- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 29, 2011

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. (AP) - The Fiesta Bowl will be asked to justify its inclusion in the BCS after organizers for the Arizona game fired president and CEO John Junker for “an apparent scheme” to reimburse employees for political contributions and “an apparent conspiracy” to cover it up.

The Fiesta Bowl released a scathing internal report Tuesday.

The reimbursements, listed as at least $46,539, are an apparent violation of state campaign finance laws and the charter that allows the Fiesta Bowl its nonprofit status. The Arizona attorney general’s office is conducting a probe of the matter.

The BCS reacted swiftly, saying it would undertake an investigation of its own to “consider whether the Fiesta Bowl should remain a BCS bowl game or other appropriate sanctions.”

The Fiesta board of directors voted unanimously to fire Junker “for his improper and inappropriate activities documented” in the report.

“The entire Fiesta Bowl family is angered and disappointed by what we’ve seen in the report and by the actions of Mr. Junker,” Fiesta Bowl board chairman Duane Woods told reporters at the event’s headquarters in downtown Scottsdale. “The Fiesta Bowl is greater than a few individuals, and the lesson here really is that we placed too much trust in a single individual.”

Woods did not take questions.

Junker, in his ubiquitous bright yellow Fiesta Bowl sports jacket, had been the face of the event for three decades, leading it from an upstart event to one of the BCS giants. With an annual salary of about $600,000, he had been on paid administrative lead since Feb. 4 after, the board said, he failed to comply with two written directives to cooperate with the investigation.

The board said the probe also uncovered “excessive compensation, nonbusiness and inappropriate expenditures and inappropriate gifts.”

Junker’s attorney, Steve Dichter, said via email that his client did not have access to the report before it was made public. He said the document was being studied before it was determined whether Junker would have a comment on it.

The 276-page report of an investigation that conducted by Fiesta Bowl board members and a retired Arizona state Supreme Court justice, was published on the bowl’s Web site fiestabowl.org.

The investigators said it found the “apparent scheme” to reimburse at least $46,539 for employees’ political contributions.

The probe also found “an apparent conspiracy to conceal the reimbursement scheme from the bowl’s Board of Directors and state officials,” according to the news release accompanying the report.

The BCS issued a statement from executive director Bill Hancock and Penn State University President Graham Spanier, chair of the presidential oversight committee.

“We are deeply disappointed and troubled to learn of these findings related to the Fiesta Bowl,” the statement said. “Unprofessional, unethical or improper behavior is unacceptable. There is no place for such activities in higher education or in collegiate sports. It is expected that all parties contracted with the BCS will live up to the highest standards. We do not wish to be associated with entities that believe otherwise. “

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