Posted by Tom Fornelli
Earlier this month Christine Varney and the Department of Justice sent a letter to NCAA president Mark Emmert and BCS executive Bill Hancock essentially asking why it is that the FBS level of college football is the only sport within the NCAA that does not hold a playoff to determine its champion. Well, after considering the question for a few weeks, Emmert has finally replied to the Department of Justice's inquiry, releasing the response on Wednesday.
Dear Ms. Varney:
We are in receipt of your May 3, 2011, letter and note your interest in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) system. You asked for the NCAA's views and/or plans rleated to the Football Bowl Subdicision (FBS) postseason football, including an NCAA playoff. Inasmuch as the BCS system does not fall under the purview of the NCAA, it is not appropriate for me to provide views on the system. With regard to the Association's plans for an NCAA FBS football championship, there are no plans absent direction from our membership to do so. These are the short answers to your request.
To elaborate, however, it is important to share some relevant background. The BCS system is composed of the eleven conferences, plus Notre Dame, that are members of the FBS. It was established, as I understand it, to accomodate public interest for determining a subdivision football champion via on-field competition within a more than century-old bowl structure. In essence, the system includes match-ups among the top-ranked teams for five bowls, including a BCS Championship Game in which the BCS-determined top two teams compete. The selection criteria and bowl match-ups are managed by the 11 conferences. Other than licensing the postseason FBS bowls, the NCAA has no role to play in the BCS or the BCS system. As a result, your request for views on how the BCS system serves "the interest of fans, colleges, universities, and players" is better directed to the BCS itself.
The NCAA conducts 89 championships in 23 sports annually, and each of those championships has been created at the request of the Association's membership. At no time in the history of the FBS or its predecessor, Division I-A, has a formal proposal come before the membership to establish a postseason football championship in that subdivision. Instead, the FBS has elected to conduct its postseason competition outside the NCAA structure. Without membership impetus for a postseason playoff, the NCAA has no mandate to create and conduct an FBS football championship.
You noted in your letter that I had been quoted expressing my willingness to help create a championship. Not included in your letter was the context reported by the New York Times that such a change "would not happen unless the leaders of the institutions with teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision want to make such a change." This is consistent with my comments regarding an NCAA FBS championship since I came into office in October last year.
The letter from Emmert then goes on to answer the questions individually, but none of the answer are different than anything Emmert said in the body of the letter quoted above. Essentially the NCAA used a lot of words to say "We don't have a playoff because none of our schools have asked us to do so, and that the BCS is who you should be asking about the BCS. Have a nice day."