Think you have what it takes to be CEO of the Orange Bowl? (USATSI)
Think you have what it takes to be CEO of the Orange Bowl? (USATSI)

It continues to pay to be a bowl director -- and the compensation is rising among the nonprofit bowl organizations.

Outback Bowl president and CEO Jim McVay appeared to be the highest-paid bowl director in fiscal year 2012 by receiving $857,624, according to tax forms. McVay's total compensation more than doubled from a decade before, when he received $404,253 in 2002.

McVay is hardly alone. At least seven bowls paid their CEO more than half a million dollars in 2012, according to tax forms for some of the oldest bowl organizations. (It's very likely an eighth bowl director, the Peach Bowl's Gary Stokan, was paid over $500,000. He previously was above that mark, but his salary was not listed on the Peach's most recent tax form.) As recently as 2005, no bowl director made $500,000.

In 2001, the highest-paid bowl executive was McVay at $374,681, according to a 2007 article by the San Diego Union-Tribune. Today, at least nine bowls have paid their director more than $400,000.

Back in 2001, the average compensation for bowl directors at the Outback, Sugar, Fiesta/Insight, Orange, Emerald, Alamo, Gator, Capital One/Champs Sports, Cotton, Rose, Holiday/Poinsettia, Music City, Sun and Independence was $174,037. By 2005, the average pay for those 14 bowl directors was $288,539. In 2012, those same bowls (some with different names) paid their directors an average of $507,672.

Some of the 38 bowl games are run by tax-exempt charitable organizations and are subsidized in part by unsold ticket sales. Last year, conferences and schools combined to absorb $24 million in unsold tickets, according to the NCAA's financial review of 2013-14 bowl games. Ticket allotments schools must buy were reduced at many bowl games this year.

According to Charity Navigator, of the 3,929 charities in its 2014 study, 67 charities paid their CEOs between $500,000 and $1 million. Another 12 charities rewarded their top executive with $1 million or more in compensation.

The median 2012 compensation for CEOs of charities with expenses between $13.5 million and $25 million was $221,777, the Charity Navigator study showed. Bowl expenses in 2012 for games with available tax forms had a median of $9.5 million and ranged from $672,000 to $56 million.

The Cotton Bowl's Rick Baker exceeded $1 million in 2011 ($1,028,280). Baker's pay dropped to $767,451 in 2012, although that still represented a 53 percent increase from his pay two years earlier. The Cotton worked its way into the six-bowl mix of the highly lucrative College Football Playoff.

Some bowl executives are paid in part from related nonprofit organizations that support the bowl and its activities. Bowls often cite that they bring in tourism dollars for cities during a down time of the year and provide national exposure for communities on TV broadcasts.

Bowl Director Compensation for 2012
Bowl CEO Total Pay 2-Year Pay
Bowl Net Assets
Outback Jim McVay $857,624 +14% $4.9 million
Sugar Paul Hoolahan $814,207 +28% $55.6 million
Cotton Rick Baker $767,451 +53% $15.3 million
Rose William Flinn* $344,860   $21.3 million
  Scott McKibben* $360,162 +25%  
Fiesta/Cactus Robert Shelton** $645,936 +10% $25.2 million
Orange Eric Poms $600,009 +22% $49.5 million
Alamo Derrick Fox $544,461 +18% $14.4 million
Taxslayer Rick Catlett $471,216 +18% $3.6 million
Citrus/Russell Athletic Steve Hogan $381,173 +29% $8.4 million
Music City Scott Ramsey $366,320 +18% $1.1 million
Foster Farms Gary Cavalli $350,740 -7% $365,857
Holiday/Poinsettia Bruce Binkowski $324,329 +15% $4.6 million
Military^ Steve Beck $257,311 +23% $251,017
Sun Bernie Olivas $158,500 -7% $1.1 million
Independence Missy Setters $120,414 +3% $602,805
Famous Idaho Potato Kevin McDonald $120,000 N/A $201,727
Note: All figures are from fiscal year 2012 unless otherwise noted. Total pay includes salary, bonuses and other benefits reported on the bowl organization’s tax forms. ^ - The Military Bowl's figures are from fiscal year 2013. * - The Rose Bowl's Scott McKibben resigned in 2011 and was replaced by William Flinn. McKibben continued to be paid in fiscal year 2012. The combined pay for McKibben and Flinn in 2012 was $705,022, a 25 percent increase from McKibben's compensation in 2010. ** - The Fiesta Bowl's Robert Shelton resigned in 2014 and was replaced by Mike Nealy. The two-year pay increase for the Fiesta dates to John Junker's salary in 2010 before he was fired.