Fiesta scandal shouldn't tarnish all bowl games


There was an informal gathering of media and people with deep pockets Tuesday at Ferraro's restaurant during which a new logo celebrating the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas' 20th birthday was unveiled.

In a stunning development, it does not feature the iconic "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign. The news release said the traditional logo would return in 2012, and so I was able to sleep with only minimal tossing and turning.

The new logo features two giant X's, or Julius Caesar 10's. If the bowl game survives another decade, it follows that there will be another logo, with three X's.

XXX. Las Vegas. Football. Think about it.

If John Junker, the disgraced former CEO of the Fiesta Bowl, survives another decade, this is when I predict MAACO Bowl Las Vegas executive director Tina Kunzer-Murphy will be ousted in a spectacular coup d'etat.

Junker once wrote a check embossed with the Fiesta Bowl logo to a strip joint. That takes a big blazer, friends. There were lavish dinners with fine meats and cheeses, lavish golf outings with Jack Nicklaus and lavish contributions to politicians, to keep it all quiet. The wrong guy must have gotten elected. There were accusations and investigations and pink slips, with Junker receiving one of those.

The ATM known as the Fiesta Bowl had to cough up more money to pay a fine and was put on probation -- for one whole year. Thus, I am convinced that had Bruno Hauptmann worn a yellow blazer when Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr. was kidnapped in 1932, he would have not only beaten the rap but been given a preferential tee time at next year's "Fiesta Frolic."

Thanks to Junker, instead of discussing whether Anthony Calvillo -- the Most Valuable Player of Las Vegas Bowl II, who at last report was still winning Grey Cups in the Canadian Football League -- would be going into the new Las Vegas Bowl Hall of Fame on the first ballot, Kunzer-Murphy was asked if an independent investigation of her finances would turn up receipts for the Thunder Down Under all-male revue.

"No, no, no," she said, laughing. "You might see something for the drive-thru at In-N-Out, though."

Even legit people in the bowl business find themselves having to defend the system.

Kunzer-Murphy said she just returned from the bowl association meetings in New Orleans, where Fiesta Bowl backlash was a hot topic, after golf and cocktails.

"There are so many great things happening in our bowl world, what they do and what they spend their time doing, the goodwill that happens," she said. "What happened with the Fiesta Bowl happened to them. We have 34 other entities that are doing things the right way, and that's what I think we focus on."

Those whose nonprofit houses aren't in order also focus on mopping and dusting and tidying up, to keep Uncle Sam out of the Tostitos.

"Do you take a step back and take a look at everything as a whole? Absolutely, because that's our business," Kunzer-Murphy said. "We've got the BCS, the NCAA, the Fiesta Bowl working on their issues ... ."

That's like sending Moe, Larry and Curly to fix a leaky faucet, but I know what Kunzer-Murphy is trying to say: that the local bowl game does good things for the local community, starting with filling hotel rooms during what used to be a slow time of the year and that all bowl game directors aren't as shameless and corrupt as John Junker when it comes to spending Ohio State's or Florida's or ESPN's money.

Kunzer-Murphy gets to spend some of ESPN's money, too -- the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas is one of six bowls owned and operated by ESPN Regional Television, Inc. But she has a budget and must stay within it, or Stuart Scott is apt to raise an eyebrow.

As for Kunzer-Murphy's salary, well, all I will say is the last time we went to lunch, we split the bill, even though I had the double-double.

Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.

 

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