Orange Bowl Insiders Treated to Island Getaway

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January 5, 2011; Source: Inside Higher Ed | Earlier this week, we published a Newswire suggesting that the charitable character of some of the major college football bowl games seemed a bit iffy. Now Playoff PAC, represented pro bono by former IRS tax exempt commissioner Marc Owens, has filed an IRS complaint about the Orange Bowl Committee, charging that it used charitable dollars to send bowl execs and college athletic directors from the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East, Conference USA, the Mountain West Conference, and the Western Athletic Conference to a four-day "complimentary getaway" in the Bahamas.

According to the PAC, the Bahamas trip was a "junket" lacking, one might say, in charitable purpose related to whatever the charitable purpose of the Orange Bowl is supposed to be. The trip included a cruise on the "Majesty of the Seas", parasailing, drinking, and manicures or pedicures for the attendees and their spouses.

Perhaps they thought they couldn’t have all that fun, especially on the charitable nickel, in Miami where the Orange Bowl is played? Maybe this was meant to be compensation for having to watch Stanford slaughter Virginia Tech on Jan. 3? The business agenda on the cruise ship, in the Bahamas, and at the spa was a little, how shall we say, sparse?

One might question whether Playoff PAC is really concerned about the Orange Bowl Committee's nonprofit credentials, given that it was really formed to replace the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) with a college football playoff.

Playoff PAC charged in September that the Fiesta, Orange, and Sugar Bowls "use(d) charitable funds to provide excess compensation to their executives . . . intervene in political campaigns and provide substantial benefit to organization insiders." It also charged the Fiesta Bowl with reimbursing employees who contributed to "friendly politicians." The BCS response? Basically, it's all about the playoffs.

Our feeling? As we noted in this space before, most people would be shocked to think that the bowls are charities. NPQ has absolutely no position to take on the BCS bowl system versus college football playoffs, but calling out entities operating as 501(c)(3)s that fall substantially short of functioning as public charities is a public service.—Rick Cohen