Earlier this week United States Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division Christine Varney sent a letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert (see below) asking why the NCAA has not implemented a college football playoff.
(At Varney’s confirmation hearing, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch brought up BCS)
Though BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock was also sent a copy of the inquiry, ironic that the person most responsible for keeping the BCS alive and well, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, was not publicly copied.
On Dec. 7, 2005, at a U.S. Congressional hearing titled, “Determing a Champion on the field, A comprehensive review of the BCS”, Delany - flanked by a then-unknown Hancock - said the following:
“I am absolutely sure that an NFL-style football playoff would provide maybe three or four times as many dollars to the Big Ten than the present system does. In fact, a number of corporations have come forward and tried to lure us into a playoff with those kinds of dollars. There is no doubt in my mind that we are leaving hundreds of millions of dollars on the table.”
That was 2005. Current market conditions suggest that an NCAA football playoff could now net as much as $1 billion per year for NCAA member institutions.
But why is the government once again sticking its nose in the BCS and NCAA’s business?
Might have something to do with Delany acknowledging in 2005 that with the continued implementation of the BCS - which by its own admission restricts trade and limits competition - the NCAA is losing out on hundreds of millions in annual revenue. Revenue which could go to settling massive shortfalls suffered by hundreds of intercollegiate athletic departments across the country.
By, as Delany put it in 2005, “leaving hundreds of millions of dollars on the table”, those school athletic program deficits are now mostly made up with taxpayer funds. In fact, Delany’s own Big Ten schools (most recently Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin) have accessed millions in taxpayer funds to balance athletic department budgets over the years.
Despite the direct rhetoric in the DOJ letter, United States Assistant Attorney General and designated illegal trust-buster Christine Varney and NCAA President Emmert are essentially allies in the quest to eliminate the BCS.
Varney’s May 3 letter is more a warning shot in the direction of the BCS - and a move to empower the NCAA - than it is an interrogation of Emmert. Varney knows full well that Emmert has little-to-no control over the BCS, so the letter is more an announcement of the Department of Justice’s intentions than a fact-finding missive to be taken literally.
No, the man left to answer Varney’s questions will eventually be Delany. But with the Department of Justice now officially on the case, I’d honestly be surprised if the Big Ten Commissioner continues to prop up a system which only exists by his design.