Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Fiesta Fiasco: Bowl to have sit down with NCAA licensing committee

image’s Tom Fornelli reported late last night that the beleaguered Fiesta Bowl will have a meeting with the NCAA subcommittee in charge of sanctioning bowl games.

At stake is not whether the Fiesta Bowl continues to be a part of the Bowl Championship Series. But whether the bowl is even sanctioned as an official post season contest in the Football Bowl Division. Having the BCS yank the Fiesta’s credentials as one of the series’ Big Dogs would be bad enough, as it would reshuffle selections for the remaining bowls. The domino effect would likely end any chance of another mid major program returning to a BCS bowl until the Fiesta either rights its listing ship or a replacement is found, relegating the once mighty Fiesta to the second tier.

Dennis Poppe, NCAA vice president of baseball and football, told The Arizona Republic on Tuesday that the Fiesta Bowl had been invited to meet with the 11-member group.

He told the newspaper the Fiesta could potentially have its four-year license revoked, though in the past licenses had only been revoked because of financial or attendance problems.

The meeting is in response to a report commissioned by the Arizona-based game that led to the firing of its longtime president for alleged misuse of funds.

The Fiesta Bowl also released a statement in response to the meeting.

"We look forward to meeting with the NCAA to answer any questions about the Special Committee report, and to discuss the new bylaws, policies and controls that the board of directors has put in place to prevent the activities described in the report from occurring again."

I'm not sure why the Fiesta Bowl would be looking forward to this meeting seeing what the consequences could be, but what has the Fiesta Bowl done lately to prove to any of us it knows what it's doing? Though, admittedly, I don't think there's any chance that the Fiesta Bowl will have it's license revoked. Odds are that if there is any real punishment, it would end up being something like a one-year probation, which would mean a season without the Fiesta Bowl. 

According to NCAA bylaw "The Football Issues Committee shall prepare licensing documents that require the management of each postseason bowl game to enter into a contractual agreement through the NCAA licensing program. This agreement stipulates that the bowl management agrees to comply with the NCAA's principles for the conduct of intercollegiate athletics, as set forth in Constitution 2 and relevant bylaws and interpretations, and with the restrictions on game negotiations in Bylaw 18.7 in consideration for receiving licensing of its postseason bowl game."

The NCAA could also decide to let the game be played and take 50% of the gate (pages 16-17 here). If the NCAA did decide to put the game on probation, then it would also be possible that the BCS would go ahead and replace the Fiesta Bowl with the Cotton Bowl, as some have speculated.

John Junker, CEO of the Fiesta Bowl, was fired last month after the release of an independent committee investigation report detailing alleged political campaign finance law violations, lavish parties, exorbitant gifts and financial misconduct. On a side note, the same corporate organization also runs the Bowl, so there might even be two gored oxes when all knives are put away.

Among some of the juicier details: A $1,200 tab at a local strip joint, tens of thousands in bogus bonuses paid to employees who funneled the money to political campaigns, a lavish $33,000 50th birthday party for Junker, Gold coins, cars… They were rock stars.

Fiesta’s fate will have to get sorted out in about six months, amid a flurry of activity by other bowls and conferences whose alliances could be affected by the loss of the Fiesta. The Cotton Bowl looms as a potential replacement in the BCS, but the Capital One could also make a run at the slot, setting up a potential bidding war between Orlando and Dallas.

That would make for a pretty darned interesting offseason, wouldn’t it?

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