And those losses are staggering. Last year, the nation's bowls paid schools roughly $270 million. Just for playing middlemen and providing 70-degree temperatures, bowl execs grabbed a larger cut, north of $300 million.

Even bowl apologists admit that by implementing a playoff system — like every other NCAA sport does — schools could generate three to four times the amount they're bringing home now. That's because TV networks will pay far more for a playoff game than they will for straight-to-DVD thrillers such as the Beef O'Brady's Bowl St. Petersburg.

Under a playoff system, the schools' collective take might even approach $1 billion annually. It's the kind of money that could fill budget gaps in nearly every Division 1 athletic department.

Yet there's one small barrier that stands in the way: A playoff system would ensure that schools, not the insiders who make these decisions, would take home the money.

So college football is left with lopsided accords like Minnesota's. When the Gophers were requiring a Big 10 bailout for those large red numbers in Tempe , Insight CEO John Junker was paying himself nearly $600,000 a year, with perks like country club memberships in states as far away as Oregon and Oklahoma.

Coaches and athletic directors make a similar killing. Three years ago, the University of Florida beat Oklahoma for the national title. The Gators may have generated untold riches, but the school itself managed just a $50,000 profit — enough to pay for a team banquet and perhaps another part-timer for the groundskeeping crew.

Florida's coaches and athletic officials were bound by no similar restraints. They took home $960,000 in bonuses.

That's the beauty of the system: No matter how money is torched, the insiders always get paid.

"The money is not the reason we have the system we have," says Bill Hancock, executive director of the BCS. "It rewards the athletes at the end of the year with a celebration."

It's a common refrain among the sport's elder statesmen, and the gentlemanly Hancock speaks with the earnestness of a true believer. There's little doubt players have earned a respite after the ceaseless beatdown that is a football season. Especially since they receive but a fraction of the towering wealth they generate.

Minnesota's Seeley describes bowls as an educational experience, a chance for young men to spend a week learning about another part of the country.

But considering that schools are giving away more than $300 million a year to bowls, it might be the most expensive week of touring amusement parks and children's hospitals ever conceived. And it presumes the schools couldn't do it better without making someone else rich.

Take Junker, the system's most egregious sponge. He was the CEO of the Insight and Fiesta bowls until he was fired last spring. His games may have technically been charities; he just considered himself the neediest recipient of all.

According to lawyers hired by the bowls' boards to investigate malfeasance, he blew $33,000 on his own birthday party in Pebble Beach. He spent $19,000 on country club memberships in three states. When he wasn't running up $1,200 bills at strip joints, he was bidding $90,000 in a charity auction to play golf with Jack Nicklaus.

It all came from money that could have gone to America's colleges. More alarming, Junker's spree only ended after he was outed by the Arizona Republic for illegally reimbursing employees for donations to his political allies.

Most bowl executives have equally inflated views of their own value. Orange Bowl CEO Eric Poms pays himself $506,000 a year in salary, bonuses, and benefits, and kicks nearly $1 million in salaries to four lesser execs. Outback Bowl President Jim McVay takes in $808,000 annually. The bosses for the Cotton and Alamo bowls make $419,000 each. Just for staging one game a year.

Meanwhile, the nation's colleges put on ten times the number of events back home at just a fraction of the cost.

Bowl executives defend themselves by claiming to run charities. That might be true in terms of their IRS status, but charity implies giving to someone other than yourself. In the world of college bowl games, that hasn't happened for more than 60 years.

Studies show that as far back as 1947, bowls were giving less than 1 percent of their receipts to the needy. Today their benevolence ranges from just 1 to 3 percent.

By comparison, "Most highly efficient charities will spend 75 percent or more," says Megan Davison of CharityWatch, a Chicago group that helps donors find the most effective charities. "A program that spends 60 percent will get a C grade from us."

So what grade does one receive for donating just 3 percent? "We would give them an F grade and call them pathetic and urge the general public not to support them," says Daniel Borochoff, president of CharityWatch.

But while bowls violate every principle of philanthropy, state and city politicians are happy to look away. The games' nonprofit status allows them to skirt taxes, but they deliver built-in tourist traffic.

To ensure no one asks too many questions, the bowls fete these same politicians with receptions, comped tickets, and sideline passes. The Fiesta Bowl even paid for luxury legislator junkets to cities such as Chicago and Boston.

