Former Fiesta Bowl Official Pleads Guilty Over Campaign Contributions

John Junker has reached a plea agreement in the great Fiesta Bowl fiesta scandal.

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20 Total Updates since February 14, 2011
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Fiesta Bowl Investigation Update: Arizona Politicians May Face Ethics Charges

Fiesta Bowl organizers may not be the only ones getting slapped around in the legal system by the time the never-ending investigation into the game's bottomless well of corruption wraps up. As much trouble as bowl officials are in for cozying up to local politicians in exchange for favors, it's easy work to forget those receiving end of the cozying. No more, via the Associated Press:

An Arizona Senate Ethics Committee review found some lawmakers may have violated state law by improperly accepting free football game tickets from the Fiesta Bowl, Chairman Ron Gould said Thursday.

However, Gould told The Associated Press that he is temporarily refraining from taking further action because he doesn’t want to taint a criminal investigation being conducted by Maricopa County prosecutors.

The Arizona Republic points to two politicos (one Democrat, one Reublican) who appear to have had the most fingers in the Frito* pie: Tempe city councilman Ben Arredondo and state senator Russell Pearce. If their actions turn out to fall within the upper echelons of Arizona's conflict-of-interest law, the two could potentially face felony charges.

*Individuals (and individual bags) of Tostitos are not currently under investigation, as far as we know. Yet! Haha! For more local perspective on the bowl's future, visit SB Nation Arizona

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Fiesta Bowl Investigation Update: BCS Levies $1 Million Fine

As expected, the BCS presidential oversight committee has decided to sanction the Fiesta Bowl following a lengthy investigation into hilariously widespread corruption among the game's organizers and connected politicians. And in even more predictable news, the bowl is getting off so easy that other BCS game organizations may well wonder whether they haven't been a little light-handed with their own bribes.

The Fiesta Bowl will cough up a fine of $1 million, an ominous-sounding number that's really about half of what UConn lost traveling to Arizona last January to get pantsed by Oklahoma on national television. Checks and balances in the form of additional administrators will also be installed, and overall everyone's just promising real, real hard to make sure this never happens again. And ... that's it. Ever feel like you're in the wrong line of work, gentle readers?

Still to come, of course, is the NCAA bowl licensing committee's decision on whether to credential the Fiesta, but the prospect of an eventual national championship game in the Cotton Bowl has dimmed, for the moment. Better luck next time, Jerry Jones!

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Fiesta Bowl Investigation: Organizers Meet With BCS; NCAA Subcommittee Next

Fiesta Bowl officials have cleared one obstacle in the gauntlet they're running to try and keep the now-legendarily corrupt game in the BCS rotation: Organizers met in Chicago over the weekend with a BCS task force to show penitence and apparently made a positive impression on the chair, Graham Spanier. A decision on the game's future could be just a few weeks away, and the options sound ... well, like nothing much:

Spanier said there was a range of possibilities, including expulsion to staying in the BCS for the Fiesta Bowl. He also said there were "some things in between," but he declined to elaborate. [...] It is unclear if the BCS has the legal authority to terminate the Fiesta Bowl's contract, which runs for three more years, and whether there is a "morals clause" to punish the bowl. And it is unclear if the BCS can intervene and break the Fiesta Bowl's contract with the Big 12 Conference.

So by "cleared," we really mean "Fiesta Bowl reps survived the meeting without bribing anybody, we think," but there's more tap-dancing to do: This ordeal is not to be confused with a second scheduled meeting with the NCAA licensing subcommittee in New Orleans at the end of the month. And you're going to be shocked, just shocked at the conflicts of interest already emerging there:

Nine of the 11 members of an NCAA panel that will help decide the Fiesta Bowl's fate attended a bowl-sponsored retreat that included free meals, resort rooms and golf outings. The nine names all showed up on a 2008 "Fiesta Frolic" attendee list obtained by Playoff PAC.

Sound familiar, does it? Bill Hancock, another task force, tout de suite!

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Fiesta Bowl To Politicians: We'd Like Our Sweetheart Deal Money Back, Please

So you're a politician who accepted extravagant gifts and free travel from the Fiesta Bowl! Good on you. I mean that so sincerely. That sounds like one of the only fun parts of being a politician. Now, the Fiesta Bowl would like all their money back, please:

Lawmakers who took cross-country trips and accepted free game tickets at the Fiesta Bowl's expense will receive invoices in the coming weeks asking them to fully reimburse the bowl for those costs.

Attorneys for the Fiesta Bowl confirmed Wednesday that they are conducting an investigation to determine the bowl's total outlay on lawmaker gifts and travel so that it can seek reimbursement for those expenses.

