Maricopa Mess

Longtime Fiesta Bowl Chairman John Junker has been relieved of his duties in light of research that shows that 21 people associated with the Fiesta Bowl were reimbursed by the Bowl for political contributions totalling at least $46,539.  As a result the Arizona Republican Party has an unwanted headache and the Bowl may lose its standing as a member of the BCS.

As I said, this could prove to be something of a nuisance to the GOP in Arizona.  Those receiving targeted contributions include (but are not limited to) the party itself, Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain, Governor Jan Brewer and the Republican members of the Arizona Congressional delegation.  The report specifies that there is no suspicion that the politicians and entities in receipt of the contributions was aware of the scheme by Junker to funnel Bowl money, but that sort of detail often gets lost in the retelling.  The campaigns will likely find it expedient (if not necessary) to return the contributions and it may cause an investigation by the Federal Elections Commission and other legal entities.  To say nothing of the politically uncomfortable innuendo.

And of course the Bowl itself could be even more severely harmed.  Certainly its reputation has been tarnished.  Inasmuch as it would ever be possible for a key member of the modern major college football system to be held up as a paragon of virtue, its not possible for the Fiesta Bowl.  It will apparently now be required to beg for its BCS life, though in a positive it is 3 years before the current cycle is completed, and its unlikely they would get demoted in mid-cycle.  But a lot of institutions that are naturally risk-averse now view the Fiesta Bowl as being risky.  And the BCS would see very little risk in getting Jerry Jones on the phone to see if he would like to put his new facility and the Cotton Bowl into the BCS rota.  It goes without saying that the Fiesta Bowl would lose a lot of money and prestige if it goes out of the BCS and into the consolation pile.  At present I would assume the game could survive at the level of being one of the nicer non-BCS games, but if this scandal goes deeper it could kill the entity entirely, at least in its present form.  I have to think there is long-term room on the vast bowl schedule for a game in an Arizona NFL dome.

The obvious question out of all this, assuming we have all the relevant facts, is what was John Junker thinking?  $46,000 divided over a number of statewide political entities is quite frankly a drop in the bucket.  This money didn’t improve the Republican Party’s station in Arizona one iota and its not enough I wouldn’t think to get Mr. Junker much cache in political circles as go-to “bundler.”  Time will tell if there is more to the story.


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