The 2018 Outback Bowl was turning out to be a field goal-heavy dud through three quarters, but I should have known. This New Year’s Day staple usually stages an exciting game. Eleven of its 31 previous games had been decided by five points or less. It’s usually not settled until the fourth quarter, or an overtime or three. And the SEC usually wins.

Michigan and South Carolina played a snoozer for 42 minutes, and the Wolverines took a 19-3 lead. Then the Gamecocks woke up and scored 23 consecutive points while the Wolverines went into hibernation. When Steven Montac intercepted Michigan quarterback Brandon Peters in the final two minutes, South Carolina wrapped up a 26-19 win before an announced crowd of 45,687 at chilly, rainy, raw Raymond James Stadium.

“We don’t have all the trophies and the tradition and the history,” said Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp after the game. “But we’ve got some grit.”

Yes, that Will Muschamp, the former Florida head coach who couldn’t get the Gators’ offense moving, the former defensive coordinator at Auburn (twice), LSU, and Texas, now in Columbia, where he steered the Gamecocks to nine wins in his second season.

Apparently, his grit has rubbed off on his team.

Meanwhile, Jim Harbaugh seems to be going the other way at Michigan. The Wolverines have won 10, 10, and eight games in his three seasons in Ann Arbor. They have yet to play for the Big Ten title during his tenure and finished this season with three straight losses. But the big beef from Wolverine fans is Harbaugh’s record in big games. Michigan is 0-3 against arch-rival Ohio State, 1-2 against in-state rival Michigan State, and 1-2 in bowl games. And he gets upset when reporters ask him if he’s going back to the NFL. Harbaugh may find himself somewhere unexpected next season — on the hot seat.

No look back at the 32nd edition of the Outback Bowl would be complete without the Tampa Bay Times’ annual story on the Outback Bowl’s president and CEO Jim McVay, and his large compensation package. In 2015, McVay was paid just under $1 million by the Outback Bowl Board of Directors. According to USA Today. McVay’s salary is second highest in the country among bowl game presidents.

Former Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman called the money “kind of galling” in an interview with the Times.

Hillsborough County Commission chairwoman Sandra Murman had no idea how much McVay was being paid.  “Oh my gosh,” was her response when told.

In truth, McVay has run the bowl for almost its entire history, and half of McVay’s money came in the form of commissions on sales generated for the bowl game. Yes, he sells sponsorships and lots of them (including 23 years of Outback Steakhouse as title sponsor) and he gets a cut. Is that really unusual in the business world? McVay also negotiates a lot of the Outback Bowl’s other deals, like the TV partnership with ESPN. The bowl doesn’t have to hire outside help to make the deal because McVay handles it.

They didn’t say as much in the Times story, but both Freedman and Murman sounded incredulous that he could make that much just running a bowl game.After all, it’s only sports, right? But I subscribe to the old business theory that if someone is willing to pay you a certain amount of compensation, whatever that is, then you are worth it.

Here’s looking forward to the 33rd year of the Outback Bowl.

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Photo courtesy of the author.