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Saying ‘Aloha’ to the Sugar Bowl

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Doug Krizner: Over the next 48 hours, it’s a college football bonanza: 12 bowl games, including the David and Goliath match-up between the University of Hawaii and Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.

These teams receive millions for their participation. But for a small team like Hawaii, the payout and the publicity can mean a pretty penny. Andrea Gardner has more.

Andrea Gardner: When the University of Hawaii beat Washington earlier this month, they won the right to go where they’ve never gone before: to a major bowl game. With that will come an estimated $4.5 million. It’s said to be more money than Hawaii’s entire football budget.

University officials have yet to decide how that money will be spent, but students are already debating if the money should go to athletics or academics. Both could use funds to repair aging facilities, says journalist Mark Platt from the Honolulu Advertiser.

Mark Platt: Money like this, even though relatively small in the great scheme of things, it could serve a great need. For the most part, most of the students would tell you, or the legislators would tell you, that the money should go to the athletic department, because those facilities really are pretty downtrodden.

Last year, Boise State was standing in Hawaii’s cleats — a small team from a small conference, playing in the Fiesta Bowl. The school received a $4.5 million payout, which helped fund a stadium expansion project. There were also residual benefits, like strong ticket sales, national publicity, and licensing deals that yielded a half a million dollars.

Boise Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier says more importantly, recruitment improved:

Gene Bleymaier: When our coaches go into living rooms around the country now, there’s not a lot of questions about who you are. They know who we are, they’re excited. So hopefully we can capitalize on that, and continue to have the success that we’ve enjoyed.

Other schools around the country want their Boise State moment, and they’re investing to make it happen.

Sports accounting expert Michael Granof said for many years, schools have been in an arms race, paying millions for bigger facilities and better coaches.

Michael Granof: Football does bring all sorts of intangible benefits. Now whether they’re worth the costs or not, that’s another question. And I think schools today think they’re benefiting far more from their football programs than they actually are.

Granof says with the exception of the Notre Dames and Ohio States of the world, few college football programs actually turn a profit year after year.

In Los Angeles, I’m Andrea Gardner for Marketplace.

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