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WASHINGTON (AP) The college football world continues to be filled with controversy. Earlier this week it was Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor, now the Justice Department is taking aim at the BCS.
The Justice Department’s antitrust division will meet with the BCS this summer to discuss its concerns about college football’s postseason format.
BCS executive director Bill Hancock told the Associated Press on Thursday that a Justice Department attorney last week asked for a voluntary background briefing on how the BCS operates. Hancock said he agreed to provide one, but that no date has been set yet.
“We view it as an opportunity to make it clear that the BCS was crafted very carefully with antitrust laws in mind,” Hancock said.
The Justice Department initially raised its concerns with the NCAA, asking why there wasn’t a playoff for college football’s highest level and saying there were “serious questions” about whether the current format to determine a national champion complies with antitrust laws.
But NCAA President Mark Emmert responded in a letter last month that the department’s questions were best directed to the BCS.
Critics who have urged the department to investigate the BCS contend it unfairly gives some schools preferential access to the title game and lucrative, top-tier bowls at the end of the season.
Hancock said he wasn’t concerned with the Justice Department’s request for a meeting.
“We take seriously any connection in Washington, and we’re certainly taking this seriously,” he said. “But I view it as an opportunity, because we’re confident that the BCS is on strong legal ground.”
Hancock said the meeting will be the first the BCS has had with the department at least since he joined the organization in 2005.
He said he did not think that the meeting signaled an investigation.
“Their staff made it clear this was simply a request for information,” Hancock said. “They also said our cooperation was voluntary.”
Justice Department spokeswoman Gina Talamona said the department continues to review information provided to it to determine whether to open an investigation into the legality of the current system under antitrust laws.
“It’s not unusual for us to have discussions with knowledgeable parties on a particular matter,” she added, but declined to confirm who the department was meeting with.
Even if there is no federal investigation, the BCS is already under fire from at least one state. The attorney general of Utah, Mark Shurtleff, has said he plans to file an antitrust lawsuit against the BCS.
Before he was sworn in as president, Barack Obama said in 2008 that he was going to “to throw my weight around a little bit” to nudge college football toward a playoff system.
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