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Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said Wednesday that he whole-heartedly endorses a letter the U.S. Department of Justice sent to the NCAA this week expressing pointed concerns about the Bowl Championship Series.
Christine Varney, of the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division, told NCAA president Mark Emmert that "serious questions continue to arise suggesting that the current Bowl Championship Series system may not be conducted consistent with the competition principles expressed in federal antitrust laws."
The Utah A.G. said he met with Varney last week in Washington, D.C., to discuss the letter that was sent Tuesday to the NCAA.
"She said they were going to issue it and I was pleased to see it come up," he said. "They remain very concerned about the BCS and this demonstrates that they are going to continue to look at it. I would love to convince them to join my lawsuit that we will be bringing up this summer."
In Varney's letter to the NCAA, she stated that Utah's A.G. had announced his intention to file an antitrust suit against the BCS and that the Department of Justice had received a request from 21 professors to open an investigation of the BCS. She wrote that other prominent individuals also have publicly encouraged the Antitrust Division to make a case against the BCS.
Shurtleff, a long-time critic of the BCS, plans to file his lawsuit sometime this summer. It accuses the BCS of being an illegal monopoly and will seek damages for schools including the University of Utah and Boise State that he says have lost millions of dollars over the years because the existing system keeps nonpreferred conferences at a competitive disadvantage.
Under the current system, conference champions from the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and Southeastern Conference get automatic bids to five BCS bowls, while teams from conferences such as the Mountain West and Western Athletic must meet more difficult criteria to qualify for one of the more lucrative bowls.
Shurtleff said the fact that the University of Utah will be joining the Pac-12 this summer and will be an automatic qualifier will have no bearing on his decision regarding the lawsuit.
"It is an illegal monopoly that benefits certain teams over others and hurts institutions of higher learning," Shurtleff said. "We have to look out for all Utah state institutions. Besides, the experts say that if there is a playoff and we do away with the BCS, more money will come back to all the schools. That will provide more opportunities for Utah State, Utah and every other college to get the financial benefits they should be receiving."
The NCAA said Wednesday it would respond to the government's questions when it receives the letter, however, spokesman Bob Williams said the NCAA is willing to move to a playoff format if schools with the nation's major football programs want to go that route.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a frequent BCS critic, also played a role in the discussion.
In response to a statement from Hatch, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder referenced Varney's letter at a Wednesday Senate hearing.
Hatch called the BCS a "mess" and said that "privileged conferences" have tremendous advantages over the unprivileged.
"And I just hope that you'll continue to follow up on that particular issue," he said. "It's an important one, I think."
"I don't disagree with you," Holder responded.
"You and I have talked about this issue, and I think I'm free to say that we have sent a letter to the NCAA about this issue and will be following up."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.