The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) is a five-game showcase of college football, designed to ensure that the two top-rated teams meet in the national championship game, and to create exciting and competitive matchups among eight other highly regarded teams in four other bowl games.

The five bowl games: Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl and the BCS National Championship Game that is played at one of the bowl sites.

The BCS is managed by the 11 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision conferences and the University of Notre Dame. The conferences are Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt, Pacific-10, Southeastern and Western Athletic.

On Wednesday, NCAA president Mark Emmert provided a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice in response to its query earlier this month regarding the Bowl Championship Series system. He explained how the Football Bowl Subdivision postseason format is determined by FBS member schools and directed questions to the BCS on its system, which does not fall under the purview of the NCAA.

In his response letter, Emmert said, "Inasmuch as the BCS system does not fall under the purview of the NCAA, it is not appropriate for me to provide views on the system.

"... As a result, your request for views on how the BCS system serves 'the interest of fans, colleges, universities, and players' is better directed to the BCS itself."

Read Emmert's full response

Critics have urged the Justice Department to launch an antitrust investigation into the BCS, saying that it unfairly gives some schools preferential access to the national championship game and top-tier bowls.

In its letter to the NCAA, the DOJ's antitrust chief, Christine Varney, asked Emmert why college football doesn’t use a playoff system to determine its national champion, while other NCAA sports do; what steps the NCAA has taken to create one; and whether Emmert thinks there are aspects of the BCS system that don’t serve the interest of fans, schools and players.

“Your views would be relevant in helping us to determine the best course of action with regard to the BCS,” she wrote.

Varney noted that the attorney general of Utah, Mark Shurtleff, has announced that he plans to file an antitrust lawsuit against the BCS, and that 21 professors recently sent the department a letter asking for an antitrust investigation.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder referenced Varney’s letter at a Senate hearing on May 4, in response to a statement from Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican and BCS critic. Hatch called the BCS a “mess,” and said that “privileged conferences” have tremendous advantages over the unprivileged.

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