Friday, September 30, 2011

College Football Bowls Don’t Share Proceeds

by Gary Snyder

College football bowl games have long been identified with their charitable activities. A key supporter of the bowls boasted before Congress two years ago that as much as a quarter of the games’ revenues went to local charities. But public records show little charitable giving by the non-profits that run the events, either the four big games that host the sport’s championship or the many other postseason bowls.

At the Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar bowls, charitable giving has amounted to roughly 2 percent of all revenue generated since the Bowl Championship Series began, records compiled by The Arizona Republic show. The most generous giving, records show, was by the Orange Bowl, which through 2009-10 had donated $7.9 million to charity since the BCS era started, the lion’s share of that in 2008-09 to restore a Miami park.

Since the BCS was formed in the 1998-99 season, records show:
- Its four bowls generated revenue of almost $759 million and gave to charity $14.8 million, roughly 2 percent. The figures do not include payouts to teams or spending that was not identified as charitable giving on IRS forms.
- Fiesta Bowl charity totaled about $4.65 million through 2009-10, according to the most recent records available. The bowl this year gave away an additional $1 million as a penalty assessed by the BCS after the bowl disclosed widespread financial mismanagement.
- The Rose Bowl donated about $1.9 million to charity.
- Giving totaled just more than $310,000 at the Sugar Bowl, most of that going to restore a city park in the past two fiscal years. The bowl, however, said its financial reports prepared for the Internal Revenue Service are misleading because it gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years to numerous other causes but didn’t report it as charitable giving.

According to Sugar Bowl spokesman John Sudsbury, the bowl in recent years gave $800,000 for post-Hurricane Katrina renovations and upkeep at a local stadium, $115,000 to the New Orleans Police Department for a crowd-control system, $250,000 for student counseling after the mass shooting at Virginia Tech, and $130,000 to the Southeastern Conference’s postgraduate scholarship program. He added that the Sugar Bowl’s executive committee recently voted to commit $2 million to a major community youth project.

Although the bowls are operated by non-profit groups, they are not required by federal statute to make charitable donations. Still, bowls – the four in the championship series and others – have touted their charitable nature in the past.
Alamo Bowl Chief Executive Derrick Fox appeared before Congress in 2009 during hearings on bowl and BCS financial issues, saying bowls provide tens of millions of dollars to local communities annually.

“Since almost all the postseason bowl games are put on by charitable groups and since up to one-quarter of the proceeds from the games are dedicated to the community, local charities receive tens of millions of dollars every year,” Fox said.

The Republic’s examination of financial records for U.S.-based, non-profit organizations that ran 25 bowl games in 2008-09 and 24 bowl games in 2009-10 doesn’t support Fox’s claims.

The Republic found the non-profits that ran the bowls in 2008-09 generated about $216 million in revenue and gave away $6.4 million, roughly 3 percent of revenues. In 2009-10, the bowls generated about $202 million in revenue and gave away nearly $3.7 million, less than 2 percent.

Nonprofit Imperative gathers its information principally from public documents...some of which are directly quoted. Virtually all cited are in some phase of criminal proceedings; some have not been charged, however. Cites in various media: Featured in print, broadcast, and online media outlets, including: Vermont Public Radio, Miami Herald, National Public Radio, Huffington Post, The Sun News, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Wall Street Journal (Profile, News and Photos), FOX2, ABC Spotlight on the News, WWJ Radio, Ethics World, Aspen Philanthropy Newsletter, Harvard Business Review, Current Affairs, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, St. Petersburg Times, B, USA Today Topics, ,, Responsive Philanthropy Magazine, New York Times...and many more • Nonprofits: On the Brink (iUniverse, 2006)
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