NCAA confirms: Be it ever so humble, the Fiesta Bowl will go on

Given the Bowl Championship Series' decision to more or less pardon the Fiesta Bowl for the many legal and ethical excesses of its former leadership last week, the NCAA's standing threat to pull the game's operating license wasn't exactly leaving anyone in suspense. But just to make it official, the Postseason Bowl Licensing Subcommittee confirmed today that, yes, there will be a Fiesta Bowl next January:

The NCAA Postseason Bowl Licensing Subcommittee today reaffirmed bowl licenses for the Tostitos Fiesta and Insight bowls on a one-year probationary period.

This includes the requirement that Fiesta Bowl officials meet in person with the subcommittee at its annual meeting in April 2012 to provide a progress report on its management and business plan changes. Additional requirements may be implemented after the new Division I Bowl Licensing Task Force completes its report this fall.
"The subcommittee was greatly concerned with the apparent lack of oversight and integrity associated with previous Fiesta Bowl management," said [Big East associate commissioner and subcommittee chairman Nick] Carparelli. "Considering the business model changes and new direction of the bowl, along with the actions from the BCS, the subcommittee felt comfortable with reaffirming the Fiesta and Insight licenses on a probationary status."

Thus ends the first phase of the Fiesta's journey into the wilderness, from which it emerges exhausted, dirty, a little embarrassed and $1 million lighter, but generally none the worse for wear. Compared to UConn and Oklahoma, which combined to absorb more than $5.1 million in unsold tickets the bowl required the schools to buy at far above market value last winter, it still looks positively rosy. (Or Tostitos-y, as it were.)

Now, on to the rough stuff: An ongoing investigation by the Arizona Attorney General's office, the Maricopa County prosecutors and possibly the FBI into (among other things) illegal campaign contributions and fundraisers meant to curry favor with politicians in violation of the bowl's nonprofit status. (One would suspect the $15.3 million surplus the Fiesta reported last year — that's before it hosted the BCS Championship Game in January — might also cast a few skeptical eyes on that designation.) Presumably, they're not quite as cozy with the prosecutors in those agencies as they were with their juries from the BCS and NCAA. But at any rate, the games will go on.

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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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