The Fiesta Bowl has been in a ton of hot water lately over campaign financing and general “football relationship building.” Today, the special committee appointed by the bowl to investigate the allegations of dirty deeds released its findings, and there was some damning information revealed – including some eye-raising financial expenditures.
Not surprisingly, the Fiesta turned CEO John Junker’s siesta into a dirt nap.
Among the highlights of the committee’s report:
- Junker had memberships to four golf courses around the country: two in Arizona, one in Orgeon and one at illustrious Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla.
- Junker received a car stipend of $27,000 per year for himself and his wife.
- Executives were reimbursed for cable, Internet and satellite radio at their homes.
- The bowl spent a cool $33,000 on Junker’s 50th birthday celebration. (Dennis Kozlowski thinks that’s so cute.)
- Bonuses for staff members for births, weddings celebrations and sometimes for no reason at all.
- A $1,200 visit to a Phoneix strip club for Junker and two other Fiesta employees, furthering the NCAA’s academic mission by helping fund the education of two Maricopa Community College students named Destiny and Cashmere.
My personal favorite: “Junker was reimbursed for a June 22, 2008, charge of $2,285.96 for Nike golf equipment… Junker was playing gof in a Nike tournament and so the Executive Committee thought it would be a ‘great idea’ for Junker to have all Nike equipment to play with – ‘Just trying to keep our sponsor happy.’”
The bowl is also paying former Big 12 commissioner and University of Oklahoma Athletic Director Donnie Duncan $4,000 a month for “consulting fees,” as well as “scholarship money” to Duncan’s grandchildren.
The coup de grâce: The bowl reimbursed nearly $50,000 in employee political contributions.
(Throughout the report, Fiesta committee members claim to have no knowledge of the extra benefits provided or why they would have been provided to anyone on staff.)
So, is this the end for the Fiesta’s run as a BCS bowl? Like the class dunce, the BCS execs want the Glendale, Ariz.-based bowl to write an essay explaining why it should be allowed to stay in the club.
Of course, the people who make that decision are the same people who were wined and dined by the Fiesta staff at their numerous events throughout the year, most notably at the $1.2 million Fiesta Frolic held each summer. Almost every head coach and athletic director in D-I football attends each year.
You have to think however that Cotton Bowl executives are ecstatic about this news, as they have been quietly bidding for a shot to step up to the big time in their new digs at JerryWorld. Legally, I don’t think anything can happen to the Fiesta until the next TV contract negotiations in 2014, but it may have used up all its goodwill with a BCS organization that desperately needs some good news.
No amount of spin can make this look good for the Fiesta, and it could be bad news for the rest of the BCS bowls, too. You can bet that if some antsy politicians in Pasadena, Calif., or New Orleans or Miami want to make a name for themselves, there will be a few more investigations just like this one.
(Contact JJ Worthington at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow JJ on Twitter: @JJ_Worthington.)