How BCS Schools use Cupcakes to impact rankings more than Don King does for Boxing


Every boxing fan has complained about the number of undefeated boxers.  Seems like any up any coming “contender” has fought the same 12 – 14 record boxer and the same 52-year-old former champs.  Whatever it takes to get you wins and keep you un-defeated.  It’s the Don King special.
BCS Schools have obviously been watching. Here are some fun facts showing  just how big an impact cupcakes have on the teams that make it to the BCS Bowl Games:
In 2010 regular season, there were 75 Non-Conference games played by the Top 20 Teams in Sagarin’s final 2010-11 Rankings (excluding #19 Notre Dame as an independent) …
Inside the Numbers of the 75 Games played non conf by the Top 20:

A. 70 = Number of wins (5 losses, including 2 by Virginia Tech)
B. 15 = Games played against FCS/I-AA teams — (why does the BCS not penalize in their ratings  every team who does this ? This is something the fans should make a PR issue out of !)
C. 4 = Games played against each other inside final top 20 (Stanford at Notre Dame, Boise State vs. Virginia Tech (Neutral site), Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (Neutral site) and Florida State at Oklahoma)
D. 93.69 = The Sagarin average of all Non-Conference opponents, including FCS schools
E. 55 = Home games (14 Away, 6 Neutral)
F. 145.75 = The average ranking of Mississippi State’s non-conference opponents (4 games)
G. 103.25 = The average ranking of National Champion Auburn’s non-conference opponents (4 games)
Comparing Non-Conference Games for Top 10 (per final Sagarin) AQs versus non-AQs
A. Non-Conference Games Versus Top 20: AQs=3; non-AQs=9
B. Non-Conference Games Versus Top 30: AQs=4; non-AQs=12
C. Overall Non-Conference Record: AQs=38-0; non-AQs=30-11
D. Non-Conference Home Games: AQs=30 of 38 (79%); non-AQs 20 of 41 (49%)
E. Average Non-Conference Opponent Rank: AQs=103.37; non-AQs=83.20
The Bottom line is that schools , particularly BCS schools, are doing all they can to game the system.  And the BCS folks are letting them.
If the BCS people truly wanted to make the regular season have value, they would require my in season round robin tournament to happen.  There has to be some level of flex scheduling in order for every game of the regular season to mean something and for the BCS ratings system to have any relevance at all. Otherwise the BCS is just lying to itself about truly crowning a champion.
Worse yet,  using the BCS ratings for a playoff system would be a worthless exercise.  The only result would probably be conferences growing even  bigger than they are becoming now , further  breaking into divisions and only playing division games, resulting in fewer conference games and more non conference cupcake games.  Further gaming the system.
Feel free to ask Jim Delany what he thinks about this proposal and why the BCS wont step up and stop cupcake games by penalizing teams in their ratings system.
Worksheet is here:


31 thoughts on “How BCS Schools use Cupcakes to impact rankings more than Don King does for Boxing

  1. I agree Folks interested in nothing but the money!

    Comment by -

  2. Dear Mark & Co.,

    Just saw the press release about Radical Football. Way to go! I’m an exec and general counsel for a prominent industry player (a player that doesn’t permit me to openly gripe about existing college football format) and would like to talk. Someone from Radical, please contact me at

    Anon for obvious reasons

    Comment by changefootball -

  3. Dear Mr. Cuban,

    I am your new #1 fan!! The BCS sucks. That you have decided to take it on and try to change the system – I say “Alright!”

    Everything that is wrong with prejudice and rigged systems is designed into the BCS. While this sort of “rigging” is evident in the business world, politics, etc., it has no place in competitive athletics.

    You are absolutely right about the non-conference scheduling. You only need look back to the early days of the BCS where the schedule strength was calculated differently to see that when teams actually had to schedule real non-conference opponents, they weren’t going undefeated or 1 loss year in and year out.

    Comment by chicagobayer -

  4. yes,true. haberler

    Comment by corsario1 -

  5. I think we need to be careful about punishing the FCS schools. It needs to be noted that EVERYONE schedules FCS schools, not just top teams. Also, the FCS schools need the matchups against FBS schools to get very, very important revenue.

