Sponsor: National University
Location: San Diego
Matchup: Texas Tech vs. Arizona State
Payout: $2.1 million
It seems just a bit odd that a bowl ostensibly featuring competing universities would be sponsored by another university, but at least the Holiday Bowl's organizers are learning how to make that work.
Last year, this bowl was sponsored by publicly traded Bridgepoint Education (BPI) and its for-profit Ashford University and University of the Rockies. That institution was audited by the Department of Education in 2008 and drew heavy scrutiny for how it was paying recruiters and the amount of federal funding it was taking. U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, used the term "absolute scam" to describe Bridgepoint's operation. For its part, Bridgepoint notes that Ashford University was accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges earlier this year.
The Holiday Bowl opted to bypass that debate this year by signing the private, nonprofit National University as a sponsor. The La Jolla, Calif.-based school has been in operation since 1971, has campuses throughout California and at least six other states and helps adults and members of the military pursue or finish up their undergraduate degrees and take postgraduate courses. With multiple accreditations and a whole lot of accolades from state education departments and branches of the military, National University has made itself a viable alternative for those who couldn't or wouldn't attend the universities on the field.
Their sponsorship places the focus squarely on the "scholar" portion of the scholar-athlete equation. For the Holiday Bowl, that's about as positive as a sponsorship gets.
-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.
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