Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Few People Are Making Money

Scott Reid of the Orange County Register this week produced a great series of articles on the business of college bowls. What a racket!

The bowl system is a method of filling hotel rooms in host cities, and of filling bowl officials’ pockets. A majority of them enjoy a dubious non-profit status as charitable organizations. While the bowls do perform some good work in their communities, their foremost purpose is not charity, but economic development. The bowls also spend an enormous amount of money lobbying government officials and entertaining college administrators.

Most schools actually do not make money on bowl games, after expenses are taken into account. Both Florida and Ohio State ran a combined deficit of $600,000 on last year’s trip to the BCS national championship game. Teams going to lesser bowls are required to sell a certain amount of tickets, and often have to eat large amounts of unsold tickets.

I’m not going to reproduce his articles here, but here are some highlights:

Gary Cavalli, executive director of the San Francisco Bowl Game Association, which puts on the Emerald Bowl. Cavalli received $362,018 in compensation and employee benefits in 2006, accounting for 11 percent of the bowl's budget. The game cleared $271,412. In a filing with the IRS, Cavalli said he works 35 hours a week.

What a gig! The guy gets to live in San Francisco, with a job wining and dining corporate people and college presidents and athletic directors. He’s got it made.

Also, the following schools lost their shirts on unsold tickets and bowl expenses:

Northern Illinois, 2006 Poinsettia Bowl: NIU sent 434 people to San Diego, costing the school about $916,800 in expenses. The school's share of the payout was $598,901, leaving NIU with a $317,898 deficit, more than the school spent last year on six of its nine women's sports combined.

Ohio University, 2006 GMAC Bowl: Former Nebraska coach Frank Solich led Ohio to its first bowl appearance since 1968. The celebration in Athens, however, was short-lived. A $277,550 bowl deficit was more than an athletic department already awash in red ink and facing Title IX sanctions could take. The university was forced to dip into general reserve funds to pay the bowl tab and just weeks after the game the school dropped track, swimming and lacrosse, leaving 383 athletes without teams. Ohio spent less than $200,000 annually on the three dropped programs.

And, there's Coach Fran and our friends at Texas A&M:

The Aggies ran up a Texas-sized deficit — $489,978 — in San Diego. A&M's awards expenditures explain some of the red ink. The Aggies spent nearly as much on awards for players and staff — $133,645 — as Florida and Ohio State did combined. Two years earlier, A&M spent $198,395 on awards at the Cotton Bowl.

The bowl system is the biggest crock of bovine excrement out there. I’m no fan of the NCAA and their politically correct, pointy-headed approach. However, a handful of people are holding college football hostage, both politically and financially.

I have no problem with generating large sums of revenue. However, it is not worth it to take a bath on a bowl trip, and to cut athletic programs and scholarships as a result.

Another thought, anathema to proud alumni everywhere: If schools from conferences such as the MAC are going to lose large sums of money on bowl trips, perhaps they should move to the Football Championship Subdivision, where they can play in a less-expensive playoff system and contend for championships.


Special Report: Price of Success
Special Report: College Football's Money Bowl
Special Report: Having a Party
Special Report: Bowl Calculators in Overdrive

Now, to get ready for that titanic bowl game in Shreveport between 6-6 Colorado and 6-6 Alabama. Because, it's not Pearl Harbor. It's Division I football.


Zee said...

Funny that one of your links mentions that baby-sitters are paid for by schools. I baby-sat for the University of Alabama back in 1985 when they were in the Aloha Bowl. I was paid, but, if I remember correctly, the families paid me. They kicked butt in that game, btw. ;)

John said...

Maybe the Alabama coaches turned in babysitting on their expense report, and were thus reimbursed. :-)

It's really sad when a school such as Ohio ends up dropping three sports because they lost so much money on their bowl trip. It's also bad that Florida and Ohio State actually lost money on their trip to the BCS national championship game.

I want to be executive director of a bowl.

Zee said...

I think you have to be a part of the BCS Good Ol' Boys Club in order to have that job.

And yes, it's very sad that a school has to drop three sports because of a bowl game. I think it's sad when any school has to drop a sport-no matter the reason.

John said...

You'd think with some of the money floating around some of these bowls that schools would actually get to add sports instead of subtract them.

Most schools and conferences will eat a ton of tickets to these things.

Zee said...

I hope TCU didn't lose money on their win.


John said...

Hopefully, this incarnation of Houston's bowl game is better at paying their bills.

The former Houston Bowl folded after still owing money to TCU and Iowa State two years ago. I don't think TCU ever got what they were owed.

The Texas Bowl was created in its place by the Houston Texans and some other Houston people. They are selling a lot more tickets, probably to Texans season ticket holders. Last year's game and this year's game have been a lot better on the business side. Hopefully, TCU will at least break even. After all, it is cheaper to charter a bus to Houston than to charter a plane to San Diego or Las Vegas.

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