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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

P.S.R. Op-Ed

Can We Find a Silver Lining?

The genesis of the independent special committee’s report is a Dec. 2009 article from The Arizona Republic, which first cast light on Fiesta Bowl C.E.O. John Junker’s misappropriation of funds for purposes outside the bowl’s mission statement. The Republic’s report, which rapidly drew the internal investigation from the bowl itself, stated that “past and present Fiesta Bowl employees… were encouraged to write checks to specific political candidates” and highlighted certain expenditures for “entertainment and lobbyists” that fell outside Junker’s purview as the bowl’s lead executive. Simply put, it’s a cesspool of indecent personal, political and financial behavior – corruption, pure and simple.

The devil is in the details. Money for strip clubs. Trips. Lobbyists. The devil is in the small, small details, like Junker’s $75 gift – paid through the Fiesta Bowl – to the head of the University of Texas honors admission program, of which Junker’s daughter was an applicant. Guess what: she was accepted.

Or Junker’s 50th birthday party, held in beautiful Pebble Beach, Calif., and footed by the Fiesta Bowl. The tab: $33,000. Among the expenses were airfare for Junker and friends, for lodging, for food, drinks, fun in the sun. This is how Junker and his co-conspirators spent their B.C.S. money.

Or a $95,000 check cut for a golf outing with Jack Nicklaus, one Junker charged to his Fiesta Bowl credit card. That doesn’t exactly fit under “bowl research,” does it? Or the roughly $750 charge on that same trip for a company titled “Prestige,” which the report politely claims “may be a limousine service.” Then again, it might not be a car service – I think we know what a service titled “Prestige” might also be.

It’s a stench-filled situation. The stink permeates the Fiesta Bowl, even if those in charge – not Junker, obviously – enacted a full investigation not long after The Republic printed that late-2009 story. The stink passes onto the B.C.S. – guilt by association, even if we’re all too willing to pass judgment on a system most find illogical.

The smell finds its way to those who call the shots on college football’s largest stage, those commissioners and presidents who keep the status quo, as we’re largely incredulous that an individual of Junker’s position could be working outside the lines without any other shot-caller being the wiser. It also finds its way to the television stations that pay the B.C.S. and the Fiesta Bowl an exorbitant sum of money to broadcast the games.

So does anyone win when the Fiesta Bowl and its C.E.O. take such a fall? Yes, believe it or not – and I can think of a few.

1. “Death to the BCS” – Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter and Jeff Passan. Vindication for the three who were at the frontline of the case against the major bowl system. Wetzel and company tore down the B.C.S. games and those who ran them, pointing out the inequalities between the money each game developed and the money it doled out to the teams who drew the gate.

2. Jerry Jones and the Cotton Bowl. The B.C.S. made the following statement after the report’s release: “We have asked the bowl to demonstrate why it should remain a B.C.S. bowl game. The task force will evaluate the bowl’s response, along with the full slate of reforms instituted by the bowl.” What does that mean? That the Fiesta Bowl is no longer getting a free ride, for all intents and purposes. That brings Jones and the Cotton Bowl into the picture: if the B.C.S. looks to replace the Fiesta, the Cotton would be a logical choice. There’s the bowl’s proud lineage, for starters, but also a new, flashy stadium and a big name in Jones to serve as the face of the game. Say one thing about Jones: I sincerely doubt he’d be as foolish with the Cotton Bowl’s money as Junker was with his Fiesta Bowl treasury.

3. The Playoff PAC group. Like those behind “Death to the BCS,” Playoff PAC has been at the forefront of the investigation against Junker and the Fiesta. From weekly emails to strongly-phrased missives claiming rampant misconduct, Playoff PAC has long railed against the “organization-wide abuses” of a system “run by the few, for the benefit of the few.”

4. The entire playoff system in general. It’s one thing to have an abstract case for a football playoff: the argument that it would simply be better for college football than the current B.C.S. system. It’s quite another to have evidence that the B.C.S. system doesn’t work where the N.C.A.A. cares most: the bottom line. Those behind a playoff system can now point to one major case where the B.C.S. is not only bad for college football, it’s illegal; that’s a stretch, but playoff advocates now have some concrete ammunition for their case.

I use winning in a very loose sense. This is mainly a lose-lose scenario, one that not only reflects poorly upon the Fiesta Bowl and the B.C.S. but also college football in general – those who don’t follow the game closely lump Junker and his cohorts together with the sport at large.

It’s a mess. Let’s just be glad the investigation eventually came to this conclusion and try to move on, turning a page on this malfeasance and focusing on what we really care about: the game itself.

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  1. William Cody says:

    The time has come. We are about to launch a Nation Wide Pro Playoff Movement right before the season starts. Until then join the Playoff Army at http://www.CollegeFootballProPlayoff.com


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