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.