The Fiesta Bowl: a fiesta indeed for those in charge

Note: This column appears in the 12/30 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 12/31 issue of the Peoria Times

Finding out about corruption within the seedy world of college football is like –- hmmm, what’s a good analogy here? Oh! –- finding out about corruption within the seedy world of college basketball. Yes, that will do.

So hearing about alleged political “contributions” from Fiesta Bowl employees was less than shocking. But because the Fiesta Bowl is local, right here in Glendale, and because it plays a major role within the local economic structure, my interest was slightly piqued. And I don’t know if I was naïve or indifferent, but delving a little further into this mess was an eye-opening experience for me, and should be more than that for the city that hosts this annual charade.

To quote from the Arizona Republic, which broke the story: Over the past decade as the Fiesta Bowl worked to maintain its elite position as one of the top postseason college-football games, employees made contributions to politicians friendly to the bowl, including some donations that may violate campaign-finance laws.

Let me start by stating that the Fiesta Bowl is, in essence, a football game. To discover that it has a corporate structure similar to that of a Fortune-500 company was a surprise, as “Fiesta Bowl employees” had, to me, connotated those people who sell hot dogs at the Fiesta Bowl. Boy was I wrong. Instead we have a football game that has a CEO. This would be like me saying that I am the vice president of the Suns-Rockets game next Wednesday. (Which, by the way, I am.)

Also, “politicians friendly to the bowl?” Ya’ know, my father was friends with a bowl once. It did not end well. That’s all I’m saying.

The alleged contributions are separate from the, apparently legal, $4 million that the Fiesta Bowl has spent since 2000 to wine and dine the officials in charge of the Fiesta Bowl. So basically, for a decade, the Fiesta Bowl has spent $4 million taking itself out to dinner. No wonder this bowl has so many friends.

Possibly most damning is the Republic’s allegation that the employees responsible for the donations were reimbursed by the Fiesta Bowl. Of course, donations that are reimbursed cease to be donations, and while Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker is denying any wrongdoing, there is too much money changing hands here to honestly believe that everything is on the up-and-up.

I don’t think there’s any better evidence than this of why there is no college football playoff system. Too many old rich men would lose money. Bowls would be left friendless, roaming the streets.

Three years ago, the Fiesta Bowl proved to be one of, if not the most thrilling college football game ever. And while we can always talk ourselves into the purity of the actual game, these latest allegations -– though certainly not shocking –- do highlight the corrupt structure of the landscape itself.

So what will the city do? Probably the coin toss. The city and the Fiesta Bowl are, after all, friends. And not just on Facebook.

But come this Tuesday I think I’ll take my own little stance, which will be: not watching. Besides, I have a lot of work to do for this Suns-Rockets matchup. These games don’t play themselves, ya’ know.

Tostitos! There's a party in every bag! There is also $4 million.


Bill said…
In my teenage years I dated the Chick-Fil-A Bowl for a little while. Until one day, the Chik-Fil-A Bowl's dad caught us in the backseat of his El Camino getting TOO friendly, if you know what I mean. I never saw the Chik-Fil-A Bowl again after that.
mkenny59 said…
It would appear then that both the Chik-Fil-A Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl are whores.