Fiesta Bowl Scandal: Why the BCS' Punishment Simply Isn't Strong Enough

Sam WestmorelandFeatured ColumnistMay 11, 2011

The Fiesta Bowl scandal appears to have reached its grand finale today, after the BCS committee tasked with levying punishment against the organization in charge of the game, delivered its sanctions. 

According to multiple media reports, the bowl will be fined $1 million, but will be allowed to remain a part of the BCS' system for determining a national champion. The organizations behind the bowl game will keep their BCS status, assuming they make certain changes, and adhere to certain criteria with regard to the future running of the game. 

Per the BCS' ruling, the Fiesta Bowl must: 

- Remove board members who were found to have engaged in inappropriate conduct;

- Include at least two members from the "collegiate community" on the board, such as faculty members or athletic directors;

- Conduct an annual internal audit, and share the results with the BCS executive director;

- Replace its auditing firm (PriceWaterhouseCoopers), or bring in a new supervisory partner;

- Consult with the BCS on the hiring of a new executive director.

While this seems like a fairly staunch punishment, is it really enough? After all, the actions taken by the non-profit organization behind this bowl game rank as the most scandalous incident involving a bowl's finances in the history of college football, and the impact the actions have could extend beyond just the sports world, but into the non-profit field as well. 

The fine levied by the BCS is a bit of a joke. A million dollars? Come on guys, really? Why didn't you just charge them for a pack of Twizzlers and Gummi Bears and send them on their way? 

The Fiesta Bowl takes in more than enough money from selling seats to the game to pay for that fine in a nanosecond. Why even bother levying the fine? Why not just slap them with sanctions and call it a day? 

At least it sounds like the conditions the organization levied against the Fiesta Bowl have some teeth, but some of the conditions seem kind of obvious. You're telling me there were no collegiate community members on the board of a collegiate sporting event before, or that they still hadn't removed board members that had engaged in the scandal? 

How does that make any sense? How were these things not already in place? If it took an order from the group in charge of making sure the Fiesta Bowl makes money to demand that the corrupt board members be removed, then the fact of the matter is that they don't deserve a BCS spot based solely on abject stupidity. 

That being said, the fact that the BCS is mandating financial audits from the bowl for the foreseeable future is definitely a positive going forward. The Fiesta Bowl has made some grievous errors in its accounting practices, and the best way to convince the public they won't happen again is through transparent accounting. 

But, how long will diligence keep up? Will the BCS continue to closely monitor the Fiesta Bowl's actions once the heat dies down, or will they simply rubber stamp things without a second look? 

I realize that it would be difficult for the BCS to punish the Fiesta Bowl for the repercussions of its actions that have yet to happen, but considering the gravity of the charges (a 501(c)3 non-profit organization using its raised funds to fund political organizations and pay for trips to spas and strip clubs is definitely not good news), I feel like a bit more oomph could have been used here. 

Rather than just monitoring the Bowl's finances, why not install someone on their own? I mean, the Fiesta Bowl has to run any choice by the BCS, so why don't they just pick someone? The bowl wants to stay a part of the BCS system, so they'll pretty much do whatever they want at this point. 

Fortunately, there is still hope for tougher sanctions. The NCAA can still revoke its licensing to the game, effectively killing it completely. While that may seem a bit harsh, there is a middle ground between the BCS' position and euthanizing the game entirely. 

In the end, while the BCS' punishment isn't completely useless (although much of it is a little obvious), there is more that can be done to make sure the Fiesta Bowl (and other bowls for that matter) don't make mistakes like these again. 

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