Ari Fleischer was hired as the BCS’ PR flack because it was assumed he knew his way around Capitol Hill.
Let’s put it this way – he better.
W’s former White House spokesman is about to earn his money. The Justice Department is threatening to look into the legality of the BCS. The word came down Friday when, incredibly, Justice responded favorably to a letter from Sen. Orrin Hatch asking for an antitrust review of the BCS.
You know Hatch. The powerful senator from Utah has been the BCS’ worst nightmare from the get go. Now it’s getting serious. A staunch Republican is getting some support from the Democratic administration. Remember when Obama kiddingly said he would “throw my weight around a little bit” in getting a college football playoff.
Maybe he wasn’t kidding.
This is not good news for the BCS which has stated its case under Fleischer with a Facebook page, a twitter account and reams of rhetoric. All of that will be mere kindling if this fire burns bright enough to bring about a Justice Department hearing.
Here’s what Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote to Hatch:
"The administration shares your belief that the current lack of a college football national championship playoff with respect to the highest division of college football … raises important questions affecting millions of fans, colleges and universities, players and other interested parties …
"Importantly, and in addition, the administration also is exploring other options that might be available to address concerns with the college football postseason.” That includes, according to the Associated Press, asking the Federal Trade Commission to review the legality of the BCS under consumer protection laws.”
Of course the BCS maintains that it is protected legally. I wrote a column last year expanding on that topic after talking to a powerful antitrust lawyer Tom Rhodes.
Rhodes' key argument remains: An antitrust fight might drag on for three-to-five years. Obama could be out of office by then. And there are a few small issues for President Playoff to fix first like unemployment and a couple of wars. The prez himself probably favors a health plan over a playoff plan.
Predictably, the BCS raised that question in its response: Doesn’t the administration have better things to do?
"This letter is nothing new and if the Justice Department thought there was a case to be made, they likely would have made it already,” BCS executive director Bill Hancock said in a statement. “There is much less to this letter than meets the eye. The White House knows that with all the serious issues facing the country, the last thing they should do is increase the deficit by spending money to investigate how the college football playoffs are played. With all due respect to Senator Hatch, he is overstating this importance of the letter he received from the Office of Legislative Affairs."
One thing is sure. This issue isn’t going away soon. Ari, start spinning, baby.