Can BCS Reform Come from England -- Bloody Well Right
SAN DIEGO -- Home to footballers who couldn't throw a spiral across Abbey Road, what could England possibly have to offer American football? Crumpets at halftime? Frumpy cheerleaders?
Texas billionaire Mark Cuban actually is curious to find out.
Four students from Oxford, England's oldest university, have a winning plan to reform college football's controversial system of deciding its champion. At least, that's what five judges decided on Friday, after graduate students from 10 universities made pitches for BCS reform, the topic presented to them 24 hours earlier at San Diego State's sixth international MBA case competition.
"We decided to focus on an issue that sports fans throughout the country really can rally around," said director Scott Minto.
Oxford finished first, followed by Florida and Duke. San Diego State and Texas tied for fourth.
The prize: An audience with Cuban, whose schedule will lighten when his Dallas Mavericks, as is their spring rite, are eliminated from the NBA playoffs.
Cuban has talked of creating a playoff system to challenge, and eventually replace, college football's Bowl Championship Series, so he was receptive when San Diego State president Stephen Weber asked for his help. SDSU is in the Mountain West Conference, whose champion last season, TCU, went unbeaten but was not selected for the BCS title game.
Weber was one of the case judges, along with MWC commish Craig Thompson; SDSU athletic director Jim Sterk; veteran NFL executive Jim Steeg and Brett Morris of Cuban's Radical Football, LLC.
Delivered at the San Diego Yacht Club, some pitches floated, others hit reef.
A student from Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business, Michael Martin, aptly summed up why would-be BCS reformists may get sacked. "The current college landscape is an old boys network," he told the five men. "They fear any change in the system that might eliminate them."
Another Notre Dame student, smartly aware of west coast superiority, argued for Cuban to create two or three bowls as a goodwill gesture, and suggested the Coliseum as an ideal venue. "There should never not be a bowl in downtown Los Angeles," he said.
Oxford's entire case cannot be divulged without Cuban's permission, but here's the meat of it:
• a 16-team playoff with the higher seeds hosting the games.
• guaranteed payoffs to the six conferences that have automatic berths to BCS bowls, with the bribes, er, payouts exceeding current BCS awards.
• the creation of a College Sports Network to air the playoffs, ideally on Cuban's HDNet. The reasoning: Selling TV rights makes you money. Having your own TV rights makes you a LOT of money.
Someone has to lose in BCS reform, the Oxford students acknowledged, and in their scenario, the losers would be the existing bowls and bowl directors.
With the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology also represented Friday, Minto foreshadowed the winner, saying that greater distance sometimes can yield fresher insights into a solution. Americans who study in England wouldn't be disadvantaged by being an ocean away from the BCS-related squabbling.
"Preconceived ideas are not going to sour what these guys are going to do," he said.
Oxonians, as Oxford alums are known, count prime ministers and saints among their ranks, and the spiritual godfather of capitalism, Adam Smith, also studied at the second-oldest university in the world. To England, American students such as Scott Lockhart, from Detroit, have brought a passion for college football. And for a playoff system.
"We came with one mindset, because (the BCS) is ripe for change," Lockhart, one of three Americans on Oxford's four-man team, told MWC blogger Mick McGrane. "It's what everyone wants, except for those few people right now who are pulling the strings."