Could Fiesta Bowl and Pac-12 be partners?
If the Fiesta Bowl is dropped from the Bowl Championship Series it might be interested in an affiliation with the new Pac-12.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Pac-10 Conference's lineup of bowl games, historically a source of irritation to many fans, could continue evolving with the recent controversy surrounding financial mismanagement of the Fiesta Bowl.
If the Fiesta is dropped from the Bowl Championship Series, but survives as a lesser bowl, it would need at least one new affiliated conference, and proximity to the new Pac-12 Conference would make that a possibility.
The bowls are starting the second year of a four-year contract cycle, but the Fiesta faces the possibility of a downgrade from the BCS after last week's scathing report from an outside investigation that resulted in the ouster of Fiesta CEO John Junker.
"I think it taints everybody," said one bowl director. "It's really unfortunate, particularly in this day and age when there's all this public debate about bowls versus playoffs."
The Fiesta mess comes on the heels of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," by authors Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter and Jeff Passan.
"This is their worst nightmare," said the bowl official, referring to the BCS executives.
The Fiesta faces two immediate challenges: A BCS task force is looking into the report and suggested reforms and will make recommendations to the commissioners of the BCS, while the Cotton Bowl, played in Jerry Jones' new stadium outside Dallas, sits in waiting.
A more dire consequence — less likely — is decertification by the NCAA postseason licensing subcommittee that meets April 26-29, which could put the Fiesta on the sideline this season.
Meanwhile, the Pac-10 has never had an especially close relationship to the Fiesta, anchored on one side of its BCS agreement to the Big 12. That stems in part from the Fiesta's snub of some BCS-worthy Pac-10 teams in the past.
The Pac-10's bowl contracts run through the 2013 season. Any future tie-up with the Fiesta hinges partly on what sort of reforms the bowl undertakes and its fate in the postseason hierarchy.
"They've got to clean house," said John Folmer, longtime official with the Sun Bowl. "The board (of directors) says, 'I didn't know, I didn't know.' B.S. Anybody on a board, you've got fiscal responsibility."
The Fiesta mess began with allegations of the bowl illegally pointing staffers toward contributions to political campaigns — which they admitted to, but only after a whitewashed investigation by the bowl initially found otherwise. The outside report opened up a cascade of financial abuses and sloppy bookkeeping at the nonprofit, among them:
• Junker's $33,000, 50th-birthday party at Pebble Beach in California, one of at least 27 trips taken by his family since 2000 and billed to the bowl. One was to see a space shuttle launch in Florida.
• At least $13,000 for wedding-related costs of a key aide to Junker.
• A 12-day, $17,000 trip to Ireland for a Fiesta consultant and his wife.
• A $1,000 bottle of wine ordered by an ex-Fiesta employee.
• A $65,000 bill for the bowl for taking Arizona legislators and extended families to Boston — to see a game and hear a talk by Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo.
• Two $5,000 college-scholarship payments made to the granddaughters of a consultant to the Big 12, Donnie Duncan.
• A $1,241 bill run up at a strip club by Junker, a former associate and the head of the firm that provides security for the Fiesta Bowl. Junker's explanation: "We are in the business where big, strong athletes are known to attend these types of establishments. It was important for us to visit and we certainly conducted business."
The Fiesta Bowl was also known in college athletic circles for the "Fiesta Frolic," a May function including all FBS coaches and athletic directors, who were afforded free hotel, dinner and golf while paying for their travel expenses.
Some attendees have cited the event as worthwhile for scheduling and networking purposes. But the investigative report also notes a push by attendees that resulted in a new name — "Fiesta Bowl Spring College Football Seminars" — "to make the event sound like less of a boondoggle."
The event has been canceled this year, as the bowl goes about rehabilitating itself.
"You've got a lot of making up to do," said Folmer. "The first people they (ought to) make up to are the volunteers that put the bowl on the map — the last guy that closes down the hospitality room and the first guy meeting planes at the airport.
"How do you say you're sorry to those people?"
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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