Legal Newsline

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Utah AG takes football antitrust case to Holder, Varney

By Chris Rizo | Mar 2, 2010



WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-Big legal troubles could be in store for the college football playoff system that the Utah attorney general says disadvantages his and other states.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said Tuesday that the Bowl Championship Series could face multistate litigation -- and even federal antitrust action -- over the way the BCS chooses its championship game participants.

"This could be a multi-hundred million (dollar) lawsuit," Shurtleff told Legal Newsline, adding that litigation would be a last resort for him. "Ultimately the goal is not to get money but to get them to change the system to be more competitive."

Shurtleff, a Republican, said 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 a financial disadvantage.

"We are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars if not billions, and these are taxpayer-funded institutions and if they are doing something illegal then we need to do something about it," said Shurtleff, who is in Washington attending the National Association of Attorneys General spring convention.

Shurtleff became sharply critical of the BCS after his home-state's University of Utah Utes were excluded from the title game last season despite their perfect record.

Utah finished the season as Division I's only undefeated team, posting a 13-0 and record including wins over four ranked football teams.

"The attention and the good will that Utah would have gotten from playing in the championship game is priceless," Shurtleff said.

The BCS two title game participants are chosen by a complex system that uses such things as polls, strength of schedule and other factors to determine the top two teams in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision.

At the NAAG meeting, Shurtleff said he discussed his issues with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the chief of the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division, Christine Varney.

Both officials were "very interested" in the matter, said Shurtleff, who today mailed the two officials a 90-page executive briefing outlining his BCS concerns.

"With the DOJ involved and some states -- I think that might be what it takes to get them to say 'fine' and change things," Shurtleff said.

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