Fiesta Bowl probe results in Junker dismissal, casts pall over BCS
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- For 30 years, John Junker was a glad-handing, canary-blazered shogun of the Fiesta Bowl, the smiling face of that event and its most passionate advocate. So grand was his passion that it overruled his judgment, which is how the 55-year-old came to find himself seated at a conference table, trying to convince investigators there
That pathetic quote appears on page 240 of the bowl's
As Duane Woods, the bowl's chairman, told 30 or so demoralized employees on Tuesday afternoon in the wake of Junker's firing, "The cover-up was worse than the crime." (As of late Tuesday, SI.com's calls to 15 current and former employees had gone unreturned.)
The investigation that brought down one of the most powerful figures in college football came on the heels of a previous investigation, which the Fiesta Bowl was forced to conduct in December 2009. That investigation came in response to allegations in
The Fiesta Bowl hired Grant Woods (no relation to Duane), a former Arizona attorney general, to look into the matter. As the 276-page Special Committee Report makes clear, Woods' initial investigation was hasty, superficial and deeply flawed by the participation of Gary Husk, a longtime lobbyist for the Fiesta Bowl who is alleged to have been one of the people who solicited those illegal contributions in the first place. Husk is also alleged to have "pre-screened" and "prepped" six potential witnesses before they were to speak with Woods.
After declining to speak with SI.com on Tuesday, Husk released a statement saying, "I have provided evidence that the accusations that have been made against me are not credible."
Woods was paid $55,000 for his investigation -- $20,000 of which he remitted to Husk -- on which he spent nine days. He spoke to seven current employees and two former employees, and announced to the board on Dec. 22 that he'd found "no credible evidence" that the allegations in
The truth only emerged after Junker's executive assistant, Kelly Keogh, paid a visit to Duane Woods in his office. Suffering from a crisis of conscience, she informed the Chairman that, regardless of what Grant Woods' investigation had concluded, employees
Woods took it from there, calling an emergency meeting of the Board's Executive Committee, which (as committees will do) spawned still another committee. This "Special Committee" was charged with conducting a second, more comprehensive investigation: the four-month probe that brought Junker down.
Some of its other findings:
The Fiesta Bowl had covered $13,086 in expenses connected with one employee's wedding in Kansas City. Junker bestowed on others such gifts as iPads, gift cards and, most bizarre, bullion. He purchased (and billed to the bowl) some $22,000 worth of gold and silver coins.
This is not a good day for the BCS. The Sugar and Orange Bowls have also recently come under withering criticism for the excessive compensation of executives and extravagant expenditures. Sugar Bowl executive director Paul Hoolahan's 2009 income of $645,386 was just 40K or so shy of Junker's. Last June, according to a complaint filed by a committee called Playoff PAC, the Orange Bowl treated its executives and college athletic directors to "Summer Splash," a four-day Royal Caribbean cruise featuring several stops in the Bahamas ... but no business meetings. (Spokespeople for each of the bowls deny any impropriety.)
To its credit, the Fiesta Bowl has already adopted what it calls "sweeping reforms" to "improve oversight and transparency." SI.com will detail those and other aspects in a story on Wednesday.