- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 30, 2011

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. (AP) - The head of the BCS put the Fiesta Bowl on notice Wednesday: “Follow the letter of the law” or lose its place in college football’s lucrative championship system.

BCS officials challenged the Fiesta Bowl to persuade them that extravagant and improper spending behind the firing of longtime CEO and President John Junker will never happen again.

Otherwise, the BCS said it can kick out the Fiesta Bowl altogether. There are plenty of others eager to jump in.

“They know that if they want to do business with us, they need to follow the letter of the law,” BCS executive director Bill Hancock told The Associated Press. “If they fail to do so, they do it at their own peril.”

The Fiesta Bowl released an internal report on Tuesday that uncovered hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of dollars, in “excessive compensation, nonbusiness and inappropriate expenditures and inappropriate gifts.”

Arizona prosecutors are looking into possible criminal charges, focusing on accusations that top officials pressured employees into donating money to favored political candidates and then reimbursed them with bowl funds.

Fiesta Bowl officials placed the blame squarely on Junker, who made $600,000 a year as the affable face of the organization. Over the past two decades, he led the upstart bowl from just another postseason game to one of the largest and most prestigious.

“I must say that the actions undertaken and orchestrated by John Junker and others are shocking and completely unacceptable,” said Duane Woods, the Fiesta Bowl chairman. “Their actions, unfortunately, have tainted the stellar reputation that the Fiesta Bowl has worked so hard to maintain for more than 40 years.”

The Bowl Championship Series also includes the Rose, Orange and Sugar bowls, and draws tens of millions of dollars a year in television revenue, ticket sales and merchandise. Frito-Lay, whose product “Tostitos” is the Fiesta Bowl’s title sponsor, said it was “disappointed” and was monitoring the situation.

The scandal rekindled long-standing criticism of the BCS, one of three organizations whose polls crown national champions. The others are the AP and ESPN/USA Today.

Matthew Sanderson, co-founder of Playoff PAC, a group advocating a playoff system to determine a national college football champion, accused the BCS of making the Fiesta Bowl a scapegoat.

“Any BCS effort to expel the Fiesta Bowl would be a hypocritical act, given the documented irregularities at these other BCS bowls,” he said. “And who’s to say we won’t find the same type of shockingly questionable behavior when the curtain is peeled back at the BCS’s Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl?”

Hancock said he had “absolutely no indication” of similar behavior by the BCS’ other three bowls.

The BCS set up a task force to help determine if the leaders of major college football want to continue doing business in Arizona.

“We want to send a clear and very strong signal to the public,” Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott told the AP, “about the standards and values the conferences that make up the BCS stand for.”

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