Sports Network powerhouse ESPN filed a lawsuit against Conference USA alleging that they did not fulfill its contractual obligations when the conference sold its television rights to FOX.
ESPN alleges that the parties reached a tentative agreement and planned additional meetings to negotiate the finer points before a deal was to be finalized. Conference USA, however, never met with ESPN, nor did they provided ESPN a final offer before it announced it was signing a $43 million dollar media rights deal with FOX.
ESPN claims their contract with Conference USA mandates that the conference must provide ESPN with a final offer before it would be allowed to negotiate with another network.
“Rights agreements are at the core of our industry,” said ESPN. “ESPN and Conference USA reached an agreement on a new extension after a prolonged negotiation. The conference then changed their position out of the blue and reneged on that agreement. At best, they violated our right to be given an opportunity to consider a final offer.”
John Junker, President and CEO, and the face of the Fiesta Bowl for over 2o years, was fired after an internal report revealed numerous improprieties. (Report (PDF). Junker, who has guided the Fiesta Bowl from it humble beginnings to an elite Bowl Championship Series (BCS) franchise, was released from his $600,000.00 a year position after a report revealed a plan to reimburse employees for political contributions and a conspiracy to cover it up. These political reimbursements, estimated to have exceeded $46,000.00, are a violation of Arizona’s campaign finance laws and the charter that allows the Fiesta Bowl to retain its nonprofit status. In addition, the investigation revealed “excessive compensation, non-business and inappropriate expenditures and inappropriate gifts.” These inappropriate expenditures included a 50th birthday celebration for Junker costing approximately $33,000.00 paid for by the Fiesta Bowl, a car allowance and paid membership in four elite private golf clubs, and a $1,200 meeting between Junker and two others at a local Phoenix strip club.
“The entire Fiesta Bowl family is angered and disappointed by what we’ve seen in the report and by the actions of Mr. Junker,” said Fiesta Bowl board chairman Duane Woods. “The Fiesta Bowl is greater than a few individuals, and the lesson here really is that we placed too much trust in a single individual.”
The BCS issued the following statement: “We are deeply disappointed and troubled to learn of these findings related to the Fiesta Bowl. Unprofessional, unethical or improper behavior is unacceptable. There is no place for such activities in higher education or in collegiate sports. It is expected that all parties contracted with the BCS will live up to the highest standards. We do not wish to be associated with entities that believe otherwise.”
The Fiesta Bowl has three years left on its BCS contract, but the BCS has appointed a committee to evaluate the findings and have asked the Fiesta Bowl to demonstrate why it should retain its BCS elite bowl status. The task force will evaluate the Fiesta Bowl’s response and determine whether the Fiesta Bowl will be allowed to host the national championship game in the future.
There are plenty of other bowls out there, such as the Cotton Bowl who have never hidden their desire to return to elite bowl status and play at the new Cowboy Stadium, that would like a chance to host the national championship game.
The Fordham Sports Law Forum and the New York State Bar Association Entertainment Arts and Sports Section Present: 15th Annual Fordham Sports Law Symposium
- Date: Friday, April 1,2011
- Time: 9:00am-4:40pm
Keynote Speaker: Howie Roseman General Manager, Philadelphia Eagles
- Damaging Impact: The long term health effects of concussions and where future liability might lie.
- Agents, Amateurism and Accountability: Legal and ethical questions arising from the relationships between lawyer/agents and the amateur athletes seeking their representation.
- Collective Bargaining Agreements in Sports: Impending negotiations, potential lockouts, and the main sources of conflict between owners and unions.