on June 30.

Just don't get any hopes up of a change to the current bowl setup. It will likely take years for anything to come of this.

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BCS' Bill Hancock, Justice Department To Meet Tuesday, According To Report

So when the Justice Department requested a meeting with the BCS for some time this summer, most probably assumed that would mean late July or early August or something. Turns out they're actually meeting on the very first day of the 2011 summer, with CBS Sports reporting a Tuesday meeting.

The nature of the meeting is apparently a voluntary visit by Hancock to describe how the BCS system works to Department officials. By no means is it yet an antitrust investigation, though the Department has publicly pondered the fairness of the bizarre method used to determine the NCAA's premier sport, to which NCAA president Mark Emmert shrugged.

If anything is to come of this or something like it, it probably won't be for years. Go ahead and assume you'll be mad about one thing or another this bowl season, because it's good for you.

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Justice Department Schedules Meeting With BCS For Summer

While NCAA President Mark Emmert has responded to the Department of Justice's inquiry into the BCS, that has not quelled concerns over college football's postseason. The Justice Department has requested and will receive a meeting with the BCS this summer. This doesn't appear to be anything more than a preliminary examination of the system the BCS has set up. A federal investigation of the BCS system is not in the discussion yet.

BCS officials want to show that its system fits in with existing antitrust legislation. Though the BCS has made changes in recent years to open up its postseason games to teams that play in non-automatic qualifying conferences, critics of this system still aren't satisfied.

A playoff system like the Football Championship Series is often brought up as a replacement for the BCS, as the previous system still relied on conference tie-ins to bowl games and the polls establishing the national championship.

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Mark Emmert Responds To Justice Department Inquiry Into BCS

NCAA president Mark Emmert responded to the Department of Justice’s inquiry about the BCS and possibility of a playoff system. As you can imagine, Emmert’s response was akin to shrugging his shoulders and saying “not our problem.” It’s passing the buck, in a way, as Emmert notes the Football Bowl Subdivision member institutions must propose an alternative to the system.

Here is an excerpt of Emmert’s response to the DOJ’s most basic question: Why not a playoff?

“Unless the membership decides to discontinue the existing BCS system and formally proposes creation of a championship for FBS institutions, there is no directive for the Association to establish a playoff. As noted, the FBS has never offered for consideration and vote a proposal to create an NCAA FBS championship.”

When asked whether the BCS is the best choice and whether any alternatives exist, Emmert responded with a single sentence that, essentially, said “go ask the BCS that one.” You can read the full letter, in PDF form, here.

I was wondering when this inquiry would get wacky and it appears we’ve hit that point. A DOJ inquiry seemed odd in the first place, and the whole ordeal seems to be little more than a fun public relations war Emmert refuses to touch.

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NCAA Responds To Justice Department's BCS Antitrust Inquiry

The NCAA has responded snippily to reports of a letter from the Justice Department on the subject of the Bowl Championship Series and whether the governing body has looked into a playoff for FBS football. In the brief statement, NCAA vice president of communications Bob Williams says the NCAA will respond shortly, but to the Department itself:

When we actually receive the letter from the Department of Justice we will respond to its questions directly.  It should be noted that President Emmert consistently has said, including in the New York Times article, that the NCAA is willing to help create a playoff format for Football Bowl Subdivision football if the FBS membership makes that decision.    

We have the full text of the letter right here, sir! The NCAA knows it doesn't have PR on its side on this one, and is thus wise to operate one-on-one instead of letting this continue to air out in public.

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Justice Department Asks NCAA Why BCS Instead Of Playoff System

Christine Varney, the Justice Department's assistant attorney general for antitrust, sent a letter to NCAA president Mark Emmert about the Bowl Championship Series, essentially asking why the BCS shouldn't be considering in violation of antitrust laws. This didn't quite come out of nowhere, as Utah attorney general Mark Shurtleff has previously met with the Justice Department about the matter, and Varney cites several other experts who've joined the cause.

Varney asks Emmert why FBS college football doesn't have a playoff, when other NCAA sports do.

The full text of the letter:

Dear Dr. Emmert:

Serious questions continue to arise suggesting that the current Bowl Championship Series (DCS) system may not be conducted consistent with the competition principles expressed in the federal antitrust laws. The Attorney General of Utah has announced an intention to file an antitrust lawsuit against the BCS. In addition,we recently received a request to open an investigation of the BCS from a group of twenty-one professors, a copy of which is attached. Other prominent individuals also have publicly encouraged the Antitrust Division to take action against the BCS, arguing that it violates the antitrust laws.

On March 2, 2011, the New York Times reported that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was "willing to help create a playoff format to decide a national championship for the top level of college football." In that context, it would be helpful for us to understand your views and/or plans on the following:

1. Why does the Football Bowl Subdivision not have a playoff, when so many other NCAA sports have NCAA-run playoffs or championships?

2. What steps, if any, has the NCAA taken to create a playoff among Football Bowl Subdivision programs before or during your tenure? To the extent any steps were taken, why were they not successful? What steps does the NCAA plan to take to create a playoff at this time?

3. Have you determined that there are aspects of the BCS system that do not serve the interests of fans, colleges, universities, and players? To what extent could an alternative system better serve those interests?

Your views would be relevant in helping us to determine the best course of action with regard to the BCS. Therefore, we thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter.    

So what does all this mean? If a suit is launched against the BCS, Dan Wetzel, for one, thinks it could succeedwhether a judge finds the system to violate antitrust law or not.

For more college football, visit SB Nation's NCAA Football hub.

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Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff Filing BCS Antitrust Lawsuit

Utah attorney general Mark Shurtleff will file suit against the BCS after years of threatening (literally!) to do so. This all started when the Utah Utes were denied a shot at the national title in 2008 despite going 13-0, finishing No. 2 after obliterating the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl. Shurtleff says he expects other state attorneys general to join his effort.

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.    

Shurtleff had previously met with the Justice Department to attempt to activate its involvement. His timing in announcing this suit couldn't have been better, considering it's breaking on the heels of the NCAA investigation into the Fiesta Bowl.

BCS executive Bill Hancock, of course, was ready with a retort, telling USA Today the parameters of a hypothetical antitrust lawsuit wouldn't apply to the BCS.

For more on Utah sports, join Block U. For more college football, visit SB Nation's NCAA Football hub.

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