Wednesday, November 25, 2015         

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State of Hawaii looks hard at BCS suit

Utah attorney general Mark Shurtleff looks for more to join cause, and says he has spoken to Hawaii's AG

By Ferd Lewis


Hawaii is considering joining the state of Utah in a planned lawsuit against the Bowl Championship Series, spokesmen in both states said yesterday.

Utah attorney general Mark Shurtleff said he and Hawaii AG David M. Louie "talked at length" about the suit at a national attorney general's meeting in March and "he (Louie) was very interested."

Subsequently, Shurtleff said, "we've heard from his staff and we're working on an agreement to be able to share information with them confidentially."

A spokesman for Louie's office said, "We're still looking into it."

Shurtleff said "I'm hopeful many states will join us and I'd love to have Hawaii join us."

Shurtleff said the suit — which he hopes to file "in early fall" — will allege the BCS is an "illegal monopoly" that has wrongfully deprived a number of non-BCS schools, including the University of Hawaii, of opportunities or money they should have received.

Shurtleff said the suit could seek damages in the millions, which if it prevails, would be trebled.

"All of the WAC has been harmed in that Boise State ended up with a (BCS) ranking of 10th with one loss and a team ranked that high is supposed to go to a BCS game," Shurtleff said.

"(But) because TCU was also (ranked) and got the Rose Bowl, Boise State wasn't allowed, while a four-loss Connecticut team played a two-loss Oklahoma team in the Fiesta Bowl."

Those conferences, Shurtleff said, each earned $14 million-$17 million, which the WAC missed out upon.

"The bottom line is that Hawaii and our Utah State from the WAC were denied some of the millions because Boise State was kept out based upon their (the BCS') scheme, which we believe is an illegal scheme," Shurtleff said.

Shurtleff has been investigating the BCS since Utah was denied a BCS championship berth in 2008.

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie has been a frequent critic of the BCS, and while a U.S. representative three years ago he helped sponsor legislation asking for an investigation of the BCS.

A spokesperson for the governor's office said he was not available to comment about the possibility of the state joining a Utah suit.

But in a 2008 newspaper commentary, Abercrombie wrote that the BCS system "constitutes an illegal restraint of trade as it currently operates ..."

In addition, he wrote, "Non-BCS schools must use their general funds to cover costs of their athletic departments, which takes funding from academic and administrative needs."

Shurtleff said he met with the head of the U.S. Justice Dept.'s antitrust division last week in Washington D.C.

"It is my hope that the feds will also join us," he said.

Shurtleff said he was reminded that the tobacco suit started with just one state and eventually came to include 48 states.

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