Saturday, January 10, 2009


“In the end, the game comes down to one thing: man against man. May the best man win.” - Sam Huff, NFL Hall of Fame middle linebacker.

As a first team All-American at West Virginia University, Sam Huff played in the Sugar Bowl 55 years ago. I don’t want to speak for Mr. Huff, but had he joined the other Sugar Bowl legends at the game last week, I’m sure he would have agreed that the best “man” won; but I wonder what he thinks of the unsportsmanlike system that has unfairly prohibited the men from the Mountain West Conference (and a thousand other NCAA Division I-A athletes who play in an “ugly stepsister conference) to ever have the chance to prove themselves, unarguably, the Best in the Nation. Instead, the BCS has artificially crowned THEIR national champion.

By now it's widely known that I am looking into the possibility of bringing an antitrust action against the BCS. The support from around the country has been overwhelming. However, a few have questioned my motives. Perhaps the following information will better explain the nature and purpose of my inquiry and why I have a duty to proceed with at least full due diligence in assessing whether to bring an antitrust action against the BCS:

1. As Attorney General, I have a duty to enforce federal and state antitrust laws.

2. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that antitrust laws apply to NCAA athletics.

3. The University of Utah and some other NCAA Division 1-A schools in Utah are taxpayer funded institutions and I have a duty to protect and defend them against violations of the law.

4. The BCS system involves millions of dollars a year of potential revenue to these institutions that could help replace dwindling taxpayer generated general fund monies. For the 2007-2008 bowl season, the BCS Championship Series distributed about $143 million in gross income for the twelve conferences participating in the BCS System. Two million dollars went to other miscellaneous distributees. Of that $143 million in gross income, 88% went to members of the six conferences with preferred eligibility to the Championship Series Bowls (with about 65 schools participating) and 12% went to six conferences with non-preferential eligibility (with about 54 schools participating). A similar split in the distribution of Bowl Championship Series gross income occurred in prior years. Additionally, the right of preferred entrance teams to act as the host venues for bowl games generates, according to the BCS, about $1.2 billion in secondary income benefits.

5. These schools, and my office, recognize the tremendous positive aspects of college sports and the great benefit a winning team can provide for the institution as well as the state.

6. If a system unreasonably restrains the opportunity of our educational institutions to freely and fairly compete to be designated as a national college football champion-a designation desired by football fans throughout the nation-such a system could unfairly deprive our institutions and my state of these important and significant revenues.

The stated purpose of the NCAA is: “to govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner.” Hopefully the NCAA will get back to the basics and take back I-A football and create a fair and equal playoff system. Until then the Utes have as much right as the Gators to claim that this year the best men in college football did win - in New Orleans!


Mark E. Towner said...


Your MP3 player overlaps your great comments about the BCS. You need to re size your gadgets.

How's the leg?

Captain Mark Towner,
Ready to set sail with Black Mark Shurtleff on any adventure

brenda said...

are you sure this is a good way to use tax dollars?
we all know the Utes are number one
I am afraid that you will spend more money pursuing this that would come in from a "big money" bowl.

Shawn said...

Please keep this legal fight up.

The BCS is a money monopoly with the few holding the many out.

There is no good reason to not have a college football playoff. The current system cheats every player and fan and University.

Matt said...

u are awesome......PLZ Dismantle the BS(C)....i mean bcs

Jack said...

Go for it but don't put it ahead of local issues.
This is going to be a difficult legislative year.

John Ryan

Jeff said...

As a fan of another team from a non-BCS conference, I must say that I appreciate your efforts. Keep up the great work!

Adam H. said...

The BCS system has put Utah, BYU, TCU, and others at a disadvantage that is costing the MWC funding. It is also taking away a larger potential that could be gained through a better system. The BCS wastes millions of dollars on committees and internal organizations. That money could help support education in colleges around the country. The cost of a probe is much smaller than the potential gain.

Jimmy said...

I applaud your efforts. My school is part of the "Big 6 conferences", but believe me the vast majority of us alumns believe there should be a playoff. It seems like the only people opposed to it are the University presidents and AD.

