Utah AG, Justice Department meet

WASHINGTON -- Utah's attorney general met with Justice Department officials this week to discuss a possible federal investigation into college football's Bowl Championship Series.

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is investigating the BCS for possible antitrust violations and is hoping to get the Justice Department to do so as well.

"They are doing their due diligence," Shurtleff said in a telephone interview Thursday, a day after the meeting. "They had done their homework."

Shurtleff said department officials did not commit to conducting an investigation. He said among those at the meeting was Gene Kimmelman, chief counsel for competition policy and intergovernmental relations in the department's antitrust division.

Justice Department declined to comment on the meeting.

In January, in a letter to Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who had asked for an antitrust review, the department said the Obama administration was considering several steps that would review the legality of the BCS. The department said it was reviewing Hatch's request and other materials to determine whether to open an investigation into the BCS and possible antitrust violations.

Several lawmakers and many critics want college football to adopt a playoff system to determine the teams that play in the championship game.

BCS executive director Bill Hancock said Thursday it was "hard to imagine a bigger waste of taxpayer money than to involve the government in college football."

Under the BCS, the champions of six conferences have automatic bids to play in top-tier bowl games, while the other conferences don't. Those six conferences also receive more money than the other conferences.

Last year, the state legislature in Utah adopted a resolution calling for a playoff system to determine college football's national champion after an undefeated Utah was shut out of the national title game for the second time in four years.

Next season, Utah will be moving into one of the conferences with an automatic bid. But Shurtleff said that isn't deterring him.

"This has never been for me to get the University of Utah bragging rights," he said. If anything, Shurtleff argued, Utah's move gives him more credibility with attorneys general from other states he is seeking to recruit for his anti-BCS crusade.

He said that getting the Justice Department to launch an investigation is critical to the effort.

"You get the DOJ behind one, and the BCS will finally say, 'OK, we'll go to a playoff,' " Shurtleff predicted.