Fiesta Bowl pleads case to BCS

Updated: April 27, 2011, 8:14 PM ET
By Joe Schad | ESPN

NEW ORLEANS -- Tostitos Fiesta Bowl representatives are telling BCS commissioners and athletic directors they are taking the steps necessary to prove they deserve to keep their BCS status.

"What they want to understand is what happened but also what changes have you created in oversight to ensure that it won't happen again," said Duane Woods, the Fiesta Bowl's chairman of the board.

What they want to understand is what happened but also what changes have you created in oversight to ensure that it won't happen again.

-- Duane Woods, Fiesta Bowl chairman of the board

Fiesta Bowl representatives had a formal session Tuesday and will continue to engage college football's power brokers Wednesday and Thursday, including a meeting with the NCAA bowl licensing committee Thursday morning.

The Fiesta Bowl fired its longtime CEO, John Junker, in the wake of a scandal that uncovered misappropriation of funds, including illegal reimbursement of political contributions.

"We want to correct what we've done wrong," Woods said. "The first Fiesta Bowl investigation was clearly and significantly flawed but we established a special committee and said we would get to the bottom of it and fix it. We have focused on reveal and reform. We want to be totally transparent and we have focused on governance changes."

A special BCS task force asked Fiesta Bowl representatives questions for about two hours Saturday in Chicago. The task force is expected to make its decision about the future of the Fiesta Bowl as early as next month.

Chris Madel, the attorney who conducted an internal investigation into the campaign contributions scandal at the Fiesta Bowl, was among those interviewed Saturday. He said Wednesday that the committee that operates the game is closely following his recommendations to change its operations.

"I can't think of one of those recommendations that the bowl didn't implement -- and it was eight pages, single spaced," said Madel, who was hired by a special committee to conduct a second internal investigation of the bowl game.

"I can say the Fiesta Bowl approach, and their lawyers' approach, to this right now in the reviewing and reporting is a textbook example of how best to position your organization in the good graces of the federal and state government."

Woods said the Fiesta Bowl has changed its organizational structure and asked BCS commissioners for feedback.

"What provisions can we put in to assure you that this won't happen again?" Woods said he asked the commissioners.

Woods said the Fiesta Bowl understands it must be willing to accept a variety of provisions, including allowing supplemental and external audits of both finance and compliance.

Woods said the greatest lesson the Fiesta Bowl has learned is: "Never put too much trust and power in a single individual [Junker] who becomes like an icon. Have allegiance to an organization, not an individual."

One commissioner in the room said of the Fiesta Bowl's approach: "You can't go back in time, but they made a very good presentation."

Among the other items of discussion at the BCS meetings are the antitrust lawsuit being threatened against the BCS by the attorney general of Utah and if the NFL work stoppage could affect the dates of this year's bowl games, including the Allstate Sugar Bowl and Tostitos BCS National Championship Game, both to be held in New Orleans.

As for the antitrust lawsuit, two commissioners said they don't believe it would hold merit.

Because the Sugar Bowl and the BCS title game are tentatively scheduled for Mondays (Jan. 2 and Jan. 9), there could be conflicts with ESPN's "Monday Night Football."

Thus, Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan said there are discussions about playing the Sugar Bowl on Tuesday, Jan. 3, and the national title game on Saturday, Jan. 7 or Tuesday, Jan. 10.

"We have hotels that want answers," Hoolahan said. "We're looking at our options, including what would happen if all four teams and their fans were in the city at the same time."

Joe Schad covers college football for ESPN. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Joe Schad

College Football

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