May 8, 2012

Fiesta Bowl Hopes to Remain in BCS

Shelton says scandal not a factor, new playoff system will be

A newly constituted Bowl Championship Series for college football should continue to include the Fiesta Bowl, the bowl's director says.

The BCS is looking at a system in which the top four college teams in the country meet in two semi-final games to determine which two play for the championship. The playoff is a change from the current system in which a complex formula of rankings determines the two teams that play.

The BCS uses four sites around the country for its games, including the Fiesta Bowl, rotating the championship game among them, so each site gets it every four years.

The new system is as yet undetermined, Fiesta Bowl Executive Director Robert Shelton says, but he is pushing for the Fiesta Bowl's involvement based on what it has to offer.

"We don't control our own fate," he concedes in an interview with KAET-TV in Phoenix, after a meeting two weeks ago with the BCS governing board. But, he says, he wanted the board to know the Fiesta Bowl still wants a big role in the BCS.

"We have been very upfront, very assertive ... about what we bring," says Shelton, former president of the University of Arizona. "We bring value added. Locally, it's well know that we have a volunteer cast of thousands that are second to none."

Shelton says he expects the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee to make a decision on specifics of the new format by the July 4 holiday, with early word on options expected later this month or in June.

Among those options are using the existing football polls and a method that includes winners of major conferences while at the same time providing consideration for teams from smaller conferences.

Shelton says the Fiesta Bowl's scandal-ridden past will not be a deterrent to its involvement in the BCS going forward.

"That is gone," he says. "I've gone around and met with all the commissioners, and they say, don't even worry about that. That's done. You've handled it, you've got a board in, you've got bylaws, you've set up a governance structure that's the envy of bowls around the country."

Shelton's predecessor and several other top executives of the Fiesta Bowl were fired on accusations of mismanagement of funds and reimbursing employees for political contributions they made at the behest of the organization's management.

According to the Arizona Republic, Chief Executive John Junker, who spent nearly three decades at the Fiesta, has pleaded guilty in state and federal court to felony conspiracy charges and is awaiting sentencing. He could face up to 2 ½ years in prison.

The bowl's former chief operating officer also pleaded guilty to a felony and awaits sentencing, while four other current and former employees pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges and paid fines for their roles in the scheme.

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