Sports and Government

The importance of government largess to sports, including publicly-funded stadiums, has been a frequent topic on this blog.  Recently, the CEO of the Fiesta Bowl John Junker was fired for a number of alleged violations related to campaign contributions and favors for politicians.  This story is virtually inevitable.

The Fiesta Bowl benefits enormously from being one of the four BCS bowl games.  In fact, the difference economically between being one of the four BCS bowl games and being one of the numerous other bowls is roughly the difference between the United States and, say, Peru.   To give one a sense, the prize money for winning a BCS bowl is about $18 million.  The prize money for all other bowl games varies from $325,000 to, at most, $4.25 million.

But the Fiesta Bowl would almost certainly not be one of the four BCS bowls were it not for the city of Glendale building a half billion dollar stadium to be shared by our NFL franchise and the Fiesta Bowl.  It would almost be shocking if a few tens of thousands of dollars were not directed to politicians given the stakes on the table.  And it should be no surprise that politicians in Glendale received many of the payments.

Postscript:  Junker's attorney's comments are telling.  This was all about doing what it takes to make the Fiesta Bowl a big player.   And I can tell you, from all the grief I have gotten for defending a Constitutional principle at the expense of holding on to a sports franchise, there is a strong public lobby for the ends justifying the means when sports are involved.  Anyway, here is the quote:

While Junker declined SI.com's request to be interviewed for this story, his lawyer, Stephen M. Dichter, could not resist issuing an e-mailed reminder that it was his client "who took the Fiesta Bowl from a postseason game created so [that] Frank Kush's ASU Sun Devils would have a game in which they could be showcased while they and the rest of the WAC were completely ignored by the national media to its present position as one of the four pillars of the Bowl Championship Series."

  • Lawrence

    The Fiesta Bowl has come a long way while several legacy Bowls have stagnated or just disappeared. Survival of fittest in post season Bowls I suppose.

  • marco73

    Well, a storm of opposition to big time sports spending is soon going to rush over all but the largest and richest schools.
    Look at what is going on in colleges and universities around the country: layoffs, furloughs, and other means to reduce staff costs.
    Cost shifting to students: 2 years ago, my daughter's last year at a large public university in Florida included a $300 charge to support the athletic department, on top of tuition increases and reductions in scholarships.
    Tuition is so high that many parents and students just cannot justify going deeply in debt for a college degree. So they are looking at cheaper alternatives.
    Many division I schools run their athletic departments at a deficit. How long before a school administration just shuts down a money pit athletic department, and the sky doesn't fall? Will other schools follow suit?
    I believe there will be some sort of post season bowl schedule, regardless of how corrupt the current system is. But it will be only for the richest schools.

  • Jim Collins

    Marco,
    I can think of a lot of other dead wood that should go before the Athletic Department is touched. At least the AD is generating some revenue and publicity for the school. How about we get rid of some of these usless classes that are used as welfare for some of these left-wing kook professors? How about we stop adding useless requirements to degree programs, just to support classes that are of no value, except to support tenured faculty? If you would have seen some of the drivel that I had to sit through in order to get my Engineering degree, you would understand my point. I had to sit through a class, in which I was told that no matter how well I did in it, I would only get a 'D' because I was a veteran and the professor was a burned out hippee from the 60's. When these people are gone, then you can talk about cutting the Athletic Department's budget.

  • marco73

    Jim,
    You are absolutely correct, there is a lot of other low hanging fruit that should be cut first. I also had to slog through worthless classes way back in the day, and any contemporary student will tell you the same thing goes on today.
    I'll admit that athletic departments are great for publicity and for buttering up donors.
    My point is that a lot of college athletic departments are money pits, and are supported by significant fees dragged out of the student body. I was particularly galled that for my daughter's senior year, we had to shell out an additional $300 for the athletic department, even though she had Florida Brights and another scholarship. I know that in Junker's world $300 is chump change, but that is real money in my household.
    It is cost shifting, plain and simple.
    I'm just waiting for the perfect storm of an administration having to decide to shut down a department full of burned out hippie professors, or shut down an athletic department that lost $1.8 million to go to a BCS game.
    http://www.dailycampus.com/news/uconn-loses-nearly-1-8-million-at-the-2011-fiesta-bowl-1.2043100

  • Sam L.

    But Marco, but Jim, I keep reading about how these football factories make money for their universities. You're telling me this is not true! How can this BE? I am desolate.

  • http://www.a401kcontributionlimits.com/ 401k

    Day by day the politician increasing their involvement in sports... Now they are try to get popular or make money from sports sector... which is not good of sports.

  • Jim Collins

    Sam,
    Think about this. The revenues generated by college sports teams usually goes into the school's General fund. One of the easiest things for a school to raise funds for is athletics. You could have an Athletic Department that is generating enough revenue to pay for itself with some left over, but, those funds are put into the General fund and used to pay for some of those BS items that I spoke of earlier. The school under budgets it's Athletic Department, knowing that most people will accept the additional fees for athletics. It is to the school's advantage to claim that it's Athletic Department is operating at a loss, when it really isn't.