Utah AG challenges college football 'champ'

Legal News Line Jan. 7, 2009, 1:28pm

Mark Shurtleff (R)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (Legal Newsline) - The night before he was elected, on national television during a Monday Night Football halftime show, President-elect Barack Obama took the proverbial snowball and started it rolling slowly down the hill of the NCCA's beleaguered Bowl Championship Series.

Now, irked that for the second time an undefeated Utah football team has been left out of the BCS championship game, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is taking that snowball and hoping to start an avalanche.

Shurtleff has launched an investigation into the BCS for possible violation of federal antitrust laws because teams from lesser-known conferences, like Utah's Mountain West Conference, do not get an automatic bid into a BCS bowl, placing them at a competitive and financial disadvantage.

"We've established that from the very first day, from the very first kickoff in the college season, more than half of the schools are put on an unlevel playing field," Shurtleff said. "They will never be allowed to play for the national championship."

Utah finished the season as Division I's only undefeated team, posting a 13-0 and record including wins over four ranked football teams. Florida and Oklahoma, two teams that both lost a game during the season, play on Thursday night in the BCS championship game.

Shurtleff said his investigation is about more than college bragging rights.

"It's a multi-million dollar - hundreds of millions - business where the BCS schools get richer and non-BCS get poorer," he said.

ESPN columnist Rick Reilly was even more direct in Wednesday's column.

"The BCS has no credibility," he wrote. "Florida? Oklahoma? Who cares? Utah is the national champion. The End. Roll credits."

Reilly said the entire BCS system is a system that allows top schools who routinely benefit from the BCS to continue to make millions more than up-and-comers like Utah.

"Hey remind me: What do they give out for one of those BCS things anyway? It's been so long since I cared. Something from Sears? This is the sixth year in the past 10 that the title has been in dispute under this cash-grab, fan-dis, monopoly that the BCS has created. Which is why the title game just doesn't matter anymore. It's like being named Miss Ogallala. Or Best Amish Electrician."

Apparently Reilly is not alone. After being elected, Obama did not back off his statement that if there was one thing he could change in sports it would be to institute a college playoff system for Division I football. Every other sport, including all other divisions of college football already have a playoff. The BCS two title game participants are chosen by a complicated system that including computers, polls, strength of schedule and other factors to determine its "best" teams.

This year, Oklahoma was chosen over Texas, a team from the same conference with the same record that had beaten Oklahoma head-to-head during the regular season, and Utah, a team that never lost a game.

"It just slays me. It really does," Reilly wrote.

But now rather than just complain as sports fans do every year, Utah's attorney general is launching an investigation to see what can be done about it.

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