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."