Time To Check In On Jim McVay And His Ridiculous College Football Grift

Today the Washington Post published a story on Jim McVay, the guy whose only job is to run a lower-tier college bowl game, and the million dollars he makes for doing it. The report, which points out how the $1,045,000 McVay made in 2017 “ranks as extreme” even in the bloated business of college football and how the bowl McVay runs also stands out for how little it donates to charity, is reminiscent of a report by the Tampa Bay Times that was published around this time last year. The Tampa Bay Times story echoes one from USA Today published in 2012.

From the Washington Post:

McVay, a former Buccaneers marketing executive and uncle to Los Angeles Rams Coach Sean McVay, was the highest-paid bowl executive in the country in 2017, the most recent year financial records are available, even though his organization’s revenue that year — $11.9 million — ranked 10th among bowl organizations. While several bowl bosses manage other games or major events, McVay’s core duties remain as focused as they were when he took the job in 1988: negotiate contracts and sell sponsorships and tickets for one football game each year.

From the Tampa Bay Times:

Look around the Tampa Bay area, and it is hard to find an economic development executive, public official or nonprofit leader paid more than Outback Bowl president Jim McVay.

In 2015, McVay’s compensation totalled $993,458, according to the bowl’s IRS tax return for that year.

That’s more than the salaries for top executives at the University of South Florida, Port Tampa Bay and Tampa International Airport.

It is more than Tampa taxpayers pay the mayor, the seven members of City Council, the police chief and the fire chief — combined.


From USA Today:

No bowl game in college football pays more money to one person than the Outback Bowl in Tampa Bay.

His name is Jim McVay, the game’s president and chief executive officer.

According to tax forms, the bowl paid McVay $753,946 in fiscal year 2010, $693,212 in 2009 and $808,032 in 2008. His pay has nearly doubled since 2002, when he earned $404,253. This year, his game matches Michigan (8-4) and South Carolina (10-2) on Jan. 1.


These stories are largely the same, with the main difference being a decrease in how credulously they treat the claim that McVay or any of the extravagantly paid bowl bosses really earn the money they make. USA Today wrote that “critics and others have continued to raise concerns about such pay being excessive for a number of reasons,” but primarily quoted various bowl officials talking about how hard bowl officials work. The Tampa Bay Times was slightly more skeptical, quoting former Tampa mayor Sandy Freedman calling McVay’s salary “beyond belief” and county commissioner Sandra Murman questioning it, saying, “Nine hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money, and I guess we all have to ask the question if any of those dollars paid to him are coming from the public support, because we’re all being held to a higher standard.”

The Post’s story from today was the most critical, and the only one to explicitly draw the connection between the exploited unpaid labor generating all this money—the players—and McVay’s pay:

“You really can’t justify this salary,” said Richard Southall, professor and director of the College Sport Research Institute at the University of South Carolina. Southall said McVay benefits from working in a niche industry with unique market factors beneficial to executives, such as cheap entertainment (the players in bowl games each get $550 of souvenir gifts, the maximum permitted under NCAA rules), and lax oversight.


In last year’s story, McVay defended himself and his salary by citing the hard work of taking meetings with conferences, and claimed he has unique leverage thanks to his distant connections with the NFL, which he uses for…something. And therein is the other biggest difference about this year’s edition of the McVay story:

McVay…declined an interview request for this story, and a bowl spokesman cited a new policy that forbids Outback Bowl officials from publicly discussing compensation.

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