I'm not sure I get the "why" here. Are there takebacks in corruption of this level? If the politicians in question repay the bowl coffers, is Bill Hancock going to act like none of this ever happened? Is it even legal for the Fiesta Bowl to attempt this? Think there's any legislator involved on the brink of retirement who'll tell them no just to be a curmudgeon? Being a curmudgeon with impunity sounds like the other fun part of being a politician.

Also, once the Fiesta Bowl gets all the money back, how much of it will be spent right back again to pay the lawyers they used to investigate and see how much money they spent? It's a beautiful cycle of nature, innit?

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Fiesta Bowl Reps Set To Meet With NCAA Licensing Committee On April 28

Fiesta Bowl representatives are fixing to get called to the principal's office in just a few short weeks, when they meet with the NCAA's licensing subcommittee during the annual BCS meetings. Both sides are playing it cool, and there's every reason to think a reasonable compromise can be worked out to save face in an era where both the BCS and the NCAA need to look clean and orderly, but the potential consequences could be dire for the bowl in the event of a hammer drop:

[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.

If the bowl organizers are hoping to keep a low profile between now and then and hope a Division I starting quarterback knocks over a bank or something to distract national attention, they might want to keep an eye on their political connections rapidly abandoning ship:

In the past week, eight state lawmakers have filed amended reports with the Secretary of State's Office or other local agencies, acknowledging that they accepted gifts in excess of $500 from the Fiesta Bowl and its representatives.

Here's the statement released by the bowl, which gracefully skims over the delicious irony of who's in the investigating task force:

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.

Final fun note: These meetings will take place in New Orleans. Wonder what kind of partying these cats will get up to?

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Fiesta Bowl Task Force Investigator Took Gifts From Orange Bowl

Yahoo! Sports' Dan Wetzel, in case you had trouble parsing his book title, is out to get the BCS. This is fine by us, and it ought to be fine by the BCS administration, who've more than proved they can take care of themselves. Boy howdy, can they take care of themselves. But even the unflappable Bill Hancock has to be unnerved at this latest revelation by Wetzel: A member of the task force appointed to investigate the Fiesta Bowl finances has a history of accepting gifts from ... the Orange Bowl! Southern Miss AD Richard Giannini was in attendance at the Orange Bowl's notorious Royal Caribbean junket, profiled last winter by PlayoffPAC:

[The] BCS's Orange Bowl, which is organized as a public charity, used its charitable funds to treat Orange Bowl executives and college athletic directors to a four-day "complimentary getaway" aboard Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas earlier this year.  As shown by the detailed agenda, this Caribbean cruise was a junket.  No business meetings were held.  Attendees were instead occupied with full-day excursions to Atlantis Resort and CocoCay, a private island.

Really, for entertainment value of equal bias, they should've just gone ahead and appointed Jerry Jones.

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Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker Fired; Allegations Include Using Money For Strip Club Visits

The Fiesta Bowl has fired CEO John Junker after a report by the Bowl's oversight committee found evidence of lavish spending, political dealings well beyond the scope of a non-profit organization, and inappropriate political donations made by employees of the Fiesta Bowl who were then reimbursed with bogus bonus payments.

In a report released on the Fiesta Bowl's website on Tuesday afternoon, the committee explained the firing was a result of three key instances of mismanagement that occurred during Junker's tenure.

• An apparent scheme to reimburse at least $46,539 in improper campaign contributions.

• A flawed initial investigation and an apparent conspiracy to conceal the reimbursement scheme from the Board of Directors and state officials.

• Unauthorized and excessive compensation, non-business and inappropriate expenditures and inappropriate gifts.

That "unauthorized and excessive compensation' and other inappropriate expenditures included paying to shuttle around Arizona politicians and throw private parties for them. The parties were not limited to politicians, however: Junker himself threw a $33,000 party for himself for his fiftieth birthday, flying his family and bowl officials to Pebble Beach at the Bowl's expense. The Bowl also covered wedding travel expenses totaling $13,000 for Junker's assistant.

The most entertaining expenditure and subsequent testimony surrounds Junker's visit to a Phoenix strip club where he and the security consultant for the Fiesta Bowl spent $1200 of the Bowl's money. This was his explanation (via the NY Times:)

According to the report, Junker explained to investigators: “We are in the business where big strong athletes are known to attend these types of establishments. It was important for us to visit, and we certainly conducted business.”

Big strong athletes do visit strip clubs, so it's hard to argue with that element of Junker's logic. There was evidently enough corruption elsewhere to dismiss Junker outright according to the Fiesta Bowl, with the organization now vowing to clean up its image through a series of internal reforms.

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