The importance of government largess to sports, including publicly-funded stadiums, has been a frequent topic on this blog. Recently, the CEO of the Fiesta Bowl John Junker was fired for a number of alleged violations related to campaign contributions and favors for politicians. This story is virtually inevitable.
The Fiesta Bowl benefits enormously from being one of the four BCS bowl games. In fact, the difference economically between being one of the four BCS bowl games and being one of the numerous other bowls is roughly the difference between the United States and, say, Peru. To give one a sense, the prize money for winning a BCS bowl is about $18 million. The prize money for all other bowl games varies from $325,000 to, at most, $4.25 million.
But the Fiesta Bowl would almost certainly not be one of the four BCS bowls were it not for the city of Glendale building a half billion dollar stadium to be shared by our NFL franchise and the Fiesta Bowl. It would almost be shocking if a few tens of thousands of dollars were not directed to politicians given the stakes on the table. And it should be no surprise that politicians in Glendale received many of the payments.
Postscript: Junker's attorney's comments are telling. This was all about doing what it takes to make the Fiesta Bowl a big player. And I can tell you, from all the grief I have gotten for defending a Constitutional principle at the expense of holding on to a sports franchise, there is a strong public lobby for the ends justifying the means when sports are involved. Anyway, here is the quote:
While Junker declined SI.com's request to be interviewed for this story, his lawyer, Stephen M. Dichter, could not resist issuing an e-mailed reminder that it was his client "who took the Fiesta Bowl from a postseason game created so [that] Frank Kush's ASU Sun Devils would have a game in which they could be showcased while they and the rest of the WAC were completely ignored by the national media to its present position as one of the four pillars of the Bowl Championship Series."
Les Miles will remain as coach of the LSU football team (at least for a while) despite being wooed by Michigan. (LSU must wonder what's wrong with their coaching job - they have won two national championships this decade but can't get a coach to stay).
In order to keep Les Miles, LSU inserted this clause in his contract:
Should Miles win the BCS championship [ed: which he now has accomplished] his contract states he has to be
among the top three paid college coaches in the nation, which would
bump him to the $3.5 million range.
This is not uncommon language now in sports contracts. For example, players with a franchise tag in the NFL must get a salary equal to or greater than the average of the top five players at that position.
So here is my question. What happens if three other college coaches, say Pete Carrol, Jim Tressel, and Urban Meyer (who have all won national championships in the last 10 years) were to demand that they too should be guaranteed a salary that puts them in the top three coaches? Don't things start getting real recursive at this point?
Postscript: Yeah, I know, the language generally says they get bumped to a top X position on the day of a certain event, like winning the BCS or having the franchise tag applied, which circumvents the circularity problem, mostly, by not being an open-ended reset. It is still funny to think about. There is nothing to stop 4 coaches from negotiating a clause with an open-ended reset such that their salaries would spiral to infinity. Even Solomon might struggle with that one when it went to court, though the Gordian Knot solution would be to just run one of the four through with a sword.
I wonder if this has ever happened, say with two CEO's that had contracts that guaranteed that each would, at any given time, be the highest paid CEO in the Fortune 500.
Anyone who is still trying valiantly to take our Congress seriously can stop now:
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, chairman of the
Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, will conduct a
hearing next week about the BCS....
When asked to explain the timing of the hearings, a spokesman for
Barton referred to BCS history. Before this season, four of the seven
BCS years have resulted in championship game controversy.
"The BCS system was created to identify a broadly accepted national
champion, but 57 percent of the time it has failed to do so," Barton
said in the news release. "Most coaches who lose 57 percent of their
games would also lose their jobs. Yet that's what we settle for in
determining a champion today."
Wow, it must be the 30th Amendment: Congress shall make no law abridging the right of Division 1 college football fans to have a clear national champion. I wonder if this is just a ploy to get free Rose Bowl tickets?
Everyone in Congress. Go home. Now. Don't come back.
Two years in a row, voters had to choose two out of three very good teams to send to the BCS championship game. And, for the second straight year, the team left out (USC, Auburn) has looked a lot better than OU, who got blown out for the second straight year in the Championship game. I thought the Big 12 was way overrated at the beginning of the season and I have not changed my mind. Maybe it is some flaw in the distribution of the AP's voting ballots, with a disproportionate number going to Big 12 States. Certainly it seemed that way when Texas slipped by Cal in the last poll of the season as a number of voters seemed to "reevaluate" their rankings to slip Texas in.
UPDATE: Same goes double for Ashlee Simpson
Previously, I explained why I like Football Outsiders here. Their week 9 statistical rankings of teams is here.
Miami still can't nail down that bottom spot. San Francisco and the Raiders both have fallen below the Fish (so much for Bay Area football). Miami has the worst offense in the league by a HUGE margin, but its defense keeps it off the bottom, as it probably should: A good defense will win you a few games, no matter how bad the offense is. My Arizona Cardinals continue to fall, down to their rightful place in the bottom quartile, despite having a pretty good defense. At the top, Pittsburgh, New England and Philly are threatening to run away and hide, which just goes to show that every once in a while, BCS notwithstanding, computers and common sense can converge.