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Quick notes on antitrust & sport

Bruce Fein argues in Washington Lawyer that stare decisis has run it's course in the Federal Baseball case (1922), and that it's time to overturn it explicitly. That is certainly long overdue. And he's surely correct that the actions of Baltimore owner Peter Angelos have ill-served consumers:

Angelos fiercely fought for years to deprive Washington of an MLB franchise in order to protect the Orioles from nearby interstate competition and to inflate the value of the Orioles'’ franchise. The fact that over a million fans have attended the first two months of the new Washington Nationals'’ home games underscores the enormity of the loss Angelos was able to impose on the Washington public for so long.

Fein argues that MLB's disproportionate allocation of DC media rights to Baltimore (a "90-10 split") is anti-competitive and should be challenged by a DOJ injunction. I'm not confident that a challenge would stand. But the disproportionate split surely reduces media competition in the market. Indeed, that would seem to be the rationale for its existence. In the absence of creating monopoly rent from supressing competition, the Nats and Orioles would surely trade so that each could pursue their own media contracts without interference from the other. Thanks to David Giacolone for the link.

As for the serial offender that is the NCAA, check out Rick Karcher, guest blogging at the Sports Law Blog. Karcher suggests that schools outside of the BCS conferences have a case against the bowl system. The following suggests that he's right: "outsider" schools recently used the threat of an antitrust case to change the terms for selection in the BCS. They obtained only a partial victory though, so the issue is not fully settled.

The key question centers on the qualifying formulas for selection. Let's contrast golf and college football. I would argue that the PGA Tour's rules open the door to worthy competitors in a manner that the BCS formula does not. Multiple routes exist to qualify for the PGA Tour. In the BCS, mediocre teams from historically strong conferences are always protected, at the expense of excellent teams that deserve a shot at a major bowl. The BCS slot given to the Big East winner is surely the margin of protection that currently exists. The demise of the Big East and the desire of interlopers to compete in the big bowls suggests that serious pressure for change may emerge in coming seasons. How long will its BCS brethren protect the Big East?