    My thinking is that all schools should be mandated to schedule an FCS opponent. Heck, I wouldn’t be against the regular season being shortened to 10 games to allow for playoffs. 8 conference games, 1 FCS opponent, one OOC opponent.

    My preference, though, is to keep the 12 game schedule. Have 8 conference games, 1 FCS opponent, 1 flexible OOC game (typically a rival) and then 2 games that are ‘conference challenges’. Similar to the ACC-Big 10 in basketball, every team in a conference would challenge the teams in another conference.

    The matchups could be determined in two ways: based on last season’s records OR based on current records. This would be VERY similar to Cuban’s proposal of a mid-season playoff. Undefeated teams would be matched against other undefeated teams.

    Comment by gtstigall -

  6. you was but you must trainee more time and fight more than your future was great

    Comment by starturk -

  7. The problem with Don King is, he will only the best 4 his self and his money. Boxing is a sport one can make like 30 or 35 Years old.And in this time you fight only promotion fights really.You don’t belive me watch Rocky 5.Guy’s everythink the world turns always only on money

    Comment by 7nno -

  8. The problem with Don King is, he will only the best 4 his self and his money. Boxing is a sport one can make like 30 or 35 Years old.And in this time you fight only promotion fights really.You don’t belive me watch Rocky 5.Guy’s everythink the world turns always only on money

    Comment by aquaris125 -

  9. dats not unusal…………

    Comment by deepak sharma -

  10. Thanks your detail info.

    Comment by cetinaymadencilik -

  11. Professional boxing…..Boxing is a great sport, since a lot years I’m in a boxing school too. My still to fight was very good and my trainer say make it prof. But he said’s you have two oppions, you was but you must trainee more time and fight more than your future was great, or learn more and work the next 35 years in boring office job…..Boxing sport is hard and it make you stupid. I changed the office job. After 5 boxing years I think I’t was failed.

    Comment by iceprice -

  12. Pingback: Obama Wants Playoffs » Blog Archive » Mark Cuban blames cupcakes for BCS problems

  13. Pingback: Mark Cuban Doesn't Know Shit About College Football | MoonDog Sports

  14. The basic problem is that there is no way to objectively / conclusively determine which college football team is the best, due mainly to the nature of the NCAA (it’s not a manageable league, it’s hundreds of schools divided into dozens of conferences) and the nature of football (unlike hoops you can’t have them play 4 games in nine days or whatever it takes). No matter how many games you play, or what kind of playoff you have, there will always be room for argument. (“Team X is undefeated but Team Y had a much tougher schedule and only lost once, but wait Team Z has 2 losses but they beat Team Y in their house, etc. etc. etc.”)

    Now if the question is how to improve college football, then yeah the cupcake thing is big. Agree with thesportspoet above, you can schedule one cupcake for your first game and that’s it (and it can be weighted low or dropped entirely for ranking purposes). For non-conference games they should borrow from the NFL system (or the ACC-Big Ten Challenge in hoops), match conferences against each other on a rotating basis, winners from last year play each other, #2s from last year play each other, etc. This can all be scheduled before the season, no open dates necessary. (BTW Another thing I’d like to see changed is the 4-6 week layoff between the season and the bowls, teams completely lose their flow…)

    The proposed midseason playoff complicates things without solving anything. Yes, playing the good teams against each other more often provides a better statistical basis for comparing the teams (as well as better TV, etc.), so let’s do that, it would be a big improvement. But let’s not pretend we are somehow going to come down to a situation every year where everyone unanimously agrees who the top two teams are at the end of the year. There will always be a subjective element to it.

    (Far as I can see, some years there is a team or a few teams that seem head and shoulders above the pack, but many if not most years there’s little difference between the teams ranked 1-10 or even 1-20 (on any given day, in any given stadium, etc.).

    Comment by tonyrasmussen -

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  16. hudacity – the goal is obvious? Create a playoff system that generates as much or more revenue than the current system. The BCS is the most idiotic system in all of sports. And anyone that thinks people wouldn’t go to regular season games if there was a playoff system is out of their mind. You can still use something like the BCS to determine rankings and seeds. However, it is absolutely idiotic to have a system that generally says “if you lose one regular season game, you’re chances of playing for the title game fall off a cliff.” I mean, despite the reasons and economics and everything else, you get how completely absurd that is?

