When the inaugural Fiesta Bowl kicked off on Dec. 27, 1971, there was no way of predicting what it would become. It was an upstart football game that dared to wander into the land of the giants -- Rose, Sugar, Orange and Cotton -- and was predicted by many to settle into a nice middle rung of the bowl pecking order where it would quietly serve its West Coast fan base.
But by the mid-1980s it had been steered into the big time, hosting the de facto 1986 national championship game between the Penn State Nittany Lions and Miami Hurricanes. The classic contest vaulted the Fiesta Bowl into the top tier of the college football postseason and it never looked back, eventually earning one of the coveted four BCS slots.
Now that position may be in jeopardy.
On Tuesday the Fiesta Bowl's board of directors posted a brutal internal report, a 276-page carpet bombing that was primarily aimed at the man who steered the game to national prominence, CEO John Junker. Junker, who has been fired, was under investigation because of a scheme to reimburse employees for political contributions and his efforts to go back and cover his tracks. But the report goes much deeper than that, including information on gaudy piles of cash that were thrown at everything from Junker's $33,000 birthday party at Pebble Beach, to four country club memberships.
Let's put it this way. If your employer ever does a report on how you're doing your job, you don't want it to include a section titled "Strip Club Visits."
(By the way, I interviewed Junker for my "Going Bowling" blog back in December as he prepared to host three games -- the Insight Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and BCS Championship -- in two weeks. It turned out to be one of his last national interviews before he essentially went into hiding. You can read it here.)
The BCS reacted quickly and harshly, saying that it would do its own investigation to determine if the Fiesta Bowl "should remain a BCS bowl game or other appropriate sanctions." It is entirely conceivable that the Fiesta Bowl, scheduled for either Jan. 4 or 5, 2012, could be replaced in the BCS as early as this year. Or it could be dropped from the BCS rotation when the current agreement expires in 2014.
So, which bowl games are the best candidates to replace the Fiesta, should it be asked to leave the BCS? Here's my top five:
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