Fiesta Bowl officials meet with NCAA in hopes of keeping game’s status

Reporting from New Orleans

The Fiesta Bowl’s name is mud right now, so it was appropriate that it pleaded its case at a hotel near the banks of the Mississippi River.

Officials from the scandal-tattered bowl met Thursday with NCAA officials in an effort to keep its certification from the governing body’s licensing board.

All indications point to the Fiesta Bowl making whatever changes are necessary to remain in the bowl rotation, although a final decision isn’t likely until the end of May.

“I think they’re trying to restore the trust of the entire college football community,” said Nick Carparelli, chairman of the NCAA’s Postseason Bowl Licensing Subcommittee.

Charges of financial improprieties and possible illegal campaign contributions recently led to the firing of longtime Fiesta Bowl Chief Executive John Junker.


Retaining its Bowl Championship Series bowl status will require approval from the BCS task force and NCAA licensing board. Fiesta Bowl officials met with the BCS last Saturday in Chicago.

“I think if you do the right thing and take the right steps, that’s what people really want to know,” Fiesta Bowl Chairman Duane Woods said after Thursday’s meeting with the NCAA. “When you conceal and cover up, that’s not going to get you anywhere.”

Members of the BCS task force and NCAA licensing board have been impressed with the Fiesta Bowl’s path to restoring credibility. The bowl is also profitable.

“They’re clearly generating a lot of revenue and paying all their bills,” Carparelli said, “That’s the first thing the NCAA committee looks at.”

Carparelli said the BCS and NCAA would probably make a joint announcement on the Fiesta’s fate after the BCS has concluded its investigation.

The NCAA is mindful that decertifying the Fiesta Bowl would cause considerable economic damage to the Phoenix area. Last season, the Fiesta Bowl hosted the Insight and Fiesta bowls, plus the national title game between Oregon and Auburn.

Bill Hancock, executive director of the BCS, said he believes his organization has the power to kick the Fiesta Bowl out of the national title rotation. But he added, “We are miles away from getting to that stage, if we get there at all.”

NCAA President Mark Emmert also announced Thursday a moratorium on new bowl games for up to three years, while a newly formed task force reviews licensing procedures.

Truth is, with 35 bowls already sanctioned, the college football postseason has already reached a saturation point. The six-year average of bowl eligible teams has been 72. Last year, 73 teams met the six-win requirement.

Other tidbits from the BCS commissioners’ meetings, which ended Thursday:

•Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany called the NCAA investigation of Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel “a serious situation,” adding “I think the facts are all well known.” Knowing what he knows now, Delany said he would have reconsidered pushing reinstatement for six Ohio State players in the Sugar Bowl. Tressel is accused of failing to report alleged violations of players before the game. Delany said coaches should be held to a higher standard. “Just because they’re the adults, the teachers,” he said.

•Hancock, the BCS director, said safeguards have been enacted to ensure the computer error that caused a mistake in the final BCS standings won’t happen again. The mistake occurred when Wes Colley, one of six BCS computer operators, failed to input a score. Louisiana State finished 10th in the final standings, a place that should have been occupied by Boise State. Hancock said the computer operators have agreed to a system of “peer review” to “prevent a data entry mistake.” The BCS was lucky the error did not impact the 1-2 pairing or any of the automatic qualifier benchmarks. Hancock said the BCS requested, and received, all the BCS computer formulas.

•Brigham Young, which is leaving the Mountain West Conference next season, will join Army and Navy as the third “non-Notre Dame” independent. BYU will earn a spot in the title game if it finishes first or second and be BCS bowl eligible with a top-14 ranking. It is no longer eligible to earn the automatic bid as the highest top-12 finisher from a “non-AQ” conference.

•Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe said it was silly to think an anti-trust ruling against the BCS would lead to a playoff. “I don’t understand how anybody thinks that the court or legislators could issue a ruling that would require student-athletes to play in a certain system, a playoff,” Beebe said. … “I just don’t know how people think that works.”

•Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said he hopes the conference’s new television contract will be completed “sometime this summer at the latest.”