While some may say you are misusing tax dollars I believe that if you were to succeed schools like Utah could potentially reap millions of dollars in revenue, and as Utah's AG it is your responsibility to see that a Utah public school's interest is best served.

The BCS system is corrupt and sets up any school outside the big 6 conference at a severe disadvantage. If the University presidents and AD don't want anyone to play in their reindeer games then tell them they need to give back their federal funding.

Adriel said...

Even Utah State University got shafted on this because UNDEFEATED Boise State (in the WAC with USU) deserved going to the BCS bowl more than Ohio State coming out of the regular season and even though they both lost their bowls, the point is the Big10 will still benefit from 2 BCS Bowls while the WAC doesn't. A article on ESPN says one of the most powerful presidents of the NCAA who has power to change this system is Gordon Gee, but he is also the president of Ohio State so I doubt he would do anything about changing the system because it would cost Ohio State money they probably don't deserve.

The bottom line is, what the BCS is doing is consumer fraud. The BCS hypes teams up and telling consumers who the "National Championships" are and saying, "these are great teams and big bowls" and consumers eat it up and open their wallets for them. When all in reality there could be better teams who at least deserve a shot but are forced under the carpet because their fan base and school names are too small. Consumer fraud is being committed using our public and private schools.

Had it been Notre Dame who achieved what Utah did under Utah's exact same schedule (just name switch), there is no question Notre Dame would have gotten in the National Championship game based on their name alone. No one would have questioned or complained about it either.

This is a really great time and opportunity for Mark Shurtleff to pursue this issue while it’s hot and could help the process go through faster too than otherwise would have. If not, this issue will keep coming back ever year, Utah or not, until something is done about it. Might as well take action now than the future.

Jonathan said...

Thanks for being brave enough to stand up against this injustice. Best wishes!

Eagle4Justice said...

Thanks for steppin up to the plate and recognizing that the present circumstances make it the right time for an investigation of the BCS.

Your blog makes it clear to us that you have a duty to investigate, and that investigation will reveal what action(s) should be taken.

The Utah Justice Foundation supports your efforts to restore good sportsmanship (fairness and equity) back to college football.

Roy Davis said...

You can justify it any way you want, but your words make it clear that your interest in this matter is personal, more than for your job. There are more than 100 schools in the same basic position as Utah, unless you get support from other states' attorney generals, you are wasting our money. Just because you can legally justify investigating the BCS does not mean it is the correct thing to do. I am confident that if you look through the list of problems you should address, objectively that fighting the BCS would not be anywhere close to the top.

jpearson311 said...

I heard about your efforts on I admire what you are doing and I honestly believe that this is the only way we will ever get this damn BCS fixed. You have my full support. And yes, it IS a good idea to spend tax dollars on this effort. I'm tired of hearing about Americans not wanting to spend money in this country. This country is rich as all hell!!! We can afford it!!! I'm not from Utah, but the people of Utah and college football fans throughout the country deserve this damnit. Get 'em!

Columbus, OH
Buckeye Fan

Blainer said...

I agree with Mark Shurtleff 100%. What the BS BCS is doing is wrong, wrong, wrong! It hurts every school that is not part of the supposed big 6 conferences, and befits even the terrible programs within the supposed big six conferences. Heck, even Iowa state earned more BCS money and had a better shot at the national championship than any school in a non-BCS conference this year. The anti-competitive practices of the BCS must end.

Edward said...

Mr. Shurtleff,
I have been saying for years that the BCS system discriminates against smaller schools who do not belong in the "BCS conferences". How can a coach tell his players to strive for excellence and be champions when, in reality, they have no way of achieving this. The discrimination and monopoly policies of the BCS not only hurt the smaller schools when it comes to bowl games and revenue, but extends to monopolizing the top recruits because players who want to play in a national championship game can only do so if they attend a BCS conference. This puts the smaller schools at a huge disadvantage when it comes to recruiting.

