Thursday, June 30, 2011

Antitrust Is All In the Eye of the Beholder

With the NBA today declaring that there will be a lockout, I have a feeling that some news might get swept under the rug. But with a little Googling and Twittering, I came across some college football news - desperately needed on a June 30th, by the way.

Bill Hancock of the BCS met today with several bigwigs in the Department of Justice to talk a little antitrust. Hancock, of course, was confident that it'll all turn out okay.

And when it comes to the DOJ and antitrust, I bet he's probably right.

So that my position is clear - not that I haven't made it clear before - I am most definitely pro-playoff. The BCS format does not do justice for the five non-BCS conferences. They've gotten shut out of the national title game a few times over now, encouraging a few schools (Utah and TCU) to go turncoat on their comrades and join the evil empires, while BYU just decided to try their own deal and become the new Notre Dame. In short, I think the BCS is a bad thing.

But is it illegal? Ehhhh...

Antitrust laws are the body of laws that prohibit anti-competitive behavior and unfair business practices and encourage marketplace competition. The key, I believe, is that when you and I are talking anti-competitive behavior - we are referring to the teams/players/fan bases. I bet you that's not who Bill Hancock is talking about.

In the 1997 season, there were twenty bowl games played. The BCS started in the 1998 season. Since that time, fifteen bowl games have been added to the postseason (including the separate BCS title game in the '06 season). Bowl games have netted a 75% growth rate in under 15 years.

And if you've read Death to the BCS, you'd know that these guys who put on bowl games are raking in cash. Most of them, anyway - there are some losers out there. But, isn't that the fallout of competition? There are winners, and there are losers.

The BCS' hold on all the quality bowl spots has created an avenue to satisfy the rising demand of the also-rans to have their postseason spotlight. And bowl organizations have been lining up to fill that need.

What I'm saying here is that Bill Hancock is saying that this is not anti-competitive... for the bowls and their organizations. And I'm not sure I can argue with that.

The BCS is a raw deal for the fans, players, and anyone who isn't getting their pockets full on bowl games. But I don't think I can yet be convinced that it is illegal.