Utah's Attorney General considers move

Updated: November 15, 2003, 3:51 PM ET
Associated Press

If the leaders of the Bowl Championship Series don't come to a resolution with the system's critics at a meeting Sunday, Utah's attorney general might call for an antitrust investigation.

Mark Shurtleff sent a letter Thursday to New York's attorney general, Elliott Spitzer, the chairman of the Antitrust Committee of the National Association of Attorneys General, criticizing the postseason system in major college football.

Leaders from the six conferences that started the BCS in 1998 will meet Sunday in New Orleans with representatives of the five Division I-A conferences that are trying to improve their access to the nation's most lucrative bowl games.

"I am glad to see that both the presidents of the BCS and non-BCS schools are committed to resolving this situation fairly. I look forward to the outcome of the presidents' meeting," Shurtleff wrote in the letter, obtained by The Associated Press.

"If a resolution does not emerge from that meeting, I will consider formally requesting that the Antitrust Committee ... open an investigation to examine whether or not competition is restrained and consumers are harmed under the current BCS arrangement."

Details of the letter were first reported Saturday by The New York Times.

Members of the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee were not immediately available for comment, but in the past have said that the system does not violate antitrust laws because it is open to all Division I-A school through two at-large berths.

Shurtleff represents a state that is home to three schools -- BYU, Utah and Utah State -- that are on the outside of the BCS. Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, a BYU graduate, was outspoken in his criticism of the system at a Senate hearing last month.

Questions about access to the BCS have been a big issue in college football since the summer, when Tulane president Scott Cowen started the Coalition for Athletics Reform in an effort to change the system.

The two sides met in September in Chicago and are expected to exchange ideas Sunday. The current BCS contract expires after the 2006 bowls and negotiations will begin next year on a new system.

Created in 1998 by the six most powerful conferences, the BCS guarantees the champions of those leagues -- the Big East, ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-10 -- will play in one of the four most lucrative postseason bowl games, leaving only two at-large berths.

One of those bowls pits the top two teams in the BCS standings in a championship game, which will be the Sugar Bowl this season. The Orange, Fiesta and Rose bowls host the other games.

Smaller schools complain that the BCS makes it impossible for them to win the national championship and puts them at a financial and recruiting disadvantage.

The BCS bowls generate more than $110 million a year for the big conferences. The BCS gives about $6 million a year to smaller conferences.

However, in the 20 years before the BCS started, only one school other than independent Notre Dame that's not currently in the six conferences played in one of those four bowls.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press