Complaint filed to IRS about Orange Bowl sponsored cruise


For all the finger shaking and “tisk, tisk” remarks pointed at Cam Newton and the Buckeye Five for accepting illegal benefits and gifts, wouldn’t it be just a stitch if an NCAA organization got caught reaping the rewards of something for which they didn’t pay?

As a matter of fact …

PlayoffPAC, a political group formed to change college football’s postseason system, is filing a complaint with the IRS regarding a cruise that set sail last June carrying several high-ranking ACC members. The cruise was paid for in full by the Orange Bowl.

The four-day, Royal Caribbean trip included stops at a private island, CocoCay, a visit to Atlantis Paradise Island and access to hospitality rooms, dinners and a private bar. The Orange Bowl has stood firm that the cruise was nothing more than a  Hawaiian-shirt clad, pina colada induced “business trip”.

“Any time you get athletics administrators together, there’s always going to be business discussed,” ACC associate commissioner for public relations Amy Yakola said. “They’re colleagues, and it’s what they all have in common.”

“This particular trip was very timely. Conversations were swirling about league expansions. We had just come off our marketing meetings and were rolling out the campaign to enhance the brands … and ultimately sell tickets.”

As you can imagine, PlayoffPAC called foul, claiming if the Orange Bowl, a non-profit organization, were to use tax-deductible donations, it needed to be used strictly for business with the purpose of serving the public.

“It literally was a pleasure cruise,” Matthew Sanderson, a lawyer and founding member of PlayoffPAC, said. “You look at their own agenda, and there’s no business being done. None.”

To the ACC’s credit, though, it is tough to hear business models when you’re jet skiing alongside a school of dolphins.

All kidding aside, what is interesting is that North Carolina State AD Debbie Yow, who has been very outspoken about impermissible benefits, chose not to attend the cruise.

“Not my thing,” Yow said. “Could be seen as a conflict of interest. Maybe it is. Maybe not. But, I have always declined.”

If one of the ACC’s own had doubts, then there might be some legitimacy to PlayoffPAC’s accusations.

Without a complete agenda and documentation of exactly what happened on the cruise, it’s hard to determine if the Orange Bowl violated an IRS tax law for being a non-profit. Was business discussed on the cruise? Probably.

It’s just a matter of whether that was the only thing going on.