Is the Bowl Championship Series a Cartel? Some Evidence

E. Woodrow Eckard
Journal of Sports Economics, Vol. 14, No. 1, February 2013, Pages 3-22.

The cartel view of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) implies that it creates an advantage for automatic qualifying (AQ) member schools relative to other Division IA/FBS schools in recruiting the best players and hiring other inputs. The resulting playing-field advantage should produce more wins over “outsiders.” Weaker AQ schools benefit relatively more because previously they had competed more closely with outsiders for players. The evidence generally supports the cartel view. The AQ BCS schools and conferences have significantly increased their win percentage against outsiders. Also, the weaker AQ schools have performed better against the top tier, and have shown the greatest improvement against outsiders.