Mark Cuban, a billionaire from Texas who owns the Dallas Mavericks, has taken another step toward creating a college football playoff. He has formed a new company called Radical Football. It has one employee, a guy with tons of experience in sports marketing. He hinted a few months ago at exploring the possibility of a playoff, and now it would seem he is putting his idea into motion.
Here is how his playoff would work. Cuban proposes to have a $500 million cash reserve for all the schools. He then takes that money and divides it among the schools. Not sure if it will be equal or not, but I doubt it will be. He pays the schools in return for a commitment. They commit to participating in his playoff if selected to do so. If not selected, no harm done, they still got the money and play in a bowl game as normal. If selected, they play in the playoff until they either win or are eliminated. Depending on the time table, this means they still may be able to play in a bowl as well.
The actual format for the playoff is still in question. Ideally, Cuban would sanction a 16 team playoff, with all conference champions and 5 at large bids participating. Cuban and his committee could select the 5 at large teams. The teams would be seeded 1-16 and then matched up in a traditional tournament style, 1 vs. 16, 2 vs. 15, 3 vs. 16, etc. Higher seeds get home field. The championship game can rotate through neutral sites just like the Superbowl.
This is actually a very feasible plan. The only reason the BCS sticks around is because of money. But when you look at the figures Cuban proposes, the BCS looks like chump change. Put it this way- this past year, non-AQ conferences were paid $24.72 million, and the AQ conferences were paid $48.4 million by the BCS. This is just BCS money and does not include revenues from other bowls.
So all FBS schools make about $75 million from the BCS now. Enter Mark Cuban. He puts $500 million on the table and says “Here is $500 million. I will give $100 million a year to the FBS schools if they all commit to playing in my playoff if selected.” Done deal. So whether or not you make the playoffs or even a bowl, you got paid, and you got paid a lot. I figure the bigger schools would need to get bigger figures to be persuaded to join, but that’s probably fair since the current system pays them more now. You can’t get them on board by paying them less.
What FBS schools would not jump all over this? Every school gets paid every year before you take a single snap. Then if you do well, you get to go to a playoff, where you get a whole lot more money than you would a bowl game anyway. And even if you miss a playoff, you still get to go to a bowl game if you are eligible. But even if you aren’t eligible, you still got paid at the beginning of the year by Mark Cuban, so it’s all good.
This plan can work and it will. The big conferences have already shown they can be bought off (see current BCS system) so if you offer them a whole lot they will get on board. The smaller schools have nothing to lose. And just like that overnight the BCS is dead, along with a bunch of money sucking worthless bowl games. What you are left with is a very lucrative and popular playoff and maybe a dozen bowl games. Sounds pretty good to me.
Here’s to hoping Radical Football is successful!