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Thursday, April 28, 2011
NCAA puts hold on new bowl games

Associated Press

The NCAA will re-examine its role in licensing bowls and has put a three-year hold on any new games in the wake of the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl's problems.

The NCAA's Division I Board of Directors on Thursday approved a new task force to look at the criteria and process for licensing bowls and will not approve any new bowls until updated standards are put into place.

Spawned by financial improprieties and apparent political improprieties by the Fiesta Bowl uncovered in March, the task force will look at the oversight of bowl sponsoring agencies, conflict-of-interest rules and policies, advertising and title-sponsorship standards, along with oversight and reporting of financial management of bowl games.

"We've actually been talking about it for a number of months," NCAA president Mark Emmert said. "It's an issue that I brought up to the board back in January as we were looking at all of the potential roles of the NCAA in what used be called certification and is now called the licensing process. It became clear to me that a review of those criteria of those processes was overdue."

Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman will co-chair the task force of no more than 10 people with another to-be-named person from outside higher education and athletics.

Emmert would like the task force, which will likely include university presidents and managers from nonprofit organizations, to report to him and the Division I board by October.

"I welcome President Emmert's initiative on the creation of the bowl licensing task force and find it very appropriate and timely," ACC commissioner John Swofford said. "We want the bowls to operate with the highest standards, and although I think most do, I believe stronger NCAA oversight is a good idea."

Four-year bowl licenses issued by the NCAA in 2010 remain in effect as long as the sponsors meet the current requirements, though existing bowls will be expected to meet any new licensing standards adopted by the Division I board as a result of the task force's work.

All 35 bowls were certified last year through 2013 but are subject to annual reviews. An NCAA subcommittee reaffirmed bowl licenses on Thursday for 32 football bowl games but delayed licensing decisions on the Fiesta, Insight and TicketCity bowls until later this spring.

"I certainly know that going forward, I want to make sure the bowl licensing process is robust enough and thorough enough that we have great confidence when we license a bowl that we know how it's being governed, what the oversights are and that all the appropriate policies and practices are in place," Emmert said.

An internal investigation of the Fiesta Bowl revealed thousands of dollars in lavish spending, including a birthday party for president and CEO John Junker in Pebble Beach, Calif., the wedding and honeymoon of an aide and a $1,200 strip club tab.

In addition, the report detailed some $45,000 in reimbursements to employees for political donations, along with junkets and free game tickets for several Arizona legislators.

Junker was fired when the report was made public on March 29.

A BCS task force is examining findings from the internal investigation by the Fiesta Bowl and could have a report by mid-May. The BCS could remove the Fiesta Bowl's status as one of college football's four premier events.

"The BCS group welcomes the announcement made today by the NCAA," BCS executive director Bill Hancock said. "It's always beneficial to review best management practices and I look forward to helping the NCAA any way I can."

The IRS has also been asked to examine whether the Fiesta Bowl deserves its nonprofit status, and the Arizona attorney general's office is looking into the reimbursed political donations, an apparent violation of state laws.

Arizona attorney general Tom Horne said Thursday he will hand over any investigations involving public officials and their contacts with the Fiesta Bowl to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office but will retain all other aspects of the investigation.

The NCAA has the power to revoke the license of the game altogether but will not decide on further sanctions until later this year, after the BCS finishes its report.

"The [Fiesta Bowl] special report was obviously extremely detailed and outlined behaviors none of us would be supportive of and I think the board was forthright in putting all that information before the various bodies," Emmert said. "I think it's fair to say those are the kinds of things none of us find acceptable and we all find completely contrary to the values of intercollegiate athletics. We certainly can't abide by those kind of behaviors."

Fiesta Bowl chairman Duane Woods said the bowl will be so detailed with its compliance, auditing and transparency that he hopes no further action will be required but welcomed the new task force's insight.

"There's been a lot of dialogue about it in general," he said. "Clearly though, I think it's instructive. I think we all have to reflect on what happened and say, 'What changes can we make that reflect better compliance and oversight?'"