April 05, 2011
I doubt anyone who took the time last week to absorb the full scope of the Fiesta Bowl's corruption under ousted CEO John Junker really needed the executive director of the Bowl Championship Series to confirm that the bowl is fighting for its BCS life. When your stand accused by your own internal probe of illegal campaign contributions, obstruction of justice and strip club visits reimbursed by nonprofit funds, questions about your privileged status kind of come with the territory.
It didn't follow quite so clearly that the game had any reason to be concerned about its existence, period. But the NCAA told the Arizona Republic today that it's time to start worrying:
The Fiesta Bowl will meet April 28 in New Orleans with an NCAA subcommittee that will determine whether the bowl keeps its operating license, an NCAA official said Tuesday. Dennis Poppe, NCAA vice president of baseball and football, said the Fiesta Bowl has been invited to meet with the 11-member group that licenses college football bowl games.
Options facing the committee include allowing the Fiesta Bowl to keep its license, postponing a decision to a later date or revoking the license, which would stop the bowl game, Poppe said.
A decision also could be made on the future of the Insight Bowl, which the Fiesta Bowl operates, Poppe said.
The license to operate is effectively the only sanction the NCAA has over bowl games, and it's used it in the past (most recently for the Seattle Bowl and Silicon Valley Football Classic) to put financially struggling games out of their misery. But it's never put the kibosh on an existing bowl for corruption, and per Poppe has no "morals or conduct code" to wield if it decides to take on the Fiesta. The subcommittee will just have to pull the plug and let the lawyers sort it out — and where there's tens of millions of tourist dollars and other economic benefits at stake for the state of Arizona, the lawyers will be in hyperdrive to keep the cash cow alive.
They're probably unlikely to appreciate the irony that the very backslapping methods Junker used to build the Fiesta Bowl from a regional boondoggle for hometown Arizona State into a major national destination are the same methods that could spell its demise.
In the meantime, an ethics watchdog group in Washington, D.C., has formally called for an investigation into the bowl's misdeeds by he Federal Election Commission, an agency the group apparently considers even more ineffectual than the NCAA, if that's possible. ("The question here isn't whether anyone broke the law—independent investigators already found violations—it is whether the FEC will do anything about it," said the group's executive director, who couldn't resist adding, "They never do anything about anything.") If it can't find anything to look into at the Fiesta Bowl, the commission might as well start renting the office space: Given the breadth of the corruption and unanimous condemnation in the media — not to mention the all-purpose disgust with the BCS, in general, as strong on Capitol Hill as anywhere in America — targets don't come much fatter.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.