    Comment by hobbs9 -

  17. The BCS folks don’t care about the sport. They care about the money. And they don’t want to do anything to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

    The only way to make them change is to somehow drastically reduce their revenue stream and them may be they’ll wake up.

    Comment by welbiltbreadmachine -

  18. Hey Mark, I think you may be making a few logical errors here. Non-AQ teams which finish in the top 20 are going to have better records and stronger non conference opponents then their AQ peers by virtue of the fact that their in-conference schedule was generally weaker and because otherwise they wouldn’t have ended up in the top 20.

    You might consider a comparison where the teams you are looking at are those with a certain ranking in the year they scheduled their non-conference games. For a simplified example, take the top teams from 2008 and compare how teams who scheduled stronger opponents versus teams who scheduled weaker opponents benefitted or were penalized in 2010 rankings by the BCS ratings system. If you are right, teams that scheduled cupcakes will finish future seasons with statistically higher ratings.

    I am a little more familiar with Wes Colley’s algorithm then Jeff Sagarin’s, but I imagine they are similar in how wins against “cupcakes” do very little to improve a team’s ranking just as losses to strong teams do relatively little to damage it. This is a tricky question, but entirely answerable.

    Comment by ejvalpey -

  19. Mid season tourney WILL NEVER happen. no other sport does a mid season tourney … it just defies logic. it causes fan confusion and schedule mayhem. maybe it would be groundbreaking … but if you’re serious about actually getting the ncaa to change, WHY NOT A NORMAL SEASON END TOURNEY?? It can be done in short order by compressing the end of season down weeks. It can incorporate the bowls. Have to think that the mid season idea isn’t a serious proposal, but rather one that allows you to rail against a system (a system which, as you point out, is being ‘gamed’) …

    Comment by denexile -

  20. The teams aren’t scheduling cupcakes to help their BCS rankings. They’re doing it to make money from extra home games that cupcakes get paid to play at. Most of the largest programs schedule 7 home games in a 12 game season to make money. In order to do this, they must schedule non-AQ’s and FCS teams at home, as a home-home series would not give them the requisite home gate proceeds.

    In order to change this, teams must be compensated by the loss in revenue from the home games, by extra revenue in TV money from dates against other good teams that would take away their 7th home game. This is not a trivial sum of money for the larger schools. Based on the numbers from the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics report for the 2008-09 school year, taking away that 7th home game would cost the biggest football schools about $8 million dollars on average.

    You would need to generate $10 million per game in TV revenue over and above their current TV contracts to cover the costs of losing the home game. Considering that SEC schools, the highest paid in TV revenue, receive only $3 million per game in TV revenue, that is going to be a hard nut to crack.

    Link to data analysis of six versus seven games.

    -Paul Pettengill

    Comment by prpetten1 -

  21. Mark, again these cupcakes make Millions from playing these schools, you would be de-funding their programs. This is also taken care of with strength of schedule. VT paid Boise State $1.25 million and how much to James Madison (for two losses) and other recent examples include Alabama paying San Jose State $1 million, Ohio State paying Colorado $1.4 million and Nebraska paying Idaho $800,000.

    I am just confused to your goal, other than as a media person you are trying to maximize profits and allow fans to ensure their teams have home wins. You do realize that selling tickets and getting alumni support is more important than the likelihood of getting to the championship game, right? That and a silly concept of student athletes versus professionals at this point. Would people keep paying the alumni fees and ticket prices at Ohio State/Texas if they kept going 8-4? Do you think Texas regrets getting UCLA to play them this year, starting the downward spiral that cost them their coach in waiting?

    You are working too hard to resolve the end and not looking at the entire system. Baseball works with 162 games, basketball 80, but would football? Players simply cannot take that level of beating and people charge ticket prices based on that. When teams are now pretty much assured of 8 conference games, 4 at home, teams still want to make sure their fans get to see wins. My Hawkeyes are a good example of that. They lost two home games this year and it truly upset the fan base. It is one thing to lose on the road, another to lose at home.

    Comment by hudacity -

  22. I like ffweber’s idea of getting the “lesser” conferences to have a cupcake playoff bowl to see if the best teams from those conferences match up with the bigger more established conferences.

