So the NCAA has a minor problem when it comes to the Fiesta Bowl. On one hand, it can't ignore the widespread corruption under ousted bowl CEO John Junker, whose outrageous expense account, fishy campaign contributions and weepy admission that the bowl openly courted politicians' favor with tickets, trips, gifts, fundraisers and other boondoggles command a longer look. There's some not insignificant chance that there won't be a Fiesta Bowl soon if the NCAA decides to pull its license.
On the other hand, when it comes to assembling the actual committee to look into the operation, apparently it's impossible to find a dozen people affiliated with big-time college football who haven't been wined and dined by the Fiesta Bowl:
WASHINGTON (AP)—Nine of the 11 members of an NCAA panel that will help decide the Fiesta Bowl's fate attended a bowl-sponsored retreat that included free meals, resort rooms and golf outings.
The nine names all showed up on a 2008 "Fiesta Frolic" attendee list obtained by Playoff PAC in a public records request. The group provided the list to The Associated Press.
"Those types of things are typical in any kind of business," said [subcommittee chairman Nick] Carparelli, who is also senior associate commissioner at the Big East Conference. "I don't see those being a conflict of interest in any way for our committee members. I do think we should be more sensitive to those issues in the future, and the committee is going to be reviewing the issue moving forward … and make sure that all the members understand the possible conflicts of interest."
Specifically, the 2008 edition of the annual junket included — on the Fiesta Bowl's dime — a weekend hotel stay at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix; free rounds of golf at both the Biltmore course and the Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale; two dinners; spa certificates; and gift baskets for attendees and their spouses. (The bowl didn't pay for travel.) According to the 284-page internal report released by the bowl, the whole business was such an obvious boondoggle that some attendees suggested changing the name to "Valley of the Sun Experience & Fiesta Bowl Seminars," because "Fiesta Frolic" just sounded like too much of a boondoggle.("Boondoggle" being their word, for the record, as quoted in the report.)
Other subcommittee names on the list of invitees include Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn and ADs from Central Michigan, Middle Tennessee State, New Mexico, Oregon State and San Jose State; the only members of the subcommittee who haven't attended a Fiesta Bowl junket are Duke coach David Cutcliffe and Southern Miss athletic director Richard Giannini, who happened to enjoy a similar excursion courtesy of the Orange Bowl last year. (Maybe this is why a former Fiesta employee once needed to expense $13,000 worth of golf balls.) All have denied any improper dealings of conflict of interest, naturally, but that hasn't stopped BCS haters from labeling them "freeloaders," "morally bankrupt," "on the take" and doppelgängers of the debased International Olympic Committee. And they're still not scheduled to meet with Fiesta Bowl reps until later this week.
Speaking of the BCS, its own seven-man "task force" that met with bowl officials in Chicago over the weekend to review the Fiesta's big-money status included a pair of "Fiesta Frolic" vets, executive director Bill Hancock and Sun Belt commissioner Wright Waters. I suppose it would be inappropriate if they started trying to make it square now, wouldn't it?
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.