Fiesta Bowl Scandal: John Junker Pleaded Guilty To A Federal Conspiracy Charge

March 20, 2014


Former Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker was sentenced to eight months in prison on March 13, 2014 for his role in an illegal campaign contribution conspiracy that was linked to the bowl and the bowl’s employees. Mr. Junker pleaded guilty to a single charge of conspiracy in 2012. He is scheduled to report to federal prison in June 2014.

Conspiracy threatened game’s importance

The Fiesta Bowl was one of the four major bowls under the old Bowl Championship Series (BCS) system that decided college football’s national champion. Starting in 2015, the BCS will be replaced by a four-team playoff. The playoff games will rotate between the four bowls that previously comprised the BCS. The Fiesta Bowl has already won the right to host the 2016 National Championship Game.

The Fiesta Bowl manages to keep its NCAA license

The Fiesta Bowl could have been kicked out of the BCS, excluded from the playoffs, and possibly even eliminated because of Junker’s actions. He reportedly asked Fiesta Bowl employees to make nearly $46,000 of contributions to politicians. The contributions were made under false names and the employees were reimbursed.

The Fiesta Bowl kept its BCS status and retained its NCAA license. However, it was fined $1 million and put on probation for one year. Junker was fired from his CEO position in 2011 after 20 years on the job.

Junker also faces sentencing in state court for a charge of solicitation to commit a fraudulent scheme. He could have faced up to five years in prison, but prosecutors recommended a more lenient sentence because Junker had been cooperative in the investigation. He is the only person to receive prison time in the scheme. Several other Fiesta Bowl employees received probation for misdemeanor charges.

Case revealed high dollars flowing through bowl games

The charges against Junker pulled back the curtain on the secret world of bowl game finances and sponsorship. Junker was reportedly paid $600,000 per year as Fiesta Bowl CEO. He also received cars, vacations, country club memberships, and a $33,000 birthday party as benefits.

The money flowed both ways. More than 30 politicians received free tickets to the Fiesta Bowl and some received all-expense paid trips. None of those politicians were charged in the scheme.

For his part, Junker claims that he feels remorse for his crimes. He said that the situation has had a severely negative impact on his family and that he regrets the negative publicity and shame that he brought to the Fiesta Bowl.

He currently makes slightly more than $47,000 per year working for St. Vincent de Paul, although there’s no word as to whether he would be able to keep the position while he’s in prison.