Mark Cuban is a strong proponent of a playoff system for College Football and the old boys from the BCS better be worried.
Their smiles appear to be permanent. Picture the Joker in the Batman movie kind of smile. So who's sporting these almost creepy kinds of smiles you ask? Well it's your good ol boys from the BCS of course. As ticket prices for Monday's National Championship continue to go thru the roof (see: absurd prices!) and monster ratings being projected the BCS crew will use these two factors as the biggest examples of why the BCS works under the current system.
As we've seen since its implementation there are years that they've gotten it right and years they've missed the mark for college football fans. As this season wore on, we once again heard the cries for a playoff in college football. It's an annual discussion that fills the chat rooms and blogs of college football sites around the country. When it's all said and done it eventually fades away after the season comes to an end. This year was a little different because it wasn't just the fans who were screaming out for a playoff (see: TCU fans), but there was a prominent voice who joined in the banter as well.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has gone on record saying he wants a playoff system and unlike others is willing to put his money where his mouth is. Well not just his money, but money that he'd help in putting together. Mention Cuban to any of the BCS boys and their smiles will quickly disappear because while they won't admit it publicly they know that Cuban is a man who Is driven and moreover is a very intelligent man at that. Cuban is seen as a viable threat to their current cash cow and they are watching him with great interest.
The proponents of a playoff system have always gone about it the wrong way you see. While their ideology was not off base their core initiative didn't target the ultimate mark. At the end of the day the BCS isn't just about getting the best matchup for the folks running the system. Bottom line is what the BCS is about. How much money can be generated thru the current structure is the one and only driving force since its inception in 1999. While the idea of playoff is not new, Cuban is the first individual who has identified the biggest threat to the BCS and that's money. How do you beat money? By raising more money!
With Cuban behind the drive for a playoff in college football you have a man who's a huge fan of college football, well connected and has deep pockets. Most importantly though you have a man who is not afraid of rocking the boat and that's his trump card. Unlike politicians whose votes can be bought out by bowl lobbyists Cuban has no such ties that prevent him from putting his stamp on this initiative. What's become even more worrisome for BCS officials is that Cuban has already had conversations with a couple of Athletic Directors from BCS conferences who have reportedly embraced his idea enthusiastically. The enthusiasm stems from the money that Cuban has said could be thrown the way of the institutions if they agree to participate.
Cuban threw out a figure of $500 million to be distributed for those teams picked to compete in the playoff system versus the bowl system. Cuban still feels there's a place for the bowl games as part of the playoff which others have suggested before as well. Keeping the bowls involved makes sense because of the history behind them (at least the bigger ones), but you can bet there would be a new battle amongst bowls when it comes to the pecking order if slotted in a playoff system. You can also bet that with Jerry Jones Taj Majal in Dallas playing host to the Cotton Bowl that they'd want to get in on the action. Since Jones built his new digs the current bowls in the BCS have been keenly aware of the threat from the Cotton Bowl and rightly so. When you consider the seating in the Cowboys stadium you'd have to listen to their argument.
There are still many details that would have to be hammered out and thought through. How many teams do you begin the playoff with? 12, 16? Because you're adding a playoff now do you cut back on a couple of regular season games? Remember as it is many of these teams are already playing 12 games with a current bowl game being their 13th. If you have to play a minimum of 2 or 3 playoff games you're now approaching an NFL type season. Injuries would be a concern and ultimately if you're asking these players to give more time to their sport for their institutions the topic of some kind of stipend or payment is going to be brought into the picture and rightfully so.
Remember not everyone is on a full ride scholarship and there's that little thing called academics that must be maintained. The answers aren't easy as they sound while college football fans kick it back and forth over beers in the parking lot. The decade old system has cracks and flaws and finally there's another voice suggesting that there are other ways to make this work. The difference this time around is that Cuban's is a voice that many others will listen to (university presidents, TV Execs) and he's not a man who casually throws out an idea and then walks away. I for one am very intrigued and the only battle better than Monday night's showdown for college football's crown between Auburn and Oregon will be the brewing showdown between Cuban and the good ol boys from the BCS.