    I also think a Cupcake bowl would go over big. 75,000 people holding up cupcakes. Of course that image would have be taken very early in the game for obvious reasons.

    Comment by alexlogic -

  23. Pingback: Mark Cuban Vs. the BCS, Part Three (or Maybe 50) - SportsNewser

  24. Couldn’t this ‘cupcake’ issue be resolved simply by tweaking the BCS polling formula? All year on ESPN, I hear that ‘strength of schedule’ plays a role in a team’s ranking. Perhaps it needs to play a bigger role…just thinking out loud here.

    The other issue here is that these colleges make their scheduling decisions YEARS in advance. I’ve always wondered why, but that’s the way it’s been. So, somebody who five years ago scheduled the Texas Longhorns for their 2010 schedule ended up with a sub-.500 team on their schedule. So should they be penalized for making what seemed to be a sound scheduling decision five years ago? These things are very hard to predict years in advance.

    Also, I do think that a team near the bottom of the totem pole (say, a University of North Texas), should be given some opportunity to schedule some ‘major’ teams on their schedule. After all, how does a Boise State become a Boise State?

    Comment by henrymartinez1969 -

  25. Get the Conference USA, Mid-American Conference, Mountain West Conference, Sun Belt Conference and Western Athletic Conference athletic directors and offer hold a playoff for them. These conferences would get a certain amount of money guaranteed each year for the next 5 years to commit to the playoff for five years. Teams that make the tournament would get a guaranteed amount of money for each game played. The teams with the best record would host the games in the first two rounds. The final two rounds would be hosted a sites predetermined before the season. These five conferences would each be guaranteed two teams and the remaining spots in the 16 team tournament would be offered to Division I-A schools, attempting to get the highest ranked schools possible. It would almost grantee sold out stadiums for the first two rounds and it would make for exciting TV. After a five year run try and pull in a few more conferences and some independent teams.

    Comment by ffwebber -

  26. Pingback: Mark Cuban’s marketplace of ideas | Get The Picture

  27. How about each D1 School (forget this FBS crap) gets one cupcake to start their year. Then jumps right into conference play. Then after conference play, takes on other big time AQ schools, thus pushing the non-conference slate towards the end.

    Leaving these slots open for a playoff sort of feel. Mark, I like your midseason rescheduling “1 vs. 2” format, but couldn’t it be at the end, after conference play? Then jump back and conclude the regular season with a conference championship.


    Comment by thesportspoet -

  28. Middle Seasons can be weird. The Cleveland Browns absolutely walloped New England, beat New Orleans, and should have beaten the Jets if not for a fumble just as they were getting into field goal range over a three game span during the middle of the 2010 season.

    That’s three consecutive solid games against three very solid playoff caliber teams. Browns finished 5-11.

    Playoffs in the middle of the collegiate season could result in similar out of the norm results. Maybe the way around cupcake games is by weighing the season week by week.

    The first week of the season has 2% value. The second week has 4%, The third week has 6%, Fourth week has 8%…… 5 -10% 6 – 12% 7- 14% 8 – 16% 9 – 18% 10 – 20%

    Which gets us to 98%

    Now, this could motivate the best teams to play each other early on in the season when a loss won’t be as crippling. And then, cupcake games played later in the season can hurt a team since they carry more weight, but less impact, then beating a top 20 team later in the season.

    One could argue that this idea would just justify playing cupcakes early on, but not necessarily so. A team gets better by playing solid opponents. The problem is a team can lose once or twice early on to other good teams and there season is over. If the weekly games were weighted, the first three games of the season can be overcome with solid play the rest of the season.

    Comment by alexlogic -

  29. I’ve been pimping Pool Play in CFB since 2006.

    This solves the where to play when problem, lets the bowls be bowls, and allows for sub par teams to have something to play for at the end of the season.

    Comment by skilesare -

  30. I will never understand why the BCS is so stubborn about changing their system. They say they do not want a playoff because every game should matter in the season. When 90% of the teams are playing crappy teams every week, how can every game of the season really matter?

    Comment by roche976 -

  31. Don’t non-AQ schools need to schedule better teams to make up for their weaker conference schedules? AQ schools typically play much tougher in-conference schedules (which make up roughly 2/3 of their schedule)…

    Comment by tnance -

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