The college football season reaches its climax tonight when Alabama and Texas meet in the Citi BCS National Championship Game - Pasadena Tournament of Roses. The actual Rose Bowl Game Presented by Citi was decided between Ohio State and Oregon six days earlier. Whether or not you consider all of this confusing, it's that four-letter word attached to both the wordier-titled title game and the grander reference to "The Granddaddy of Them All" that most of us should find most annoying, if not outright vulgar.
According to Houston Chronicle business columnist Loren Steffy, title sponsor Citigroup has accepted roughtly $50 billion in U.S. taxpayer money to remain in business, paid less than half of it back, yet continues to underwrite the staging of sporting events. Citigroup also ranks among the nation's top underwriters of private student loans, which Steffy points out are offered to students at adjustable rates that start lower than federally backed student loans, but then balloon typically before they can be paid off. "In other words, a lot of students are getting suckered into paying more than they should for college," Steffy wrote yesterday. "By sponsoring the Bailout Bowl, Citi is using our money to exploit college students."
Citigroup - which stirred nationwide controversy with its purchase of naming rights to the year-old home of the New York Mets (slightly less controversy arose when the company bought my mortgage) - has to advertise, Steffy wrote, or we taxpayers may never see our money again. "But sponsoring college bowl games isn't typical advertising," he added. "It's another example of finance companies worming their way into the lucrative college market, associating their names with institutions of higher learning."
Of course, creation of an NCAA Football Playoff could solve this problem. NCAA, remember, is not a four-letter word.