The Orange Bowl tells the IRS it doesn't pay lobbyists to influence Florida politicians, yet its forms show it gave more than $55,000 on several occasions to registered lobbying groups, Sanderson says.

The bowls then do their best to cloak this strange approach to philanthropy. Both the Orange and Sugar bowls claim they do wonders for their cities' charities; for reasons unexplained, they just don't include those donations on their books. Meanwhile, bowls such as the Cotton simply ignored a reporter's requests for comment.

The wiser Hancock downplays the beneficence angle, well aware it's riddled with blather. Instead, he emphasizes the tourism advantages to host cities.

He's right, of course. By forcing schools to write mammoth ticket checks — and contractually coercing teams to stay in the host town longer than they need to — bowls do wonders for warm-weather economies.

"There's no question bowl games benefit charities in their community," Hancock says. "From my perspective, the economic development to the community is significant. It's a blend. I think the people who talk about the bowls as nonprofits exclude the economic development end."

Left unmentioned is why University of Missouri students would have wanted to subsidize Tempe when the Tigers played the Insight last year. Or why Washington state residents would have been thrilled to see their tax money burned in San Diego when the Huskies appeared in the Holiday Bowl. That's the problem with the insiders: The system rewards them so lavishly they simply can't fathom that others might resent paying the freight.

College presidents could easily put a stop to the shell game. If they had the will. Which they don't.

They tend to be a lot like coaches, a job-jumping species forever on the hunt for more prestigious posts. This march to greater altitudes requires staying within the graces of trustees and big donors, who enjoy free bowl vacations as much as everyone else. Besides, many presidents wield less institutional power than their own coaches, as Penn State's pedophilia scandal revealed.

So they behave like congressmen, allowing their schools to be pillaged to preserve their political capital. Better to kick these decisions to athletic directors and conference commissioners.

And that's where the pitfalls begin.

"The bowl directors are a lot smarter than the athletic directors, because anyone who would agree to this deal is getting whomped," says Yahoo! columnist Wetzel.

It's not that ADs are necessarily stupid. Let's just say they're incurious and not especially self-aware.

Most have spent years, if not decades, being chummy with bowl execs. When they're invited to events such as the Fiesta Frolic, a weekend of splendor and golf in Phoenix — price tag: $387,421 — they don't believe their allegiance is being purchased. It's just a swell time among old friends.

The same goes for the Orange Bowl's Summer Splash events, which include that Caribbean cruise on the Majesty of the Seas. Wahl, the Orange Bowl's spokesman, says the cruise was in fact a business trip for the dozens of ADs on board.

"It's really an opportunity for us to bring key stakeholders together, whether conference people or folks from the schools, to come down to South Florida and to get a taste of what we have to offer," he says.

Yet he admits his game has to "vie constantly to maintain the position in the BCS. It comes up for renewal every four years." And there's nothing like a free luxury cruise to butter that renewal.

Wetzel contends that athletic directors simply aren't bright enough to know they've been bought, seeing these freebies from friends as just another part of college football's grand tradition. So they're not inclined to get too inquisitive over contracts. And this allows their so-called friends to utterly rip them off.

The biggest scam is the bulk ticket purchases. Depending upon the bowl, schools are required to buy anywhere from 10,000 to 17,500 up front. So begins the seasonal hemorrhaging.

The deal starts with a presumption of failure. Even powerhouses such as Ohio State rarely sell that many tickets. When the Buckeyes played the Fiesta Bowl in 2009, they failed to sell more than 7,000 seats. Price for this bath: $1 million.

Auburn, last year's national champion, was still stuck with $781,000 in unsold tickets from the title game.

What's worse is that the seats depreciate from the moment of purchase. Though crowds for most games are a smattering of capacity, the schools still pay bloated face-value prices. Their "friends" aren't about to grant them bulk discounts.

So when the colleges can't sell these seats to their fans, the market is flooded with more than 200,000 bowl tickets a year.

Prudent fans of UCLA, for example, know better than to buy hefty-priced seats from the school. After all, a ticket broker will soon be pushing the same seats for dimes on the dollar. Stub Hub once famously sold tickets to the Music City Bowl in Nashville for just 19 cents.

So while Connecticut may have won the Big East championship last year, it still failed to sell 14,729 seats to the Fiesta Bowl. The bowl charged the Huskies prices ranging from $111 to $268 a ticket. Stub Hub, meanwhile, was offering them for 20 bucks.

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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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