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Making a Case for College Football Reform

This year's SDSU Sports MBA Case Competition focused on reforming college football's postseason structure.
Standing: participating MBA student teams; seated: case competition judges
Standing: participating MBA student teams; seated: case competition judges

Since its inception in 2006, the SDSU International Sports MBA Case Competition has focused on a variety of sports issues. This year, the sixth annual event invited 10 MBA student teams from universities around the world to tackle the highly political National Collegiate Athletic Association Football Bowl Championship Series.

Instituted in 1998, the BCS is a computer-driven system that selects the top five bowl match-ups each postseason, including two NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision teams for the national championship. The BCS heavily favors universities in the 11 major Division I Football Bowl Subdivision conferences, six of which receive automatic berths to participate in bowl games.

University administrators, coaches, players and fans in those six conferences reap consistent benefits, including national exposure, institutional prestige and significant financial rewards. For instance, each conference represented in a BCS bowl game received $18.9 million per qualifying member team in 2010.

BCS opponents argue the system is unfair because nearly half of the 120 teams do not receive automatic berths. This puts these teams at a disadvantage since they can only participate in a bowl game if they secure one of four at-large bids awarded to teams with the best records and most challenging schedules.

With this in mind, the case competition prompted each team to propose a solution to the current BCS system that would be endorsed by both reform proponents and opponents.

“This year, I think, (was) the event that is going to put us on the map … in terms of the national prowess of the case (and) the field of teams that competed, all with some kind of relevant stake in the collegiate football landscape,” said Scott Minto, director of the SDSU Sports MBA program and creator of the competition.

This year’s competition

Last Thursday, the teams arrived at the San Diego Yacht Club in Point Loma where they received the previously confidential prompt. Each team had 24 hours to develop a strategy that would produce the best possible results for university administrators, coaches, players and fans.

“This competition was meant to … have students spend 24 hours looking at an issue from many different angles and propose new ideas that may be able to shake up the system,” Minto said.

On Friday, each team gave a 30-minute presentation to the panel of judges, including:

  • SDSU President Stephen Weber
  • Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson
  • SDSU Athletic Director Jim Sterk
  • San Diego Chargers Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jim Steeg
  • Radical Football LLC representative Brett Morris

At stake was the opportunity to present its proposal to Mark Cuban — a successful entrepreneur, owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team and an outspoken proponent of BCS reform — and his company, Radical Football LLC.

“It (was) fun to see what (the teams) came up with,” Sterk said. “I was impressed with the knowledge that they gathered in a short amount of time and (how they) presented it in a professional way.”

According to Weber, “It (was) all about giving a great opportunity for some wonderful MBA teams in sports management to compete with one another and to develop real solutions to pressing problems, in this case in intercollegiate athletics.”

Oxford University claims the grand prize

Although eight of the 10 teams that participated in the case competition were from American universities, many of which directly profit from the current system, the MBA students from Oxford University took home first place. Their ideas, research and proposed solutions for a Division I college football playoff system included:

  • A 16-team playoff, with the higher-seeded teams hosting each game at their respective home stadium, as football is the only NCAA sport without a play-off system.
  • Guaranteed money to automatic qualifier conferences, which would be greater than the current maximum revenue they earn from the BCS.
  • The development of an in-house college sports broadcast network to air the play-off games, as opposed to the NCAA’s policy of selling its BCS bowl game broadcast rights to independent networks.
  • Those most negatively impacted by this proposal would be existing bowls and bowl directors.

“The Oxford team had very strong comparisons between NCAA basketball and football … and pointed out that (there are) a lot of options that hinge upon a lot of (the) stakeholders,” Minto said.

The University of Florida’s team notched second place, while Duke University’s students placed third, and teams from SDSU and the University of Texas tied for fourth place. Other participating teams included:

  • Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
  • Georgetown University
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • University of Southern California

History of the competition

Minto created the SDSU International Sports MBA Case Competition when he was still a student in the SDSU program. Today, it is one of the most distinguished sports MBA competitions in the world.

Previous SDSU sports MBA case competitions include:

  • 2006: The World Baseball Classic
  • 2007: The USA Sevens Tournament at Petco Park
  • 2008: IMG, a worldwide sports, fashion and media agency
  • 2009: Fifa World Cup and Malaria No More
  • 2010: San Diego Padres management

 

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