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Lifting 2-team BCS limit could cause strife

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive’s assertion that BCS executive director Bill Hancock is expected to ask conference commissioners to lift the two-team per conference limitation on BCS games is sure to ruffle the feathers of non-BCS conference schools.

The question is will it do anything to increase the legal pressure already on the BCS?

Government officials, including Utah attorney general Mark Shurtleff and U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) have put pressure on the Department of Justice to investigate whether the BCS has violated antitrust laws. Shurtleff announced plans to file an antitrust lawsuit against the BCS last May.

One legal expert believes the government will ultimately steer clear of this situation. “The Department of Justice’s resources are limited,” said David A. Scupp, an associate with the law firm of Constantine Cannon. “And [the non-BCS conferences] don’t have a strong case.”

That seems to be the sentiment coming from many in the legal community. Although it sounds like a case of the strong taking advantage of the weak, much skepticism remains as to whether the BCS is violating U.S. antitrust statutes.

“It’s really a small piece of the legal battle,” Scupp said of the BCS’s intention to ask the conference commissioners to lift the two-team limit.

"I could see it fueling the fire, but I don't know how significant it would be," Scupp added.

The BCS would likely invite more criticism and scrutiny if it got the go ahead to lift the two-team limit, because it  would open the door to allowing more BCS teams in at the expense of non-BCS schools. For those who don’t believe non-BCS schools have earned it, check the history of the BCS.

Utah was the first football program from a conference that doesn't have an automatic bid to play in a BCS bowl. The Utes defeated Pittsburgh, 35-7, in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl. The Utes earned their second BCS bid in 2009 and defeated Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, 31-17.

Boise State and TCU, each with two appearances, and Hawaii, are the other schools from non-automatic bid conferences to play in a BCS bowl. Notre Dame is the only independent school that gets an automatic bid to a BCS bowl if it finishes in the top eight of the BCS standings.

Under the current format, there are five BCS games, including the national championship. Each of the six BCS conference champions gets an automatic bid. The highest ranked non-BCS conference champion can get an automatic bid if it finishes in the top 12 or is ranked in the top 16 and ranked ahead of at least one BCS conference champion.

If Notre Dame and at least one non-BCS school were to meet the automatic bid qualifications, that would leave two at-large spots. Lifting the two-team limit could lead to the BCS executives to look for the higher profile team from a BCS conference.

Scupp said he would like to see a playoff, but added: "It would probably happen through college football and not through the courts."


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