Based on its initial response, the Fiesta Bowl's Board of Directors was clearly hoping the only major casualty of the burgeoning scandal over the bowl's finances would be newly fired CEO John Junker, who got the boot Tuesday for allegedly using nonprofit Fiesta Bowl funds to underwrite thousands of dollars in campaign contributions by employees, an employee wedding, a visit to a Phoenix strip club and a 50th birthday party for himself, to cherry-pick from the bowl's official report. But the BCS isn't letting them off the hook quite that easily. From the Arizona Republic:
Bill Hancock, executive director of the Bowl Championship Series, said the Fiesta Bowl could be removed from the elite group that hosts a national championship game every four years.
"The BCS group takes this matter very seriously and will consider whether they keep a BCS bowl game, and we will consider other appropriate sanctions," Hancock told The Arizona Republic. "If the bowl does remain a BCS bowl its handling of thing will be closely monitored going forward."
Make that very closely monitored. After Hancock's statement to the Republic, the BCS issued a separate statement of its own asking the Fiesta Bowl to "demonstrate why it should remain a BCS bowl game" in light of the 276-page report. Its response will be judged by a "task force," composed of two conference commissioners, two university presidents and two athletic directors, which — once the panel gets to read for itself the fairly unbelievable excesses in the report, implicating far more than just Junker — is certain to greet the appeal with six sets of folded arms. The bowl enlisted a high-powered defense attorney last month to deal with the ongoing interest of the Arizona Attorney General's office, not the BCS, but it looks like it may need him to show a little versatility with this one.
The BCS has never acted in an oversight or enforcement capacity in its 13-year existence, mainly because there was no one to oversee or enforce; Hancock has only been on board as the Series' first executive director for a little over a year, and it's still basically just him aside from annual meetings with conference commissioners. But the prospect of being ejected from the most exclusive club in college football is a sufficiently existential threat for the Fiesta Bowl to take it very, very seriously. Outside of the BCS, the TV money starts to dry up, ticket prices start to fall, and the once-every-four-year cash cow of the national championship game is out of reach. It becomes, officially, a second-tier bowl.
The Cotton Bowl knows the feeling, having been hopped in the pecking order by the upstart Fiesta when the heavy-hitting games formed their first alliance in the mid-'90s. The Cotton was already on a mission to make itself over as an "unofficial" BCS bowl game, moving from its traditional venue into a state-of-the-art pro stadium two years ago and last year pushing the game a full week beyond the traditional kickoff on New Year's Day. It has to feel like the sun is rising on a new day and it suddenly finds itself occupying the high ground while smoke and a few sustained moans begin to waft out of its nemesis' camp. There's not going to be a better time to make a move.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.