"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 what we have to offer," says Orange Bowl vice president Larry Wahl.

Yet he admits his game, part of the BCS series, 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 "friends" to utterly rip them off.

Details

Tim Elfrink contributed to this report.


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 like Ohio State rarely sell that many. 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 at 20 bucks a pop.

The ticket scheme alone leaves schools awash in red ink. Virginia Tech lost $400,000 on last year's trip to the Orange Bowl — despite getting $1.2 million from the ACC. Though Auburn claimed last season's BCS crown, financial records show it still lost $600,000 — even after a $2.2 million bailout from the Southeastern Conference.

Some bowls have also found a way to scam schools on hotels. Since the bowls usually arrange lodging, athletic directors assume their "friends" are negotiating the best group deals. But that's not always the case.

Under Junker's rule, the Fiesta Bowl required schools to purchase 3,750 room-nights at about $200 a pop. According to the contract, the schools had to pay whether they used them or not.

But what Junker wasn't telling his "friends" was that he'd arranged a side deal with the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. In exchange for funneling teams to Scottsdale resorts, the city's tourism arm agreed to kick the Fiesta Bowl $8.2 million over the 20-year pact, according to a contract discovered by the Arizona Republic.

The Sugar Bowl also received "voluntary commissions" from New Orleans hotels. Other bowls have been accused of similar arrangements.


It's nothing more than a massive money-laundering scheme, says Richard Southall, director of the College Sport Research Institute at the University of North Carolina. That's the only way to describe a system in which schools send millions to bowls, then bowls use a fraction of that same money to pay teams for playing.

The problem for college football is that too many people are taking notice.

Consider Taylor Morgan. He's a board member of Playoff Pac, a fan group launched to protest the way the BCS picks title contenders. It's a ubiquitous complaint. One Gallup poll showed that 85 percent of fans favor a playoff system, leaving bowls slightly more popular than polio.

But Morgan and his friends soon realized the selection process was a minor travesty. More galling was the way bowls grabbed money from everyone in their path.

"These bowls receive millions of dollars in federal and state subsidies," says Morgan. "They don't donate money to their communities. They don't do anything of substance in a charitable sense, other than line the pockets of their friends and executives."

So Playoff Pac posted financial records from bowls and schools for everyone to see. It also began bombing the IRS with complaints that bowls were violating their charitable tax status.

Add books like Wetzel's Death to the BCS, a step-by-step account of this wholesale soaking, and bowl execs were suddenly being publicly strafed for their sins.

Just a few years ago, these same execs were claiming before Congress that they were legitimate charities. These days, they're being confronted with their own financial reports that say otherwise.

The system's also facing attack on the antitrust front. Only the six biggest conferences — plus the Notre Dame athletic director — have voting rights within the BCS. The BCS picks the teams for the top five bowls. These six leagues also receive the largest revenue cuts, leaving the five remaining Division I conferences at their mercy.

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10 comments
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dsgasgahasdh

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Josh
Josh

Unironically agreed

Gwmwllc
Gwmwllc

These monies should be helping poor undocumented Mexican migrants get a free university education.

Mbmun2002
Mbmun2002

These monies should be helping rising school tuitions.

Steven
Steven

Mr. Kotz, the writer of this article, calls this type of robbery to Universities "Capitalism" he is wrong. This is Socialism at it's finest. You take the college football teams and offer them a bone like a bowl game and force them to adhere or be left out. Administrators make the decisions as to where the money is spent. Or better known as the governing body of the school. It's not coming out of their pocket so what the heck. They get a free trip for a week on the school's dime. Sounds very much like our current Presidential Administration, can we spell "too many vacations" President Obama? Pure Capitalism would be a "Free Enterprise System" We don't like what you are doing so we are going to hold our own bowl game in a neutral site closer to our two schools. Wrong, NCAA says you can't do that, because they are socialist leaders and they have their own selfish agenda to acomplish and if they let these schools go rogue, so to speak then the paper tiger of the NCCA will come crashing doww on themselves and the fans and schools will see them for what they are. The Schools athletic parallel to the Federal Reserve.

Justice4all
Justice4all

oh this was no surprise to me ...from the day this bowl plan came out ..me and 5 buds were drinking at watering hole on 20st and camelback saying the monies this would bring to the right few people ( to bad none of them was us) Since the bowl decides everything from how much they give back to the school and how much they keep

BingoFuel
BingoFuel

This article does a good job of explaining the excesses of the bowls but a lot of its conclusions are really stupid.

It misses the point that part of the idea of the bowls is having alumni (many of whom donate money) get to see their university's team play in some fun or different part of the country. Why the heck would anyone want to watch Minnesota and Iowa State play in freezing Minnesota in December or January? Holding a game there between two 6-6 teams wouldn't even happen. So it is absurd to present that possibility as a money saving option.

Also, anyone who thinks that playoffs will eliminate the bowls is smoking a bowl full of something. Playoffs might eliminate the BCS but it wouldn't eliminate the bowls. In all likelihood, the playoffs would just end up taking place at the existing bowl sites. And even if the playoffs took place somewhere other than the bowls, the bowls would still invite teams that didn't make it into the playoffs. Teams like a 6-6 Minnesota wouldn't even make it into the playoffs unless you had an absurd number of rounds (which won't happen). So why would they turn down going to a bowl if they weren't in the playoffs?

NotSusan
NotSusan

Thanks for the great reporting! 2014 BCS deal expiration can't come soon enough!

Matt Schley
Matt Schley

What? You didn't read anything you wrote, did you? How can you call this "socialism"? Socialism implies that the poor get benefits from the rich. In this system, however, the rich are getting even more money from everyone (taxpayers, students, athletic departments).

It's "capitalist" (not really, but much closer than "socialist") because the rich (people who run the bowls) are taking taking advantage of the people (schools) being forced to use their services because there is no alternative postseason (i.e. a monopoly).

(this is no longer aimed toward the previous poster)

I realize this is a type of government, not a market, but I would compare it more to an oligarchy. The powerful few (bowl execs, conference commissioners, and NCAA) take money from everyone, and those people are essentially forced to pay for these bowls. Of course, school administrators could decide not to pay to go to these games. If that happened, though, boosters would get upset. Then the proverbial crap hits the fan. Either the boosters quit giving money, the administrators get fired because of pressure from the boosters, or both.

The school administrators are forced into wasting a load of taxpayer money because the NCAA, the bowl system execs, and boosters are all idiots. The fact that this system has not been scrapped yet shows that NCAA football is all about making money (for the people in charge). They don't care about the majority, and they don't care about the integrity of the game. There is a reason why every successful professional sports league that I've ever heard of had some type of playoff. It's the best way we know of to find a "true" champion.

 
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