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12 comments
j50wells
j50wells

Also, I get tired of these sports announcers that try to make us feel guilty for complaining about the current system. I hear it all the time from these guys, "Oh, here it comes, complaints from a team that thinks they should have a got a Bowl bid. Obviously they didn't make the BCS bids. So stop complaining!" When the real truth is that they rigged the games for their pocket books and not for the teams or the fans. The sports announcers are part of the racket because they defend the corruption and keep it quiet in order to protect their careers. C'mon man, what are you trying to sell? A sport that doesn't have a playoff? Are you serious? We're supposed to buy this garbage?

j50wells
j50wells

This won't end next year. I already see corruption in next years committee that will pick the four teams that will play in the play-off. Condoleezza Rice? What? This smells of corruption. It will be the same people playing the same insider tricks. And why do people buy into this stuff? Why would anyone watch a game that doesn't have a true playoff? That's where the real issue is. It starts with the fans. If you agree to watch a game that doesn't require a playoff and a true champion, then that's what you will get. It's really basic stuff, and pretty simple.

joblow2000
joblow2000

money 


money 


money  $$$$


70-90% of college sports budget comes from Football/basketbal.  

Anyone paid money to see a table tennis match.

if you know nothing, know about the money.. it all about the money in college sports.

keep the money $$$$, flowing, the only people exploited are the """"student -athletes""" who do NOT get a single penny to play.

biggest scam in USA.  Free workers/free labors. All you got give them is Free chicken/Fee dorm/Free pass to class/Free pass to library...

Mikoe Wozz
Mikoe Wozz

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Lbilquist
Lbilquist

More abuse from people in power. It's criminal the amount of money these bowl execs make off the back of mostly poor minority football players. Why don't the NAACP or ACLU look into this!!

Mark
Mark

They need to take away the tax exempt status of the bowls since they do not really serve a charitiable purpose.

edgough123
edgough123

Why doesn't everyone just "Occupy" these games. College football is a loaded gun and stacked with fraud. Until the government, IRS starts to bring these thugs down, there will be no mercy. As seen at Penn State, they will abuse your children, lie to authorities, steal your money, and if you are real lucky, they will haze your kid and if he/she is lucky she just might survive. What the fuck is up with school these days. Kids take a few years off and travel the world - go to a school in Europei. You end up with too much college debt in the U.S. and pay into these Ponzi schemes to enrich the administration/coach "thugs".

Kpryan
Kpryan

Oh, and one last thing:

Why did it not surprise me to read this paragraph: "The coaches smiled, the bowl's anthropomorphic fruit mascot Obie danced, and Jeff Roberts — a local vice president of Goldman Sachs and the bowl's chairman — gave the company line."

It is shocking - SHOCKING to think that a 'Goldman Sachs local vice president (emphasis on the 'vice' word) is affiliated - no indeed the CHAIRMAN! of one of these rip off bowl games.

Kpryan
Kpryan

Terrific article.

While not taking away from the reality as reported, it should be noted that of the ubiquitous 'Athletic Directors', the article states: "(The A.D.'s).... they're not inclined to get too inquisitive over contracts. And this allows their so-called friends to utterly rip them off."

The AD's are as culpable as the school presidents and the rest who suck off the system. The AD's aren't 'getting ripped off'. The dollars aren't coming out of their pay. Check out what the average AD earns per year. Coaches make millions of dollars a year, and presidents make a half million dollars a year and the AD's earn around a quarter of a million. No one earning that kind of pay is getting ripped off by anyone.

Rather, all (except the players and the fans) are getting rich off the bullshit system. That's why no one (with a few notable exceptions ... see Chris Petersen @ Boise St. [who probably wouldn't say anything if his team were playing for a national championship] ) will yell: "The emperor wears no clothes!"

It is disgusting.

And still the schools act as if paying the players a Grand a month would send the schools into banko court. It is OK to screw the fans with rising prices to attend games and the screw the players but God forbid someone associated with a Bowl or an employee of a university gets ripped off. Until they do, this fraudulent system will continue to burn those it claims to serve.

MiamiDanny
MiamiDanny

Disney/ESPN paid $500Million for 4 years of the BCS. That is $25Million PER GAME! The so-called losses you are talking about are chump change.

GILMORECLARETHA
GILMORECLARETHA

So what else is new everybody that is connected with government,school charities and etc finds a way to get over on the taxpayers,If there were no taxpayers there would be no extra free rides on the taxpayers back.

 
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