Squeezed: Bigwigs whitewash Fiesta Bowl corruption
How’s old G. Gordon Liddy these days? The G-Man, as he calls himself, is pretty busy with his nationally-syndicated radio show (heard in more than 250 markets, he’d like you to know), managing his GMan club ($49.95 for an annual subscription), and appearing on Fox News as a guest panelist. It’s a wonder he found time to record that oral history of Watergate that the Nixon Library was compelled to include in its permanent exhibit.
Yes, G. Gordon Liddy– the man who spent 1973-1977 in federal prison for conspiracy, burglary, and illegal wiretapping, and who in 2005 told The Independent that when he was a child, Hitler's speeches "made him feel a strength inside I had never known before”– is idolized by millions.
If college football needs a quick lesson on turning lemons into lemonade, the G-Man is an apt tutor.
Still reeling from Cam Newton, Jim Tressel, and a damning (if unsurprising) HBO Sports investigation into $500 handshakes, college football should not be able to survive a hit like the Fiesta Bowl scandal. And if we were discussing anything but college football, that would probably be the case.
But what would be a knock-out punch for any other entity so rife with corruption will undoubtedly be a mere tap on the chin for college football. See? It’s getting to its feet already.
When on March 29 the Fiesta Bowl released a “far-reaching and comprehensive investigation by an independent Special Committee of the Board of Directors,” the media were all over it, gleefully raking CEO John Junker and hundreds of Bowl employees over the coals for bilking the public of millions of dollars for personal expenses (golf club memberships, birthday parties, weddings, visits to strip clubs, vacations, auto stipends, tickets to Celebrity Fight Night, etc.). They even named politicians who illegally received benefits from the Bowl.
And that’s good news for college football– but it’s old news. In December 2009, The Arizona Republic published an article about how the non-profit Fiesta Bowl had reimbursed employees for campaign contributions, breaking state and federal laws. Having gotten wind of the article before publication, the Bowl’s board conducted a three-day inquiry that found there had been no wrongdoing. Later that same month, Playoff PAC Inc., a DC-based anti-BCS organization, filed a formal complaint with Arizona’s Secretary of State to investigate the Republic’s allegations.
That was a year and a half ago. In 2009, not one major news outlet saw fit to pick up where the Republic left off, and the Fiesta Bowl didn’t begin its investigation until September 2010– five months ago.
When the Fiesta Bowl fires Junker the same day it releases its report, The New York Times boasts “the report was made public Tuesday after The New York Times published an online article about the investigation’s findings.” When the BCS tells the Fiesta Bowl “to persuade them that nothing like this will ever happen again,” the Associated Press reports, “The BCS reacted swiftly.”
When the Arizona Attorney General says the investigation is “continuing” and Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe says, “I feel good about [the Fiesta Bowl’s] commitment to do the right thing,” the writing on the wall can’t get much clearer: the media, the government, the BCS, and even the NCAA have at least tacitly agreed to act as if the past year and a half never happened.
But make no mistake, it’s the past year and a half that college football has to worry about. In 2009, by having their attorney solicit a former Arizona Attorney General to organize and perpetrate a sham inquiry, the Fiesta Bowl and its legal guardian, the BCS, didn’t just break about ten laws and a hundred ethical rules; they committed themselves to nearly two years of perjury and fraud.
The March 29 report isn’t news; it’s a college football-orchestrated and G. Gordon Liddy-approved attempt to obliterate the past two years and convince the same public it took to the cleaners that the Fiesta Bowl isn’t corrupt, but rather incorruptible.
And it sure tastes like lemonade to me.
Juanita lives on a farm in Charlotte County with her husband, son, and many dogs.