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Doug Robinson: Lack of media outrage deafening over BCS scandal

Published: Thursday, April 7 2011 10:27 p.m. MDT

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Wait a minute. Is that it? The Fiesta Bowl does its best imitation of the IOC and "The Price is Right," and the story dies in the media after a couple of days?

Where's the outrage?

A little of that would be a healthy thing right now.

Don't tell us that anyone is buying that BS from the BCS that the scandal involves only the Fiesta Bowl and is no reflection on the rest of the system. Pa-lease!

We need a little outrage because the Fiesta Bowl scandal is an opportunity for change, an opportunity to bring down the evil BCS, an opportunity to replace a monopolistic, un-American, unfair, elitist system with a playoff.

The Fiesta Bowl scandal could be the best thing to happen to college football since TV and the forward pass. The lying liars of the BCS have finally been exposed for what most observers thought they were all along: a good-old boys network that is hanging onto an archaic system because it's a cash cow.

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Predictably, the BCS is backpedaling like Deion Sanders trying to distance itself from the Fiesta scandal. Bill Hancock, executive director and chief dispenser of crapola for the Bowl Championship Series, said the Fiesta Bowl could be removed from its exclusive club of BCS bowls that hosts a national championship game every four years.

"The BCS group takes this matter very seriously and will consider whether they keep a BCS bowl game, and we will consider other appropriate sanctions," Hancock told The Arizona Republic.

Tony Samaranch couldn't have done it any better. Remember when Tony tried to pin all the blame for the Salt Lake bid scandal exclusively on a handful of its members and gave them the boot even though gifts and graft were a decades-old systemic problem in the IOC?

And Hancock and the boys want us to believe the Fiesta scandal is an isolated problem? Right.

"Any BCS effort to expel the Fiesta Bowl would be a hypocritical act, given the documented irregularities at these other BCS bowls," says Matthew Sanderson, co-founder of Playoff PAC, a group advocating a playoff system. "And who's to say we won't find the same type of shockingly questionable behavior when the curtain is peeled back at the BCS's Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl?"

The Playoff PAC web site lists the following questionable behavior by the Orange and Sugar bowls, which are classified as non-profit, tax-exempt businesses:

 The Orange Bowl sponsors an annual Caribbean cruise that the Bowl itself describes as a "complimentary getaway" for bowl staff and college football officials that includes no business meetings.

 $1 out of every $10 that the Sugar Bowl takes in ends up in the hands of its top three executives.

 Sugar Bowl executive director Paul Hoolahan received $645,386 in 2009, a year in which the Sugar Bowl lost money despite receiving a $1.4 million government grant. Hoolahan collected $25,000 more than the Rose Bowl's top three executives combined.

 BCS bowls use charitable funds to fly bowl execs and spouses first-class, pay private club dues, and foot the bill for employees' personal income taxes. The Orange Bowl, for example, spent $756,546 on travel in 2009 for its personnel.

 The Orange Bowl spent $331,938 on "parties" and "summer splash" in 2004, $42,281 on "golf" in 2004 and 2006, $535,764 on "gifts" in 2006, and $472,627 on "gifts" in 2008.

 The Sugar Bowl spent $201,226 on "gifts and bonuses" and $330,244 on "decorations" in 2008.

 The Sugar Bowl spent $710,406 in 2007 and 2008 on a mysteriously vague category called "special appropriations."

 The Orange Bowl spends over $100,000 per year on "postage and shipping" (10 times the amount that other BCS bowls spend annually).

 The Orange Bowl spent $1,189,005 on unspecified "entertainment" and "catering" in 2009, $1,017,322 on undifferentiated "event food" and "entertainment" in 2008, and $75,896 on "recruitment" in 2008.

All this to put on TWO football games?

They hardly sound like tax-exempt, nonprofit entities. And yet Hancock, referring to the Fiesta Bowl scandal, says he has "absolutely no indication" of similar behavior by the BCS's other three bowls.

Remember all that talk from Hancock and the boys about how the BCS system is best for the game? It rings hollow now.

It's not just the Fiesta Bowl; it's the entire BCS system. It's driven by money and greed and billions of dollars, all of which exploit a cheap labor force — student-athletes.

Meanwhile, it's relevant to note that, according to an NCAA report, 106 of the 120 schools that play Division I football lost money in 2009. Most schools lose money to participate in bowl games; some schools even lose money to play in a BCS bowl. If all this weren't enough, students, already faced with rising tuition costs and strapped by a bad economy, are subsidizing most of these football programs through university fees.

And these BCS fatcats are billing bowls for golf dates and cruises?

"You can't indict the entire bowl system because of what's gone on there (at the Fiesta Bowl)," said NCAA President Mark Emmert.

Yes, you can and you should. It's time for NCAA school presidents to take back the game that was hijacked by the BCS. It's time for the NCAA to run college football the same way it runs college basketball. The timing couldn't be better for dumping the BCS.

email: drob@desnews.com

Scandal at a glance

The Fiesta Bowl is reportedly being investigated by the Arizona attorney general's office and the IRS. According to the Arizona Republic, the bowl's list of possible criminal offenses could include conspiracy, wire and mail fraud, obstruction of justice, unlawful political donations, tax evasion, kickbacks, money-laundering and bribery of public officials.

 John Junker, who was paid $600,000 a year as CEO of the Fiesta Bowl, billed the Fiesta Bowl $1,241 to pay for a visit that he and two associates made to Phoenix strip club in 2008.

"We are in the business where big, strong athletes are known to attend these types of establishments," Junker said, according to investigators. "It was important for us to visit and we certainly conducted business."

According to Sports Illustrated, Junker wrote on his American Express bill that the meeting was for "security site planning."

 Fiesta Bowl execs pressured employees to donate money to political candidates and then reimbursed them with bowl funds.

 Fiesta Bowl executives took junkets to college football games with politicians and their families, paid for by the bowl. Junker spent $65,000 to fly legislators and their families to Boston for a Boston College-Virginia Tech game. Junker took his family on 27 trips. This included a 16-day trip to California with his family and a trip to Florida for a space-shuttle launch.

 The Fiesta Bowl paid for Junker's membership in four elite private golf clubs.

 The Fiesta Bowl was billed $33,188 to pay for Junker's 50th birthday party in Pebble Beach.

 The Fiesta Bowl paid $13,086 to cover expenses for the wedding and honeymoon for one of Junker's assistants. Junker also gave iPads, gift cards and bullion as gifts and billed the bowl to buy $22,000 worth of gold and silver coins.

 Junker billed the bowl $75 to send flowers to an admissions officer at the University of Texas, where his daughter was applying to the school's honors program (she was accepted).

 According to The AP, Junker received money for cars, including $27,000 in 2009. COO Natalie Wisneski received an annual car allowance of $16,800.

 Junker was reimbursed $110,000 for attending a celebrity fight night and bidding on a golf date with Jack Nicklaus. He later billed the bowl for his travel expenses for the golf date.

 Junker was reimbursed $2,285 for Nike golf equipment. Another Fiesta Bowl employee charged the bowl more than $12,000 for Titleist golf balls.

 The bowl paid for a trip by Wisneski to Paris for a Hispanic businesswomen's retreat.

 The bowl paid about $1,900 to send two staff members to a Brian Wilson concert in New York.

Scandal at a glance

The Fiesta Bowl is reportedly being investigated by the Arizona attorney general's office and the IRS. According to the Arizona Republic, the bowl's list of possible criminal offenses could include conspiracy, wire and mail fraud, obstruction of justice, unlawful political donations, tax evasion, kickbacks, money-laundering and bribery of public officials.

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