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NCAA lets Fiesta keep its bowl license

- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 17, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The Fiesta Bowl is in the clear. The NCAA is letting the top-tier bowl game keeps its license, though it was placed on one year's probation.

The NCAA's postseason bowl licensing subcommittee announced the decision Tuesday, saying that Fiesta Bowl officials, who also run the Insight Bowl, will have to meet in person with the subcommittee at its annual gathering next April to provide a progress report on the game's management and business plan changes.

The decision comes in the wake of a scandal at the Arizona-based bowl that included apparently illegal campaign contributions from staff and lavish spending by the former CEO on parties and a night at a strip club.

The NCAA's ruling comes as little surprise.

Last week, the Bowl Championship Series fined the Fiesta Bowl $1 million, but allowed it to remain part of the system that determines major college football's national champion.

The Fiesta Bowl went before a BCS task force and presented to plan to make sure transgressions committed under its former CEO and president, John Junker, would not be repeated.

"We look forward to meeting with the subcommittee on an annual basis as required by the terms of our probation, and to providing them with a progress report about the many of the changes that we have made," Fiesta Bowl Chairman of the Board Duane Woods said in a statement. "We will continue ... to ensure the highest standards of governance, oversight, transparency, honest and integrity moving forward. We are confident that with hard work, perseverance and the support of our sponsors and partners, we are headed in the right direction."

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 inappropriate spending, such as $33,000 for a Pebble Beach, Calif., birthday bash for 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 since been fired.

Nick Carparelli, chair of the postseason bowl licensing subcommittee and senior associate commissioner at the Big East Conference, sounded a familiar refrain in his statement.

Much the way BCS officials did last week, Carparelli said his group was troubled with the findings of the independent report but supports the Fiesta Bowl's "new direction."

"The subcommittee was greatly concerned with the apparent lack of oversight and integrity associated with previous Fiesta Bowl management," Carparelli said. "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."

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