I have a suggestion to those who say you are wasting taxpayer money. Create a fund where people can donate to this cause and I will be the first to make a donation even though I don't live in Utah. I am absolutely positive that my donation will be followed by millions of college football fans who are tired of watching college football only go in the direction dictated by the BCS. I am tired of watching all the money I spend on college football, not to mention my tax dollars, go to where the BCS decides.

I wish you well.

jeremy said...

We've all seen how detrimental it is to have politics and politicians involved in war. 4000 plus American soldiers are dead because of it. Well, there shouldn't be any politics in sports either. The BCS is a crooked, politician-serving, and money-hungry greed-infested discriminatory system that should be abolished like the rot of slavery it is. Florida can claim they're the national champions all they want but it is a pile of horse crock! A team with a loss, can not be better than a team that's undefeated no matter the schedule or the conference.

Anonymous said...


Quit wasting the resources of the taxpayers of this state. I'm sure you have more important things to do that chase the BCS around the courtroom. I don't claim that the system is perfect, but I don't think it warrants government intervention. What it warrants is more pressure from fans as well as some understanding among those fans that this is a game. Which team gets crowned as the champion is completely unimportant (unless crowning Utah as the rightful champion would solve some problem somewhere).

Anonymous said...

I just read Edward's comment about creating a fund to lets fans support this legal action - I can definitely get behind that. Those in Utah who don't see this as worthy of government funds should not have to foot the bill for this when the state budgets are already getting slashed.

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said...

I appreciate very much all of your comments. As a clarification to those concerned with our using taxpayer funds to pursue an investigation, and possibliy litigation, we maintain an antitrust litigation fund that is maintained by monies paid through settlement and court orders of other antitrust actions we have brought. Any costs associated with bringing a lawsuit would be paid out of that fund.

Furthermore, pursuing an action against the BCS would in no way detract from nor diminish our outstanding work in protecting Utah's families and children. Please visit my website at to learn of our successes in reducing crime and serving the public.

R> said...


I'm not a football fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I support this action 100%. When elite organizations wield tremendous power and do so unfairly, that is against the law. I hope you rain down the full wrath of the office of Attorney General on all those who would trample the rights of Utah's schools and citizens.

For all you Nay-Sayers, I would urge you to look at the record of our Attorney General and see that he is a wise stuard of the public trust. I follow Utah politics obsessively, and I trust his decisions more than any other elected official in this state. No personal bias would ever affect his professional decision making or duty.

Mark, I hope to see you run for Governor in 2012, it may be a crowded field, possibly even an incumbent, but it's your destiny. Utah needs you, brotha'.

Bryce said...

74 years ago (to the date), our government declined the right for women to vote. In yester-year blacks were not allowed to compete in professional baseball and were pushed out of college basketball.

Is there a money issue here? Of course, but the bigger issue is one of dictatorial supremacy. The BCS conferences with automatic bids espouse a two-class system. They want to ride on the upper deck while the other conferences ride in stewage. The BCS conferences relish the unfair advantages they receive. They want to have the upper hand in recruiting, TV contracts, facilities, and anything else money or the exclusive BCS alignment can provide. It’s important for them to have an advantage before the season even begins.

Every data point tells you this system is focused around the ideals of some conspiring men who want to force oppression upon other public school to the benefit of their own. If leaders in America allow this injustice to continue, then we did not learn anything from racism and equal-right initiatives of the past. It’s happening all over again, only this time with a different twist.

To Mr. Shurtleff, If you are successful in changing the BCS to a fair and open playoff system, it will be one of the biggest achievements of the decade. I applaud your efforts. I'm 100% in support.

Hales said...

I wrote the first legal article on the antitrust issues of the BCS.

Good luck. I am here in Utah as an attorney and would love to help.

Mark R. Hales

Jason The said...

This may be one of the first times you and I have agreed on something.

Go for it.

Dave said...

I think it's great that you post rationale on your blog. It's part of a bigger trend of politicians using social media to reach out to their constituents. It's a great thing!

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