April 22, 2011

A seven-member BCS task force headed by Penn State president Graham Spanier will meet with Fiesta Bowl officials on Saturday at the Big Ten's offices in Chicago as it decides whether the troubled Arizona bowl will remain part of the BCS going forward.

Last month, the Fiesta Bowl fired longtime CEO John Junker and released a 276-page report summarizing an investigation it commissioned last fall that found bowl employees had engaged in potentially illegal campaign contributions; flown politicians to college football games around the country; made lavish expenditures on entertainment and were reimbursed for personal expenses. In response, the BCS announced the formation of a seven-person task force to evaluate the bowl's findings and "ask the bowl to demonstrate why it should remain a BCS bowl game."

To this point, the task force -- which also includes Big East commissioner John Marinatto, Florida AD Jeremy Foley and Stanford AD Bob Bowlsby -- has held several internal teleconferences, but this will be its first face-to-face meeting with Fiesta Bowl representatives. The committee is hoping to issue a recommendation to the BCS commissioners and Presidential Oversight Committee on the Fiesta Bowl's fate by mid-May, Spanier told The Associated Press this week.

"We look forward to meeting with the BCS task force, and to informing them about the numerous steps and significant reforms we have adopted to restore the very highest level of public trust and integrity in the Fiesta Bowl moving forward," Duane Woods, Fiesta Bowl chairman of the board, said in a statement.

Fiesta Bowl officials will simultaneously meet with the NCAA's bowl licensing subcommittee next week in New Orleans. That committee, headed by Big East associate commissioner Nick Carparelli, will decide whether the Fiesta and Insight Bowls (both operated by the same organization) should be stripped of their license for next season. The NCAA issued a statement Thursday that it would not render a decision next week.

"We are delaying our overall licensing review and decision of the Fiesta Bowl and Insight Bowl until we can discuss these details with bowl officials and fully examine all appropriate information," said Carparelli.

Both Carparelli and BCS executive director Bill Hancock said this week that the two groups are in communication about their reviews and, "I'd say we're on parallel tracks," said Hancock. "That's not to say the decisions are going to be the same."

There has been speculation that the Cotton Bowl or another existing bowl could replace the Fiesta Bowl in the BCS lineup should the BCS choose to cut ties with that game, or should the game lose its NCAA license, but Hancock said those discussions are premature.

The Fiesta, Sugar and Orange Bowls have three years remaining on a joint contract with ESPN, which has a separate, simultaneous deal with the Rose Bowl.

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