Fiesta Bowl Still In The BCS
Posted May 11, 2011

The BCS findings and ruling has come in, and the Fiesta Bowl is still a part of the BCS. Is this fair? Did the BCS simply take care of its own? For now, the Fiesta appears to have satisfied the task forces, and it'll take a $1 million fine and more of a house cleaning to stay among the elite games. Did it all work out like it should've?

Fiesta Still In The BCS

CFN Thoughts

By Pete Fiutak

The Fiesta Bowl is still a part of the BCS. The system has taken care of its own.

The issues with the Fiesta Bowl might seem like nothing more than shady business dealings, while most fans would rather worry about who might be playing in the game, but this really is a juicy story and it might change the way the business of bowl games is handled.

To summarize as quickly as possible, the Fiesta Bowl used funds to pay employees who made political donations, to the tune of around $45,000, and bowl CEO John Junker used Fiesta money to pay off things like a night of fun at a strip club and an extravagant birthday party. Paying off the fun for CEO's Gone Wild is a problem, but the political contributions were a big problem that could still have issues when it comes to taxes - the bowl is set up as a nonprofit enterprise and isn't allowed to divert money for political fundraising.

The Fiesta Bowl, for all intents and purposes, is being slapped with the lack of institutional control tag, but the bowl and the oversight committees are taking steps to right the ship. Junker, who reportedly was making almost $700,000 a year, was canned, a purge of offending members of the board of directors is in the works, and the Fiesta Bowl has to pay a fine of $1 million.

Here's the problem for all of the critics; the Fiesta Bowl, basically, got away with paying tip money and it still gets to be a part of the BCS.

Bill Hancock, the executive director of the BCS, has been quoted as saying that the fine and the house cleaning being done were the "appropriate actions." But Hancock is nothing more than a corporate shill for the BCS, and everything he says and everything he does is about preserving the status quo. The BCS wants the Fiesta Bowl to stick around because it doesn't want to do anything that might diminish the integrity of the current bowl system, and while $1 million might seem like a big penalty, that's nothing compared to the tens of millions the bowl game generates from things like ticket sales, tourism, and corporate sponsorship. It's hard to take anything Hancock says seriously because his talking points – like the idea that the FBS teams can't have a playoff because of academic concerns – are consistently wrong. This is the equivalent of Bud Selig talking tough about stamping out performance enhancing drugs.

While Hancock isn't believable, the conference commissioners are. The task force put together to look into the Fiesta Bowl's changes seems to be satisfied, and while the commissioners are part of the non-playoff problem and also want to keep the bowl world as is, they're not going to put their necks out on the line unless significant changes have been made. When Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe and SEC Commissioner Mike Slive are willing to go on the record and say the Fiesta Bowl has changed, then there really does appear to be an honest effort being made to stay among the elite BCS games.

While the BCS types would like this to all go away, and the Fiesta Bowl should be fine now with new people running the show and with a watchful eye on the finances, the NCAA isn't quite ready to close the books.

The NCAA still has to decide whether or not it wants to continue to license the bowl, and while there probably won't be any major rulings that differ from the BCS task force findings, this will serve notice to the Fiesta and the rest of the bowl games that play time is over. Now, it's going to be really, really tough to get a new bowl game started, with the NCAA choosing to wait three years before allowing any new games to pop up after the way the Fiesta Bowl ran its non-profit business. Now, the NCAA is going to take a harder look at the other bowl games, especially the BCS games, to make sure that there aren't similar issues that could embarrass the bowl process further.

So now the scandal that started in December of 2009 appears to be over and the storm has passed. But for those still leery of the way the bowls operate and the millions of dollars that are flowing in, it's going to take more than a few firings and a fine to assume major changes to the system are coming.