Daniel Ruth: Where do I sign up to get paid what Outback Bowl chief makes?

Published January 4 2018

This has been a miserable failure.

For the several days since the Tampa Bay Times’ Richard Danielson reported that Outback Bowl president and CEO Jim McVay earns a salary of — you might want to sit down and swallow that last sip of coffee to avoid a spit-take — $993,000, I’ve been trying to work up a healthy dose of outrage.

After all, McVay makes more than University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft and the CEOs of Port Tampa Bay and Tampa International Airport, three entities that employ gobs of people and are all huge engines of economic impact throughout not only the city of Tampa but the region as well.

McVay also makes more — much more — than the mayor of Tampa, all seven Tampa City Council members and the chief of police, combined.

How is it possible one guy, whose sole responsibility it is to produce a single football game once a year, could be so handsomely compensated for his labors?

I tried indignation. I tried eyebrow-raised fuming. I even indulged in some high-toned moralistic dithering. Shock was a possibility, too. And so was some good old-fashioned fulminating.

None of it worked. It all turned out to be a monumental failure of vexation.

Are there various executives and public servants who contribute more to our society than Jim McVay? I don’t think even McVay would disagree with that.

It is certainly true the Outback Bowl has become a high-profile sporting event, often drawing very competitive teams and their fans who come into the city every year to attend various functions and spend money. Producing the big game requires extensive marketing of the region, negotiating broadcast rights and numerous sponsorships and cutting merchandising deals.

But it also not unreasonable to assume management of the Outback Bowl is not exactly a 12-month-a-year/24-7 "Ramming speed!!!" demand on McVay’s time.

The predicate for McVay’s hefty paycheck is the argument that events like the Outback Bowl generate a fortune in economic impact. And the Outback Bowl figure tossed around by some economists is that the game and all its surrounding hoopla creates about $30 million in local economic juice, which other economists dismiss as a boatload of phooey.

The working theory here is that while $30 million might well have been spent in Tampa, it doesn’t necessarily all stay in Tampa, going instead into the corporate coffers of hotel and restaurant chains. And some experts in this stuff also note the mystical $30 million is merely money being spent on Outback Bowl events that would normally have been spent on other things, anyway.

This is the same argument that is always raised in sports crazy Tampa Bay whenever it comes to our games. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers argued they needed a new taxpayer funded Hellooooooo Sucker Stadium based on the "economic impact" theory — as if every time Gerald McCoy breaks wind in Lutz, a Mercedes-Benz gets sold in Ruskin.

What Tampa does get because of the Outback Bowl is a few days of very nice exposure on national television. That’s not so bad. But is it worth the $993,000 paid out to McVay?

And therein lies my conundrum with McVay’s paycheck, which raises a simple question. How can I get a job like that? And if you aren’t wondering the same thing, you are only deluding yourself.

You can only make as much money as someone thinks you are worth.

And it would seem the 25 local business executives who serve as the unpaid Outback Bowl board of directors have concluded the 63-year-old McVay, who has held the job for more than 30 years, is worth the compensation he receives, although it’s more than probable that if the board were made up of social workers, homeless people and public school teachers, the CEO’s W-2 form would be somewhat more modest.

You can complain about McVay’s lush salary all you want. That’s more than fair. But if someone offered you $993,000-a-year to stage a single football game, would you say, "Oh tut-tut, no, a thousand times no! I can’t take that much money. Please, please, please pay me much less!"?

Didn’t think so.

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