S.I. Writer Charges BCS an 'Illegal Monopoly'; Likens Current Format to Plessy v. Ferguson 'Separate but Equal' Decision

December 9th, 2009 8:05 PM

There's certainly an argument to be made that college football's Bowl Championship Series (BCS) isn't an ideal system, but just to what degree should the federal government come in and regulate this multi-billion dollar industry?

According to Andy Staples, a writer for Sports Illustrated's Web site, SI.com who appeared on the Fox News Channel's Dec. 9 "Studio B," the industry should be revamped from a regulatory aspect because of an issue of "fairness." He was asked by host Shepard Smith why it is appropriate for Congress to be meddling in the college football.

"It is funny because everybody says, ‘Why is Congress wasting its time on this?'" Staples said. "It is a multi-billion dollar business involving more than 100 publicly funded universities. That is probably something Congress might want to dabble in if there is a question about it, and there are some questions about it."

The current action being discussed by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, and other members of Congress, involves whether the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision game could be promoted as the "national" championship game unless it came as a result of a playoff. And Staples contends this could be justified if the Department of Justice were to attack the BCS on antitrust grounds.

"This bill basically is semantics," Staples said. "It's saying you can't advertise it as a national championship, but this is the tip of the iceberg, Shep. This is the appetizer. I think what the folks who want to see reform in the BCS really want to see is the Department of Justice get involved and look at it on antitrust grounds - because, if you hear Joe Barton talk, he uses the word ‘cartel' a lot when he talks about the BCS."

Staples took it as far as calling the BCS an "illegal monopoly."

"I think that's one of those things that if Justice got involved and they looked at the distribution of income in the BCS, it would be awfully hard for them to say it is not an illegal monopoly," Staples said.

However, the argument fails to point out which colleges do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to producing revenue. As the annual ranking of football-produced revenue conducted by Street & Smith Sports Business Journal show, the top 10 colleges in total revenue and top 10 colleges in football revenue are all schools from BCS conferences or Notre Dame (an independent).

But Staples cries foul when it comes to the issue of fairness.

"How is that fair? You know, there are 11 conferences, but only six of them get treated a certain way, the other five are basically treated as one and one voting bloc," Staples said.

Staples diagnosis: College football is suffering from the same problems that plague a segregated country - the 1896 "Separate, but Equal" precedent reaffirmed by the Supreme Court's Plessy v. Ferguson decision.

"When that announcement was made that in the Fiesta Bowl you would have TCU versus Boise State, my gut reaction was this sounds like ‘Separate but Equal,' and there have been a lot of Plessy v. Ferguson jokes in the blogosphere the last couple of days," Staples said.