Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hold Fiesta Bowl as accountable as errant athletes

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

"It is expected that all parties contracted with the BCS will live up to the highest standards," said BCS director Bill Hancock following revelations about mishandling of Fiesta Bowl funds.

How refreshing.

Fiesta Bowl executives were caught taking lawmakers on junkets to football games in Chicago and Boston. They held fundraisers to support various politicians. They gave away game tickets to politicos. And they concocted a scheme to funnel Fiesta Bowl money directly into political campaigns. All those things  violate the Fiesta Bowl's non-profit status.

The political contribution scheme involved employees being pressured to give money to politicians, then being reimbursed with "bonuses" from the Fiesta Bowl. And don't forget the $1,200 tab for a strip club for Fiesta Bowl executives, or the $33,000 birthday bash at Pebble Beach for Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker.

Junker was fired following an investigative report on the Fiesta Bowl fiasco released Tuesday. Now Hancock and the BCS are reviewing whether the Fiesta Bowl should remain a BCS game.

Given that NCAA athletes are held to such high standards, it seems appropriate to hold the Fiesta Bowl no less accountable. If an athlete sells a bit of memorabilia, he or she can be suspended for several games. That makes suspending the Fiesta Bowl from the BCS for several games sound like an extremely appropriate punishment.

And perhaps it will send a message about the purpose of sport to college football leaders. The college game is supposed to be about education. When executives at the Fiesta Bowl are allowed to use the game for self-serving and illegal purposes, they teach athletes that all the talk about building character and seeking excellence is just a bunch of hot air.

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