Phoenix Business Journal: Fiesta Bowl Flap Another AZ Black Eye?

By Mike Sunnucks, Phoenix Business Journal

The Fiesta Bowl-John Junker controversy could be another black eye for Arizona, which has taken plenty of hits of late: immigration, guns, foreclosures, Coyotes ownership and strange politics in general.

Today’s report alleging spending excesses, improper campaign contributions and questionable political schmoozing by Fiesta Bowl executives is another left-hook to the Valley’s jaw.

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The Fiesta Bowl has long been a source of hometown pride and a pillar of the state’s tourism sector. It has grown from a way to get Arizona State University into college football postseason play into one of the host sites for the BCS Championship Game.

The Fiesta Bowl was a big reason why county voters approved a tourism tax increase in 2000 that financed University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. It also has done lots of charity work in the Phoenix area over the years and has been portrayed as a good guy by the media and Legislature in various spats with the Arizona Cardinals, who also call UOP Stadium home.

That image changed dramatically today with an independent report showing the Fiesta Bowl improperly reimbursed employees and executives for campaign contributions to politicians. The report prompted officials to fire CEO John Junker as it detailed his lavish expense account, which included freebies, questionable perks and entertaining Arizona politicians with free tickets and travel.

Bowl officials say they hope the report doesn’t get the Fiesta Bowl booted out of the BCS. Only time will tell.

The report displays how money, good-old boy cultures and lack of internal and external watchdogs can besmirch sports, business and politics. Whether the bowl game can get off the mat from this knockout remains to be seen.

The original article can be viewed here.