Will Obama Take on the BCS?

David WilsonSenior Writer IJanuary 30, 2010

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 25:  President Barack Obama carries a basketball signed by members of the National Basketball Association 2009 champions Los Angeles Lakers during an event with the team in the East Room of the White House January 25, 2010 in Washington, DC. The Lakers bested the Orlando Magic to win the NBA Finals in 2009.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

It seems that President Obama is considering taking on college football’s controversial Bowl Championship Series.

This all stemmed from a letter that Sen. Orrin Hatch sent to the Justice Department asking for an antitrust review. 

According to a letter to Hatch from Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich, the Justice Department is reviewing Hatch's request and other materials to determine whether to open an investigation into whether the BCS violates antitrust laws.

"Importantly, and in addition, the administration also is exploring other options that might be available to address concerns with the college football postseason," Weich wrote, including asking the Federal Trade Commission to review the legality of the BCS under consumer protection laws."

"The administration shares your belief that the current lack of a college football national championship playoff with respect to the highest division of college football ... raises important questions affecting millions of fans, colleges and universities, players, and other interested parties." 

Weich noted that several undefeated teams have not had a chance to play for the national championship, including TCU and Boise State this year and Utah last year.

"This seemingly discriminatory action with regard to revenues and access have raised questions regarding whether the BCS potentially runs afoul of the nation's antitrust laws." 

The gist of Weich’s comments appears to be that college football should scrap the bowl system and implement the playoff system that everyone want, except the BCS. 

Bill Hancock, executive director of the BCS, said:

"We're confident that the BCS structure complies with the laws of the country."

"The consensus of the schools is to go with the BCS," Hancock added. "We feel strongly the people in higher education are the people best equipped to manage college football."

What makes this an interesting topic for the Obama administration to tackle is that the majority of the public will agree with them. What will be interesting to see is whether the administration or senators threaten the schools with either an antitrust review or with reviewing their tax-free status.

College football is a multibillion dollar business, and schools are making tens of millions of dollars tax-free each year from their “student athletes.” In these difficult financial times, that is revenue that is not going to the individual states or the IRS. 

It might be the stick that brings about a college football playoff and not the threat of an antitrust review.