HAD A LITTLE fun last week tweeting about Marshall's $54,000 profit in its bowl game last February.
A small but welcome sum from a small but welcome bowl for the Thundering Herd. But it also serves to illustrate that (a) Conference USA works well most of the time and (b) the bowls are even screwier than we thought.
A number of you are thinking, or should be thinking: Huh? Didn't West Virginia lose nearly $218,000 on its trip to that Orange Bowl? You know, one of those BCS bowls San Diego State is joining the Big East for a better shot at?
When that news came out, WVU partisans unanimously agreed that it was a small price to pay for the exposure. I not only agree, I think it was worth that much to drop 70 on Clemson.
Except for this: Wasn't the Orange an open-the-vault BCS bowl with an alleged $17.5 million payout?
I have a good enough understanding of the process, and know roughly why WVU lost money - outlandish ticket burdens (at outrageous prices) placed on the school, demands on teams arriving early and staying a week, faulty revenue sharing by the conference, and perhaps a little extra spending by the WVU folks.
And yes, the Orange Bowl wields a hammer here. If you turn down a trip to Miami, how do you sell that to recruits?
As Marshall's case in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl St. Petersburg illustrates, it doesn't have to be that way. Remember, the "payout" for that bowl is nowhere close to $17.5 million.
In C-USA, the school got the first $100,000 of ticket revenue, no questions, and split the rest even with the conference. The league office's goal is to pool that money, assume the tab for "reasonable expenses" the teams incur, and try to make all participating schools whole.
The Herd did not have to make it to St. Pete until the Saturday before a Tuesday game - long enough to allow the players time to enjoy their environs, short enough to be sensible.
Marshall wasn't the school needing the most help from the league. Southern Mississippi was the one flying from Hattiesburg (or another nearby airport) to Honolulu, the Golden Eagles' consolation prize after getting jobbed in the new Liberty Bowl agreement.
And perhaps C-USA's agreement with its partner bowls reduces some of their shenanigans, egregious offenses such as the Sugar Bowl charging $350 apiece for the Louisiana State president, athletic director and coach's family to attend. (Many thanks to Yahoo! Sports for that recent ray of sunshine.)
Whatever the case, the league office held expenses down as much as possible and pooled its revenues, easing the fiscal pain all the way around. And that's why David Steele, MU athletics' top number-cruncher, was able to tell me his department made a few dimes.
One hopes the playoff movement - is this really gaining traction, or are we being teased again? - will snap bowl officials into some semblance of ethical behavior.
It seems to be treated like a negative, but I hope the proposed four-team playoff evolves into a full-blown "December Madness" 24-team field.