Monday, August 01, 2005

NIT to NCAA: "Stop Leaving Us Your Crappy Leftovers"

FROM THE KAR SPORTS DESK. Exciting news! This story will provide the impetus for me to bloviate at length in the coming months about two of my very favorite topics: college basketball and antitrust law.

[Cheers reverberate throughout the blogosphere: "Yay! Let's talk antitrust!"]

Fear not you boring people who prefer to read about basketball rather than antitrust law. The consequences of this lawsuit, filed by the NIT could change the complexion of college basketball's postseason:

In U.S. District Court in New York, the National Invitation Tournament is challenging the NCAA's requirement that teams attend its championships if invited. The NIT, a once-prominent postseason basketball tournament now greatly overshadowed by the concurrent NCAA event, contends teams should have a choice. That could open the postseason to entrepreneurs or prompt the top schools to organize themselves, as in football.

Even a less extreme outcome could devalue the NCAA's cash cow, a tournament that accounts for at least 90% of its revenue. Should the NCAA be found to have intentionally harmed the NIT through an illegal monopoly, there's also the possibility of a large financial judgment, which is tripled in antitrust cases.

Interesting side note: I believe that the NCAA's "must attend" rule was put in place because of legendary Marquette coach Al McGuire, who once refused to accept a bid to the tourney in protest of his team's low seed. Perhaps Noted Marquette Alumnus Denbo can confirm.

LEGAL ANALYSIS (Skip this part if you are a meathead)
My off the top of my head analysis: the NIT has a case. The "must attend" rule effectively prohibits the NIT from advancing a competitive product (i.e. a Notre Dame-free postseason tournament), and there's more than enough legal precedent out there to argue that this rule is an impermissible exercise of market power: an artificial barrier to entry.

And don't think that the big powerful NCAA hasn't had its ass handed to it in court before. College football fans: you know how you are now able to go into a beer drenched coma every fall Saturday while watching approximately 50 different games (190 if you have a dish)? You owe that luxury to the CFA and the University of Oklahoma (Motto: "Almost as Many National Championships as Years on Probation!"), who successfully sued the NCAA with an antitrust theory that the television rights restrictions that the organization imposed on its members was an anticompetitive exercise of monopoly power. Another interesting side note: in that opinion, (NCAA v. Regents of University of Oklahoma) the court's leading moonbat, Justice Stevens, cited favorably to The Antitrust Paradox - a book written by that ultra lefty judge, Robert Bork.

SPORTS ANALYSIS
If the NIT's lawsuit is successful, it raises the specter that has haunted college football for most of its history: the possibility of a split (or shared, depending on how you look at it) championship.

On the plus side, there would be myriad more opportunities for me to win beers from Flash.

No comments: