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Washington State Gets A New Opponent And A Huge Payday In The Tony The Tiger Sun Bowl

Ross Everett
by in NCAAF on
  • Central Michigan will replace Miami against Washington State University in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl.
  • Miami was forced to withdraw from the game due to COVID related issues. Central Michigan was left without an opponent in the Arizona Bowl after Boise State pulled out.
  • Central Michigan and the MAC won’t get a full share of the $4 million USD bowl payout meaning a huge payday for Washington State and the Pac-12.

The status of the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas was left in a state of flux on Sunday after Miami was forced to pull out of the game due to a rash of positive COVID-19 cases within the football program. Or at least that was the media narrative. Despite lobbying from a few teams including the FCS Stephen F Austin Lumberjacks it sure looks like the hand wringing over the fate of the game was what is known in the pro wrestling business as a ‘work’. With a huge payout for the participating teams on the table along with national TV coverage on CBS there was simply too much money involved for the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl *not* to take place. It was just a matter of finding a plausible opponent so that Washington State and the Pac-12 could make out like the proverbial bandits and take home much more money than they would have even if Miami had made the game.

The final piece of the puzzle fell into place on Monday after Boise State withdraw from the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl due to some extremely vague ‘COVID issues’ that athletic director Jeramiah Dickey seemed at a loss to describe, let alone quantify. You can read the full story of the Boise State withdrawal along with some of the most vague and rambling quotes from an athletic director in history at this link:


Arizona Bowl organizers briefly tried to salvage the game but with an ‘opening’ in the more lucrative Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl the outcome of their effort was a foregone conclusion:

The Sun Bowl has a payout over $4 million, and the Arizona Bowl less than $400,000. The Sun Bowl also is set to air on CBS, while the Arizona Bowl was to be the only bowl game not on linear television, rather scheduled to be streamed at BarstoolSports.com.

There’s not a lot of transparency about the process by which Boise State’s original opponent–Central Michigan–ended up taking Miami’s spot against Washington State. Word is that Washington State refused to play in the Arizona Bowl and as you can see from the quote above they had over four million good reasons not to. As luck would have it for Central Michigan they were already in Tucson, Arizona which is a four hour or so drive from El Paso.

Clearly, the Chippewas are going to get something for playing in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl but if you think they’re going to get a full cut you’re dreaming:

Central Michigan and the MAC aren’t expected to receive the full payout from the Sun Bowl; parties from the schools, conferences and bowl committee were negotiating a payout throughout the day Monday. Financial terms weren’t immediately disclosed.

And they won’t be disclosed, immediately or otherwise. That’s because the Pac-12 and Washington State will be getting significantly more money than they would have received had Miami not withdrawn. Washington State’s athletic department can use anything they can get since they’re deep in debt despite receiving between $35 and $45 million annually from the Pac-12. The profligate management of the athletic department has become a serious issue with Washington State administrators. Luke Premo, a professor who’s also on the Faculty Senate, isn’t buying the athletic department’s latest financial plan. His skepticism is justified given that the athletic department has $83.9 million USD in internal debt:

“In the end, this plan doesn’t show much courage. It merely kicks the can down the road without addressing at all how the athletics department must pay back $83.9M of internal debt or that, in light of consistently insufficient revenue streams, they must decrease six- and seven-figure salaries in order to carve out $2.4M to cover their Pac-12 conference fee.”

Even though Premo’s quotes are from way back in May his comments about bowl games are downright prescient:

“Even though it seems like 70% of college teams now go to some college bowl game, the proceeds from most of those bowls are not large enough to explain the very high projected values. I would like to believe they aren’t betting our house on the notion that WSU football will be in the Rose Bowl every year for the next 20 years straight, but it is hard to tell given the limited information I see in the Action Items.”

Premo needn’t worry–Washington State’s athletic department will be out of the hole in 20 years or so assuming that they can find more opponents that they can screw out of a bowl payout like Central Michigan.

WSU Faculty Senate member Matthew Carroll was a bit more diplomatic but equally as skeptical:

“We recognize that these current steps will get us through the short term, but is the problem really going to go away? My colleagues and I think that it probably is not.”

“There were several plans by which this debt was going to be reduced and ultimately retired, and so far, none of them have worked. The debt that the athletics department is spending is real dollars, but the athletic department’s plan to fundraise their way out of the situation is aspirational.”

The WSU athletic department is blaming their financial woes on–surprise, surprise–the COVID-19 pandemic. In all fairness, the pandemic has hurt revenues for every college program during the last couple of years. That doesn’t, however, explain how Washington State’s athletic department found themselves more than $80 million in the hole.

Alas, the COVID-19 pandemic has ‘taketh away’ but for Washington State it has also ‘giveth’. WSU AD Pat Chun was able to talk about ‘prioritzing the bowl experience’ with a straight face which says everything about the high level of sleaze in college athletics:

“We are grateful for the diligent work of the Sun Bowl Association, the Pac-12 Conference, the Mid-American Conference and Central Michigan University to ensure the 2021 Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl will be played. A special thank you to CMU’s director of athletics Amy Folan and head coach Jim McElwain for prioritizing the bowl experience for both teams, especially the seniors who will be playing their final college football game.”

Translation–Central Michigan is just happy to be here and will accept a pittance so Washington State and the Pac-12 can pocket a big payday.

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