He and his staff are looking into the Sherman Antitrust Act to determine if a conspiracy exists to keep non-BCS teams like the University of Utah out of the championship game. The Utes, which beat the Alabama Crimson Tide 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2, was the only undefeated team in the 2008 football season.

Utah finished the season in the No. 2 position, according to the AP Poll, receiving 16 votes. Florida received 48. The poll was Utah’s final chance to receive the top recognition they felt they deserved.

Utah’s Argument

Shurtleff and many of the Utes’ supporters argue that the team should have gotten a bid to the national championship game in Miami, and by being unfairly left out the school lost income it could have earned in advertising and such from that bid, according to a Jan. 12 Associated Press article by Brock Vergaskis. This is the second time in five years Utah has been undefeated and has not been invited to the national championship, although both times they received a BCS bowl bid.

Shurtleff’s proposal has met with mixed results. The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah’s largest newspaper, ran an editorial on Jan. 9, agreeing with the attorney general that the system was unfair but did not agree such a legal pursuit was an appropriate use of tax dollars.

“Shurtleff and his underlings are wasting their time and your money by pursuing this investigation,” the editorial reads. “Frankly, there are more pressing concerns for our state leaders than college football.”

Shurtleff’s blog, however, is getting hits from people who agree with him. He says it is his responsibility to protect the state’s interests, including from an “unsportsmanlike system that has unfairly prohibited the men from the Mountain West Conference (and a thousand other NCAA Division 1-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.”

Comments ask Shurtleff to “dismantle the BCS,” encourage the AG to pursue it without ignoring local issues and thanking him for “being brave enough to stand up to this injustice.” A few agreed with the Tribune that the system is inherently wrong but express that Shurtleff does not belong in this fight.

What Utah Can Do Next Time

The argument that because Utah is undefeated and beat Alabama, which spent the last half of the season in the No. 1 spot until losing to Florida in the Southeastern Conference championship, the team needs to be taken more seriously by the rest of the collegiate football world. What is hindering the Utes is their strength of schedule. In the Mountain West Conference, only Texas Christian University and Brigham Young University were ranked in the top 25; both were ranked lower than Utah when the teams met. BYU lost the Las Vegas Bowl 31-21 to Arizona, and TCU upset previously undefeated Boise State in the Poinsettia Bowl 17-16.

Utah’s nonconference games were against Michigan (3-9 in 2008) in Ann Arbor and Oregon State (9-4) in Salt Lake City. Oregon State, which finished the season at the No. 18 postseason spot, beat the No. 1 University of Southern California Trojans the week before losing to Utah, so arguably the Beavers were the only team that could be a threat to the Utes.

Utah’s solution, therefore, should be to bulk up its pre-conference schedule, not depend on voters and luck to show the nation that this season and its stunning finish wasn’t a fluke.

President-elect Barack Obama has also expressed a desire to tackle the BCS.

  1. “Utah AG defends BCS antitrust investigation.” Brock Vergaskis, Associated Press in Daily Herald, Provo. Jan. 12, 2009.
  2. “Political football: Shurtleff panders by pondering suit.” Editorial, Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 9, 2009.
  3. “May the best man win (not).” Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, blog entry, Jan. 10, 2009.

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