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Fiesta Bowl severely reprimanded ends up receiving wrist slap

Submitted by on May 11, 2011No Comment

The verdict is in. The Fiesta Bowl will not be kicked out of the BCS.

The BCS presidential oversight committee concluded that the Fiesta Bowl is sincere in its commitment to reform the gross corruption uncovered in a scathing internal report (PDF) detailing about $45,000 in reimbursements to employees for political donations, a direct violation of federal and state laws as well as lavish and friviolus spending, including but not limited to the $33,000 for a Pebble Beach, Calif., birthday bash for then-CEO and president John Junker, $13,000 for the wedding and honeymoon of an aide and a $1,200 strip club tab for Junker and two others.

Following the internal report, the Fiesta Bowl scapegoated, then fired John Junker in a preemptive sacrificial offering to the BCS oversight committee hoping it would spare their BCS membership.

Apparently the oversight committee, headed by Penn State’s very own Graham Spanier, finds the Junker sacrifice acceptable, even going as far as describing it as an effort by the Fiesta Bowl to “clean house”.

“The message is they had cleaned house and addressed their problems, but our group doesn’t believe they went far enough,”

They believe the Fiesta Bowl has taken appropriate steps in addressing the issues in the internal report such as changing expense reimbursement processes for senior staff and establishing criteria to serve on the board, but it has to make additional changes. Including,

removing board members involved in the entire scandal;

Pretty self-explanatory and you would think this would be the first logical step when recovering from any scandal. John Junker might have been a visible, high-profile sacrifice, but he was clearly not the only one to benefit from the lavish expenses.

replace it’s current auditing firm (PriceWaterhouseCoopers) or bring in a new supervisory partner;

Didn’t seem to be working out with the last auditing firm when John Junker dipped into the Fiesta Bowl account like his personal black card. Time to find someone who can get the job done.

conduct an annual independent audit and share the results with the BCS director;

How is an enterprise as large as the Fiesta Bowl getting away with avoiding an annual independent audit? It’s much like running an athletics program sans the compliance department. The fact that the Fiesta Bowl is now required to have one means it was complicit in the past and is finally going to be brought under reasonable oversight measures.

appointing two college administrators to its board;

Probably smart to have some sort of college administrator on a board governing a bowl whose sole function is to stage a football game between college teams.

consult with the BCS on the hiring of a new executive director

Self-explanatory, the BCS wants to make sure this can’t happen again

And to show the Fiesta Bowl just how serious they are, the BCS oversight committee slapped an arbitrary $1 million fine for the illegal campaign contributions and frivolous spending to be donated to charities serving Arizona’s youth. In other words, the Fiesta Bowl pays no real penalty here.

Embattled John Junker with AZ governor Jan Brewer

As a non-profit organization, committing money to charitable causes is what the Fiesta Bowl should already be doing. For an organization whose mission is to “promote volunteerism, athletic achievement and higher education” I have a hard time considering charitable donation, a punishment no matter the amount.

Even the amount itself is comical. The $1 million fine amounts to less than 2 years pay for John Junker who was earning $674,000 in base salary alone. Heck, the bowl just received $2.92 million from UConn for the 14,729 unsold tickets to last year’s game. Considering that 26 percent of UConn athletics budget is covered by public dollars, the Fiesta Bowl really have the Connecticut taxpayers to thank for covering their $1 million fine.

Punishment indeed.

Fortunately for the Fiesta Bowl, this is another step in moving past the scathing internal report and the BCS oversight’s decision not to strip the bowl of it’s BCS status is a huge relief for the organization. But the Fiesta Bowl isn’t in the clear just yet. An NCAA panel will still decide whether to continue licensing the bowl. They recently delayed the decision, saying it wanted to gather more information and review the BCS task force findings. But if the BCS oversight committee’s slap on the wrist is any indication, the Fiesta Bowl has nothing to worry about.

Quick Hits. … It’s official, the eastern cougar, the feline basis for the Nittany Lion is officially extinct. … Help vote for Cael Sanderson’s 159-0 wrestling record as your favorite sports record. … It’s the off-season so may the Joe Paterno heath rumor mongering commence. … And on a serious note, the prayers and thoughts of Nittany Nation are out to the family of Penn State Abington senior Mohan Varughese who was fatally shot in a bikejacking attempt near Temple University on Monday. Varughese was set to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and social science on Friday. …

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