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College Football Bowl Game Executives Enjoy High Compensation

   Dec 20, 2022

Compensation for many college football bowl game executives has either increased or decreased only slightly despite revenue declines coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic, according to USA TODAY Sports.


“The college football season of 2020 might go down in history as the worst to ever hit the postseason bowl game business,” according to USA TODAY. Nineteen of the 44 postseason football bowl games got canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19. For most of the rest of the games, “revenues plummet[ed] from the year before as attendance was restricted to 25% of capacity or less while public health restrictions choked the flow of tourism,” according to the article.

Some nonprofit bowl game organizations received Paycheck Protection Program funds from the federal government under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, “taking in more than $3.7 million in combined Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds in 2020," according to USA TODAY’s review of government records.


CharityWatch has generally been critical of the PPP based on its analysis of nonprofits with low financial efficiency or many years’ worth of available assets receiving such government subsidies at the expense of taxpayers.

The receipt of COVID-19 relief PPP funds, however, “didn't stop many of the executives who run those tax-exempt bowl organizations from continuing to get paid handsomely, according to USA TODAY Sports, which obtained the federal tax records from the bowl organizationsUSA TODAY Sports tracked the compensation of 18 bowl CEOs who run a combined 20 nonprofit bowl games, and it found five of them had their compensation increased from 2019 to 2020, nine of them had their compensation cut by about 10% or less and four had slightly bigger pay cuts of 12% to 17%...” At least 13 of those 18 bowl organizations received PPP funds that were forgiven by the government, according to the article.


The USA TODAY article notes that the compensation of football bowl game executives long has been the subject of criticism, mostly because of the perception that their primary job is to put on one or two games per year, which bowl organizations say is unfair.” The article makes a comparison to Division I college athletics directors, who make less money running year-round programs and games in multiple sports,” and large public charities, such as the American Red Cross, with a chief operating officer who received total compensation of $781,120 in 2020, which was less than six top bowl executives...

CharityWatch’s executive director, Laurie Styron, is quoted in the USA TODAY article:

A nonprofit, in theory, should determine appropriate compensation for an organization's leader by researching the market rate for someone with the relevant education, skills and experience needed to competently perform the job at hand.


Styron criticized the circular reasoning sometimes used to justify excessive or high compensation:

“In some cases, there is circular reasoning applied where a nonprofit working in a particular cause may look at the compensation levels of the leaders at other nonprofits working in that same cause to justify higher pay for its own leader. This is often done even in cases where someone competent could be found to do the job for far less.”


Read the complete USA TODAY article, which includes a chart of the compensation packages for college football bowl game executives for 2020. The top compensation package on the chart is over $1.2 million.