Former White House spokesman hired to defend BCS

Former White House spokesman hired to defend BCS

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah's attorney general and lobbyists for a college football playoff system are skeptical after former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and his sports public relations firm were hired to defend the Bowl Championship Series.

"I think hiring Ari Fleischer clearly demonstrates that they're sweating it," Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff told KSL Newsradio Monday. "They hire a guy, I'm sure at no small fee, to spin the BCS into something good, and he's going to have a heck of a job trying to do that."

Newly-promoted BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock announced the hiring of Ari Fleischer Communications Saturday. In a statement, Hancock said the goal of the hiring was to help highlight the positive aspects of the BCS, which he called the best way to match college football's top two teams, while preserving the bowl system.

"All the spin in the world isn't going to save them in court," Shurtleff said.

Shurtleff is planning to sue the BCS over what he deems anti-trust violations. He has previously said the lawsuit could be filed next year, with possible help from the U.S. Department of Justice.

"These guys will do anything to hold on to their power, their monopoly, their control," Shurtleff said.

One of the organizers of a political action committee aimed at creating a college football playoff says he doesn't believe Fleischer's hiring will make much of a difference.

"Perhaps Mr. Fleischer can bump up the BCS approval rating to 11 or 12 percent," Matt Sanderson of Playoff PAC said in a phone interview with KSL. "We here at Playoff PAC certainly wish him luck with that."

Sanderson says he believes it's a concerted undertaking to counter the Playoff PAC's work, as well as legal and legislative pressure.

"The BCS replied to the launch [of the Playoff PAC] in a statement. They've also now hired a full-time executive director, started new Facebook and Twitter pages, and retained now Mr. Fleischer's firm to defend the system," Sanderson said. "We've seen a lot of movement in the past month."

Sanderson says if pressure continues to be ratcheted up, there will be reform. He points out the BCS has also enlarged the presidential oversight committee to include seats for all conferences. Before, there were seats for all automatic bid leagues plus a single seat representing all "non-AQ" schools.

"Attorney General Shurtleff moving forward with his anti-trust suit, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT, sending a letter to Barack Obama and the Department of Justice's anti-trust division - those efforts are moving things forward," Sanderson said.

Fleischer's company also works with NFL teams, Major League Baseball and the USOC.


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