One of college football's most prominent bowl games announced on Thursday it had found no wrongdoing after it commissioned an investigation into allegations of illegal political donations made by its staff.
The Arizona Republic reported that an investigation led by former state Attorney General Grant Woods into alleged practices at the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl had found "no credible evidence that the bowl's management engaged in any type of illegal or unethical conduct."
The paper reported last week that several Fiesta Bowl employees were encouraged to write checks to politicians friendly to the bowl and that the bowl reimbursed them. Such a practice would violate Arizona and federal campaign finance law that bans the funneling of corporate campaign contributions through individuals.
Fiesta Bowl Chairman Allan Young told the Republic that Woods was hired by the bowl to perform an "independent review," which ultimately exonerated bowl administrators. He added, however, that "Mr. Woods has ... recommended that the Fiesta Bowl clarify some of its policies and procedures to ensure we are not vulnerable to future allegations of impropriety."
The Fiesta Bowl is one of four bowl games that fall under the purview of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). The BCS selects teams to play in top bowl games, as well as the national championship game, based on a complex series of human and computer rankings.
Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker said last week that the bowl never reimbursed employees and that it did not coordinate the donations.
More than $38,000 in campaign contributions have been made since 2000 by 14 Fiesta Bowl employees, according to the paper.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is the only U.S. lawmaker named in the report as a recipient of the donations. State lawmakers also received contributions.
As the youngest of the four BCS bowls, bowl officials are reportedly concerned that other well-known bowls could knock off the Fiesta Bowl for a BCS spot.
The report comes a week after a House subcommittee passed a bill encouraging college football to scrap its lucrative bowl system for a single-elimination playoff system that some lawmakers say is more fair.
Interested groups have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying for and against anti-BCS legislation.