Blog Entry

Mark Cuban to start a college football playoff?

Posted on: December 16, 2010 3:36 am
Edited on: December 16, 2010 3:43 am

Posted by Adam Jacobi

The BCS cannot catch a break these days. It's been only days since it finally shed the label of "most reviled aspect of collegiate sports" (the new winner being the Big Ten's "Legends" and "Leaders" division name change, of course), and already the BCS faces its toughest obstacle yet: Mark Cuban.

Cuban, the irascible and opinionated owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks and various other holdings, proposed funding a playoff system during an interview earlier today:

Before Wednesday's game, [Cuban] talked openly about how he'd like to pitch a playoff system to select college presidents in BCS conferences. But he admits it's a long, long way from becoming reality.

"I'm actively pursuing it, but it's in only in the exploratory stage,'' he said.

Cuban has been reading the book "Death to the BCS'' and it has gotten him thinking about how a lucrative playoff system could change colleges, and perhaps even lower tuitions that have skyrocketed in recent years.

And how, precisely, would Cuban make these changes? Why, throw an unholy amount of money at the problem, of course:

The bowl games could still exist under Cuban's plan, but he said he would make it more profitable for programs to make the playoffs than a bowl.

"Put $500 million in the bank and go to all the schools and pay them money as an option," Cuban said. "Say, 'Look, I'm going to give you X amount every five years. In exchange, you say if you're picked for the playoff system, you'll go.' "

One way to push school presidents toward approving the idea would be to lobby major donors of college athletic programs, Cuban said. He suggested convincing the donors to cut off their donations until their presidents approved a playoff system.

Our colleague Ben Golliver expressed doubt that Cuban would be able to make any headway in spite of a theoretical playoff's overwhelming popularity, but I'm not so pessimistic. The one thing the BCS has always been able to (literally) capitalize upon was that it operates essentially out of the purview of the NCAA. Sure, the bowl game committees don't break any NCAA rules when it comes to giving players gifts or anything, but that's likely due in some part to the fact that paying players doesn't advance the bowls' financial agenda nearly as much as paying the schools and conferences, which they do in insane amounts. In return, the bowl system -- which is ludicrously tilted in the financial favor of the six BCS member conferences -- gets to hand-select its participants with only the most basic of guidelines. People complain, but it's what works because it's what makes the most money.

But if Cuban comes along and suggests a playoff system that makes more money for the NCAA and its schools and conferences, well, the BCS finds itself in a spot of trouble, because it can't exactly come running to the NCAA to enforce any pro-BCS rules; again, the BCS is a separate institution, and one that generally relies on a postseason monopoly -- you either go to a bowl or you don't. There is very little to suggest that conferences like the Mountain West would pass on an opportunity to play for an opt-in title when its teams are going 12-0 in the regular season, only to be told those teams aren't allowed to play for the BCS Championship. Efforts by the power conferences to shame and intimidate the non-AQ conferences only serve to deepen the divide, and that's a power play that could backfire hilariously if the BCS isn't the only postseason game in town anymore.

Obviously, Cuban's plan isn't fully cooked yet, so it's impossible to judge the plan on its merits until we know what they specifically are. Further, opting out of the BCS entirely has never been attempted by a school or a conference (and really, why would anybody do that without a viable alternative?), so it's going to take a lot of contractual research to figure out exactly what that would entail. It may very well be the case that this playoff idea never gets off the ground for whatever reason. You really think Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and SEC commissioner Mike Slive are going to let their BCS baby roll over at the first sign of a fight? Please.

Nonetheless, Cuban's insertion of himself into the BCS debate isn't a gamechanger; it's even better. That's because the game's always going to be the same, and that game is money. If Cuban can bring more money to the table and win the PR debate to boot, then it won't matter how many rich men in blazers the BCS bowls send to top schools; Cuban's going to win that game every time.


Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 22, 2011 5:37 pm

Mark Cuban to start a college football playoff?

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Since: Feb 2, 2010
Posted on: December 17, 2010 8:42 am

Mark Cuban to start a college football playoff?

which is ludicrously tilted in the financial favor of the six BCS member conferences

I'm not really sure what this means...the non-aq teams receive a far larger slice of the pie today than they did before the bcs came along.  If it were purely based on revenues generated, as it was before, they would be receiving far less.  At what point do we consider it 'fair'?  I don't think every team deserves the same amount.

Since: Aug 18, 2006
Posted on: December 16, 2010 2:24 pm

Mark Cuban to start a college football playoff?

If cuban took up a collection, I'd donate.  If he would do a presidential candidate style trip throughout the united states to rally support I would go see him several times and donate to his cause every single time.  All HAIL MARK CUBAN!  MAKE THIS HAPPEN!  May good fortune follow you even more than it already has!

Since: Jan 22, 2007
Posted on: December 16, 2010 12:04 pm

Mark Cuban to start a college football playoff?

I tend to think sports owners should stay behind the scenes as much as possible...but damn, I can't help but love Mark Cuban.  Make it happen, Mr. Moneybags.

Since: Jun 11, 2010
Posted on: December 16, 2010 11:38 am

Mark Cuban to start a college football playoff?

I think the first problem with the Bowl System is that the BCS lets the bowls pick certain teams, and there should not be any conference tie in's, this would eliminate 8 & 4 teams making Major bowls, it should be 1 vs 2, 3 vs 4, and so on. The Bcs decides this with their final standings at the end of the year, with this, a tenth ranked team in the country would not be going to the Las vegas bowl, while a 6 & 6  team goes to a more lucrative Holiday Bowl! If Mark Cuban can come up of a way to fix some of this great,but until the greedy six BCS conference members are held in check, we will have poor bowl match ups every year.

Since: Feb 19, 2007
Posted on: December 16, 2010 11:23 am

Mark Cuban to start a college football playoff?

That "Legends" and "Leaders" crap is in no way worse than the BCS.  Nice try.

As to Cuban, this does little more than prove conclusively that he's a divisive figure.  But if he figures out a way to break the BCS, all credit to him.

Since: Dec 15, 2008
Posted on: December 16, 2010 9:42 am

Mark Cuban to start a college football playoff?

I have a couple of grand that I can throw into the pot to make this happen.

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