WASHINGTON — The Fiesta Bowl will be allowed to remain part of the Bowl Championship Series, though it must pay a $1 million fine for apparent illegal campaign contributions and inappropriate spending.
The BCS presidential oversight committee, which made the decision Wednesday, also attached several other conditions as it let the Fiesta Bowl remain part of the system for deciding college football's national champion. They included steps to strengthen the Fiesta Bowl's board along with greater supervision of executives to make sure the problems are not repeated, according to materials obtained by The Associated Press.
"The message is they had cleaned house and addressed their problems, but our group doesn't believe they went far enough," said Bill Hancock, executive director of the BCS, in a telephone interview with the AP. He added that the $1 million fine was meant to reflect the "serious nature of the matter."
One million dollars is not nothing: It represents approximately 1/23rd of the Fiesta Bowl's reported assets (although those figures are prior to hosting January's BCS Championship Game) and will be donated to Arizona youth charities that were supposed to be getting it in the first place. It also amounts to a little less than half of the sum it took back from UConn last year to compensate for wildly overpriced tickets that went unsold, or something like 334,388 bags of "Spicy Quesadilla" tortilla chips.
For those of us who ever kind-of half-believed there was a small chance the BCS might actually strip the Fiesta of its privileged status because of a little tough talk in response to the widespread illegality, overindulgence and deceit detailed in the scandalous 284-page internal report that dropped in March, well, don't we feel stupid? The bowl may have lost a sizable chunk of its bank account and most of its dignity — and may still lose its legal nonprofit status, if the Arizona Attorney General's office has anything to say about it — but it still has its old golfing buddies in the college football establishment. Five years from now, they'll all be laughing about this little episode on the 13th green during the Fiesta Frolic — whoops, I mean the "Valley of the Sun Experience & Fiesta Bowl Seminars."
That is, assuming the NCAA doesn't make good on its threat to pull the bowl's operating license, the idea of which I suspect only makes them laugh harder. Those crazy guys know the suits could never stay mad at them!
The only deep-pocketed types who aren't laughing are the ones who run the Cotton Bowl, who have been overtly positioning their game for a run at BCS status for years, and may not have a better opportunity anytime soon. But at least they know now that if anyone uncovers any skeletons in their closet from the campaign, it's not the end of the world.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.