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APNewsBreak: Fiesta Bowl fined $1M, stays in BCS
WASHINGTON (AP) - 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 conditions as it let the Fiesta Bowl remain part of the system for deciding college football’s national champion. The demands include strengthening the Fiesta Bowl’s board and imposing greater supervision of bowl executives so 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,” Bill Hancock, executive director of the BCS, said in a telephone interview with the AP. He added that the $1 million fine was meant to reflect the “serious nature of the matter.”
The BCS called for the $1 million to be donated to charities serving Arizona youth.
In a statement, Fiesta Bowl Chairman Duane Woods said: “The Fiesta Bowl Board of Directors understands and accepts the sanctions imposed by the BCS. We think that these tough but fair measures are consistent with our commitment to reform the Fiesta Bowl’s governance and rebuild trust. The fine is substantial, but we are pleased that the BCS has directed that the funds benefit the youth of Arizona.”
A recent internal report by the Fiesta Bowl detailed about $45,000 in reimbursements to employees for political donations, an apparent violation of federal and state laws. It also revealed lavish and inappropriate spending, such as $33,000 for a Pebble Beach, Calif., birthday bash for then-CEO and President John Junker, $13,000 for the wedding and honeymoon of an aide, and a $1,200 strip club tab for Junker and two others. Junker has been fired.
The oversight committee Wednesday accepted recommendations made in a report by a BCS task force which was “deeply troubled” by the Fiesta Bowl’s actions. Those actions, the task force said, strongly suggest “that the bowl’s executive staff frequently acted with scant regard for ethics and proper conduct. Further, it is the opinion of the task force that the bowl’s board of directors over the years was negligent in its oversight responsibilities.”
Even with Wednesday’s ruling, the Fiesta Bowl is not entirely in the clear yet. An NCAA panel will decide whether to continue licensing the bowl. That panel recently delayed the decision, saying it wanted to gather more information and review the BCS task force findings. The NCAA also said it will re-examine its role in licensing bowls more generally, and has put a three-year hold on any new postseason games in the wake of the Fiesta Bowl’s problems.
The actions taken by the BCS were “serious and constructive,” NCAA spokesman Bob Williams, adding that the subcommittee on bowl licensing will meet next week to consider licensing of the Fiesta Bowl and the Insight Bowl, a minor postseason game run by the same organization.
Matthew Sanderson, a founder of Playoff PAC, which advocates switching to a playoff system to determine a national college football champion, noted that former Fiesta CEO Junker made $674,000, in addition to running up extravagant expenses.
Sanderson accused the BCS officials of a “rush to judgment. It was an effort to get a very bad headline out of the way as soon as possible, in the offseason. They should have taken a harder look at it.”
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