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Sports Commentary 3/31/11

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These are not pleasant times for college football, perhaps a signal that it’s time for a change. The latest stone was unturned last night on the HBO investigative series “Real Sports with Bryant Gumble”, on which four former Auburn football players claimed they recieved money from the school while they were being recruited and during their playing careers. One of them even spoke of recieving what he called “money handshakes” from boosters at several other schools he visited. In any other week a story like this might have been the most damning allegation against a sport, but not this week, not in college football. An indictment at least equally as serious rose against one of the BCS bowl games, the Fiesta Bowl, where several staff members are alleged to have misspent bowl funds and proceeds to the point of making illegal campaign contributions to local politicians in Arizona. The worst of the allegations is aimed directly at the bowl’s chief executive, John Junker, who reportedly recieved two million dollars in reimbursments for non existent expenses. Junker was fired on Tuesday. Now the future of the bowl itself is in jeopardy. History may, probably will, record that our own State U. played in the Fiesta Bowl in it’s last year as a BCS bowl game. Firing Junker and eliminating the Fiesta Bowl from the BCS mix will not alleviate the problem that surrounds bowl games run as independent businesses. The most likely bowl to replace the Fiesta among the BCS four is the Cotton Bowl, and rightfully so. With the spectacular, state of the art Cowboys Stadium in Dallas as it’s host venue and all the public relations and support services available to Cowboys and Stadium owner Jerry Jones the Cotton Bowl is primed to make a major splash on the BCS scene. But Jerry Jones has always been about making money for Jerry Jones, to the point of excluding his own stadium revenues and liscencing fees from the NFL’s revenue sharing pie. Removing a bowl because inconsistencies in the bookkeeping have been uncovered doesn’t guarantee that similar inconsistencies won’t, or don’t already, exist in other bowls, waiting to be uncovered. Arguments over the methods for seeding teams in the BCS bowl games and the national championship game have been ongoing, and are legitimate, over giving automatic berths to leagues that in any given year may not be deserving while excluding more deserving teams and arbitrarily filling the championship game. If ever there was a time to succomb to the mounting calls for change in the system, to a tournament format that would incorporate the bowl games, now is the time. While the bowls could still be run by separate committees, by making them part of an NCAA playoff rather than separate bowls filled for financial purposes first, competitive purposes second, each bowl would gain more appeal and each would be more closely governed by the NCAA, which would at least make each more accountable in conjuction with the others. It’s been a long time coming. This week’s developments with the Fiesta Bowl should be an indication that now is that time. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.

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