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A special BCS committee has decided that the Fiesta Bowl “will remain in the coveted Bowl Championship Series but must pay a $1 million fine for financial irregularities and for allowing employees to make potentially illegal campaign contributions,” according to Craig Harris of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. The bowl, as part of the deal to stay in the BCS, also “must cut ties with board members who engaged in inappropriate behavior; conduct an annual audit; and hire a new outside auditor or find a new supervisory partner at the existing audit firm, which is PricewaterhouseCoopers.” In addition, the bowl “must add college officials to its board and keep the BCS informed about the hiring of a new executive director.” BCS Exec Dir Bill Hancock said, "I think the message is, they have cleaned house and addressed their problems. We are satisfied with the reforms they have taken, and they have focused on improving the management of the bowl." Playoff PAC co-Founder Matthew Sanderson, whose group has been “critical of the BCS,” said, "I hope this turns a new page for the Fiesta Bowl, but as far as this being a credible review or process, I don't think it is. They (BCS task force) didn't recuse members who accepted gifts from the Fiesta Bowl, and they didn't review the other bowls when there are documented irregularities of the same nature at the Orange and Sugar bowls." But Hancock said that he “has no evidence of wrongdoing at other BCS bowls.” Harris notes the BCS decision “does not leave the Fiesta Bowl completely in the clear.” The Fiesta Bowl's contract is “subject to renewal every four years.” The Fiesta is “in the second year of its contract and must undergo scrutiny again when its contract comes up for renewal” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 5/12).
THE NEXT STEP: The NCAA said that it would "take the BCS finding into account in determining whether to recertify" the Fiesta. The NCAA bowl licensing panel meets next week, and NCAA VP/Communications Bob Williams said that “a decision -- on both the Fiesta and its sister game, the Insight Bowl -- are expected in the near future.” Hancock said, "They have a long way to go. … They have to regain the trust of the community. We think these reforms will head them in that direction" (USA TODAY, 5/12). In L.A., Chris Dufresne notes the BCS report “made clear the Fiesta Bowl would have likely been kicked out of the BCS had it not reacted so decisively in firing” President & CEO John Junker and “enacting self-imposed sweeping reforms” (L.A. TIMES, 5/12). In Phoenix, Dan Bickley wrote when the Fiesta Bowl’s contract expires, “things will get very interesting, especially with the Cotton Bowl lurking in the shadows” (AZCENTRAL.com, 5/11).
NOT A REAL SURPRISE: ESPN's Joe Schad recently spent time with the BCS commissioners and said the move to keep the Fiesta Bowl in the BCS "does not surprise me." Schad: "Those commissioners were really buying into the Fiesta Bowl's reveal and reform strategy." Schad noted he talked to Sun Belt Commissioner Wright Waters, who is on the Fiesta Bowl task force that kept the game in the BCS, and Schad noted the task force members "expressed not only a desire to clean up their situation but a desire to take a role in the future of models for nonprofit organizations." Waters indicated that there is "no doubt that members of that task force, some of them, came to the table believing ... the Fiesta Bowl has got to go." Schad: "But as Wright Waters said, the Fiesta Bowl did what they had to do to convince the members of that committee that they deserved to stay" ("College Football Live," ESPN, 5/11). The AP's Tim Dalhberg wrote, "As hand slapping goes, this was a million-dollar waste of time." Dahlberg: "The Fiesta Bowl was never going anywhere. It's a cash cow among cash cows, a reliable generator of television ratings, and the favorite January haunt of wealthy alumni everywhere. But a show is a show, and the show of outrage had to be made" (AP, 5/11). CBSSPORTS.com's Dennis Dodd wrote under the header, "Surprise! (Not) Fiesta Stays In BCS." Dodd: "Reasonable folks can debate whether the Justice Department will be able to touch the BCS. But it's obvious they're not going to harm themselves" (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/11).
MORE TO COME? Hancock said that the BCS “does not intend to engage independent auditors for its other bowls and instead will require them to certify each year that they are doing business in accordance with ‘proper governance standards’ soon to be developed.” Hancock: "We have no reason to suspect there are any kind of issues with the other bowls." He added, "It's unfair to paint innocent people with the same brush" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/12). SI.com’s Stewart Mandel wrote the decision to allow the Fiesta Bowl to remain a BCS game came “to the surprise of almost no one.” Announcements like yesterday's “come off as just another example of the good ol' boy network protecting one of its own.” The “most encouraging tidbit to come out of the task force's 15-page report” was the recommendation that the BCS “retain an independent expert with a background in management of nonprofit organizations to develop standards for responsible bowl governance.” Mandel wrote, “The rest of us would like to see more reform from the bowl business in general” (SI.com, 5/11).
The NCAA, in an “effort to shed light on a practice that has been shrouded in mystery for years,” on Tuesday invited members of the media to its HQs “to experience how the rules and regulations of college athletics are imposed,” according to Steve Yanda of the WASHINGTON POST. NCAA President Mark Emmert said that the goal of the mock investigation was to “provide greater understanding of the steps taken by the organization’s enforcement staff, from the discovery of rules infractions to the meting out of sanctions.” Emmert: “These processes are complicated by the nature of the activity itself, and therefore they are subject to a lot of misinterpretation and confusion. And the more we can pull back the veil and let people see the inner workings, the better off we feel about it.” During the daylong exercise, NCAA enforcement staffers “guided reporters through the steps of an investigation process that typically spans 10 to 11 months.” Yanda notes Emmert “participated in a similar mock investigation two weeks earlier along with a collection of university presidents” (WASHINGTON POST, 5/12).
A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION: YAHOO SPORTS’ Dan Wetzel noted NCAA officials “tried to answer every possible question and explain the process in detail.” Wetzel: “Considering that more than a decade ago the NCAA refused to send me its rules manual, the organization has come a long way. It’s for the better.” Still, “core problems remain, and those challenges go beyond improved public relations” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/11). ESPN.com’s Pat Forde wrote the NCAA “put on a very good show, delivering a ton of impressively presented information.” The day concluded with “an excellent Q & A” with Emmert. The NCAA is “gradually emerging from decades of bunker mentality in which it was secretive about everything -- especially enforcement -- and this was another step forward in that regard.” The “bottom-line takeaway from the day was this: There is nothing simple about the arduous process of catching and punishing cheaters,” and that remains “the biggest problem the NCAA faces in trying to make the sporting world understand why it does what it does” (ESPN.com, 5/11).