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NCAA tries to pass the buck on DOJ investigation into the BCS

As I'm sure you all saw, after years of saber-rattling by senators from Utah and Houston (remember when they were the top non-AQ teams?), two weeks ago the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice finally got around to asking the NCAA why they don't have a playoff.  Today, NCAA president Mark Emmert responded by saying that it's none of his business, and that if the DOJ wants to know why college football doesn't have a playoff, they should ask the BCS.  To quote the juiciest bits:

Other than licensing the postseason bowls, "the NCAA has no role to play in the BCS or the BCS system," Emmert wrote in a letter to the department's antitrust chief, Christine Varney. He added that short of member colleges and universities discontinuing the BCS and proposing an NCAA championship, "there is no directive for the (NCAA) to establish a playoff."

He said that because the BCS system doesn't fall under the NCAA's purview, it was not appropriate for him to offer views on the system for crowning college football's championship.

I suppose I should begin by saying that there's no way this stall tactic is going to work.  Of course the DOJ was going to question the BCS in this matter.  They also wants answers from the NCAA, and Emmert or someone else is going to have to give them eventually.

That being said, I am shocked at how brazenly Emmert is stonewalling.  How can the president of this organization say that the college football championship isn't any of his business?  Division I FBS football appears to be the only major sport (and maybe the only NCAA-recognized sport) for which the NCAA doesn't recognize a champion.  I'm sure the DOJ wants to understand why the NCAA has refused to hold any official post season for only one sport, and why that particular sport happens to be the one that generates the most revenue.  Those are questions the BCS can't answer.

I wonder if the history of the Men's Basketball championship will enter into this discussion at all.  The NIT may be a joke now, but as JoePa will tell you, the NIT (a private enterprise, much like the BCS) was around before the NCAA even had a tournament, and in the early years of their co-existence, the NIT frequently fielded the stronger bracket of teams and produced the consensus national champion.  That particular slice of history is relevant as evidence that, at least in principle, there's no reason the NCAA can't hold a championship tournament alongside the current bowl system--including the BCS.  I'm not much of a college basketball fan or historian, so I'd love to hear some insights from those of you who might know more about the matter.

I have always been of the opinion that an 8- or 16-team playoff could exist alongside the current bowl system.  None of the lower-tier bowls like the Insight or the Meineke Car Care would be affected at all by a change from the BCS to a playoff--they would still be exhibition games, no more or less relevant than they are today, and most of the teams who are available to play in them would still be available for invitations.  Now, the big money bowls might object over losing the ability to invite top-tier teams who are instead selected for the playoff.  Providing the current contracts between these bowls and the conferences are allowed to expire first, I don't think that objection would have any legal weight to it.  But the big bowls might have some consolation:  if the preliminary rounds of the playoff are played early enough (say, early December), the teams eliminated in those rounds could still be available to play in January bowl games.

I'll be very interested to see what the DOJ eventually comes up with.  I just wish Emmert would quit trying to stall the process.

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