Senior Writer

BCS meetings convene under cloud of Fiesta mess, other issues


This is probably not the best time to put all the BCS commissioners together in one conference room. Easier for some enterprising critic, lawyer -- or worse -- to draw a bead.

But there they are in New Orleans together beginning Tuesday for the annual BCS meetings. Typically at issue are the usual housekeeping items dealing with where to cash network checks, cocktail parties and what cut of steak to order. This time? Well, accountability should be on the agenda. Almost every commissioner in attendance can look inside his own league and find some housecleaning to be done. War has broken out between Alabama and Auburn while Tennessee waits for NCAA sanctions. The proud-bordering-on-arrogant Big Ten had its face rubbed in it Monday when Ohio State's notice of allegations became public.

Both participants in the last BCS title game, Oregon and Auburn, are being investigated by the NCAA. (Getty Images)  
Both participants in the last BCS title game, Oregon and Auburn, are being investigated by the NCAA. (Getty Images)  
Both participants in the last BCS title game, Oregon and Auburn, are being investigated by the NCAA. Utah attorney general Mark Shurtleff recently announced he intends to sue the BCS on anti-trust grounds.

Business is conducted each year around this time in the host city of that season's BCS title game. The Sugar Bowl will be the site of the 2012 game. The past year has not been kind considering that the 2010 meetings were in Phoenix, home of the Fiesta Bowl. This year we're wondering if there will be a Fiesta Bowl.

The BCS retains some of its strength even in the most embattled times. If anyone believes that the much-criticized extravaganza, er, party, er, bacchanal, er, political influence broker is about to be booted from the rotation I've got a bag of Tostitos that says otherwise. It's not exactly and old-boy network, just an old-boy network that doesn't want to be embarrassed to this level. Fiesta officials were in Chicago on Saturday answering questions from the BCS task force that will decide its fate.

"Intense," was the way one person inside the room described it.

The task force is interested in how the executive committee of the Fiesta's board of directors will be able to oversee issues going forward. The Fiesta has hired the Parker Executive Search out of Atlanta to help find a replacement for fired executive director John Junker. Pac-12 associate commissioner Kevin Weiberg and Emmy Award-winning journalist Jack Ford have been mentioned as possible replacements. Parker has aided in the search for numerous coaches as well as helping the NCAA identify Mark Emmert as its new president last year.

If the Fiesta makes it through the task force, the NCAA licensing subcommittee awaits. The arm of the NCAA football issues wants to know why the Fiesta should keep its license. They are awarded in four-year increments but can be revoked year to year. Maybe the Fiesta's ultimate fate lies in that committee's history. Only one bowl, the old Silicon Valley Bowl, has had its license revoked and that was for financial reasons.

The Associated Press reported that nine of the 11 members of the subcommittee attended the 2008 Fiesta Frolic. While there is legitimate business conducted at the annual event, this probably is not the time to have your name attached to the Fiesta Bowl. According to the story, free meals, rooms and golf were included during the annual retreat for college administrators. Some of those task force members have also enjoyed the Fiesta's largess at the Frolic.

One administrator contacted by defended the Frolic saying, " ... it's the only way athletic directors, TV types and commissioners get to visit all at once. Every time I went I had three to four meetings set each day. I don't make apologies for the Frolic."

The Fiesta's own independent report released last month details improper political contributions as well as other lavish spending by the bowl over the years.

"You can't read that document without it taking your breath away," SEC commissioner Mike Slive said. "I have no doubt that every bowl has convened. If they haven't, they need to go back to the drawing board and look at their entire process."

You'll have to trust everyone to make an objective decision, just not here. Neither the task force nor the NCAA will rule on the Fiesta during the BCS meetings. That makes it easier in the Big Easy to focus on BCS flaws. No movement is expected on changing the current format. This is the first year of the new four-year cycle. Strangely, the BCS might be least concerned this week about the anti-trust lawsuit. Shurtleff is an influential figure but the BCS has been protected legally in its 13 years of existence.

Maybe the main issue this week is not how far the BCS has come as it enters Year 14, it is how it made it this far. The meetings continue through Thursday.

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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