Fiesta Bowl

More from this show

Oklahoma State’s thrilling overtime victory over Stanford was just what the Fiesta Bowl needed as the organization continues to repair its reputation that was tarnished by scandal. The Fiesta Bowl’s new executive director Robert Shelton explains what the organization is doing to win the public’s trust.

Ted Simons: Oklahoma State's overtime win over Stanford in Monday night's Fiesta Bowl brought a positive end to a season of turmoil for the Fiesta Bowl 7 organization. Bowl officials continue efforts to repair a reputation damaged by allegations of illegal political contributions and culture of questionable spending. Last spring the Fiesta Bowl fired its long time CEO John Junker and hired University of Arizona president Robert Shelton as its new executive director to help turn the organization around. Here to tell us how that's going is Fiesta Bowl CEO Robert Shelton.

Robert Shelton: My wife, my three kids, and I were officially neutral. The main thing I wanted to see was a phenomenal game. I don't think anyone turned off their TV sets for that game.

Ted Simons: Obviously, that's a positive point, that's a good starting point for the year and for the rebuilding. Talk about the challenges in rebuilding the Fiesta Bowl reputation.

Robert Shelton: The rebuilding has been going on for some months. They made some changes in board membership, in staffing, implemented new bylaws, new articles of incorporation. That was set up before I came on board officially August 1. I could take that with my board, run with it. We now have a new code of conduct, we have a new financial -- nobody use their own credit cards. There's all this P-card formality, authorization matrix to make sure you have the right number of signatures. Lots of controls. Do background checks. A whole new approach, a whole new attitude. It started with the board, with the volunteers. It's with the committee, with the entire organization.

Ted Simons: Any time there's change even in an organization that's as wracked by scandal like this, any time there's change there's hesitation to that change. Are you finding obstacles out there, slow-footing maybe?

Robert Shelton: You know, I haven't seen that. Maybe it's because a lot of the changes took place before I came on board. I have always been of a philosophy of being open and transparent. I had one on one meeting in my office with every staff member. I bet 85% said they had never been in the office before. That office door is open. They come to me. We talk about things. It's good for me because they know what's going on. I'm the rookie.

Ted Simons: You were quoted earlier this season saying we took our lumps and we deserved it. Talk about that because was it $1 million fine? Was that what the BCS came up with?

Robert Shelton: They required other changes in governance. If you look on our website now, everything is open. You can see the whole governance there. You look at the recent report that Markem receipt, the president of the NCAA commission put out. They talk about best practices in governance. 9 You go through that checklist, boom, boom, boom, we're doing it all. We have really transformed the entire operation. Keeping the really talented people we have, but moving forward.

Ted Simons: Impact on charitable donations, these sorts of things, impact on sponsors, on advertisers. I thought I read some of the advertisers dropped out because of the scandal.

Robert Shelton: We lost a very small number of add titer/sponsors. All the big ones stayed with us. Fort McDowell, Yavapai nation, they are thrilled with how things went this year. We also garnered new sponsors. So I would say that the people in marketing, strategic partnerships did a great job bringing it back. But there's no doubt people were questioning that. Do we want to have our connection and how visible do we want to have the connection. I got to put in a plug for Tostitos. They are a phenomenal sponsor. They stayed with us all the way. They are extraordinarily happy about the game the other night.

Ted Simons: How do you convince people that spending abuse is over, that the political contributions, how do you convince people that that era is over?

Robert Shelton: I think you just have to do it slowly, gradually over and over and over again. We didn't get into the situation overnight. We're not going to get out of it by one statement. We're going to continue to practice what we preach. Thank you for having me on here. It gives me an opportunity to describe everything put into place. For example, charitable donations. There's a spot on our web page. Click on that. We have two calls a year. One ended September 30th. We just handed out 400,000 on that call. Another one march 30th. What we're going to do is make everything overt. People can see what we're doing.

Ted Simons: Are you still giving gifts to politicians?

Robert Shelton: No.

Ted Simons: Zero.

Robert Shelton: Zero. It's against the law.

Ted Simons: So that's over with.

Robert Shelton: That's over with.

Ted Simons: I'm not going to see so and so sitting in aisle 14, section 32 here.

Robert Shelton: Gifts. We're not offering tickets, but in the law if you offer everybody the ticket you can do that but you have to record that amount of expense.

Ted Simons: If you see one you must be seeing a whole bunch of others. This has been a rough year for college sports in general, college football in general. I don't remember a year this tough. What are your thoughts, especially for those who say, college football is out of control. Between scandals and the whole nine yards.

Robert Shelton: I think it's a natural human tendency to take some examples 11 and extrapolate to the body politic as a whole. We know that's a mistake, yet it's human nature to do it. One of the things to keep in mind, these are still isolated incidents. Many are horrific, worrisome, troublesome. The NCAA is committed 100% to getting this cleaned up. One of the things that drew me to this position was maybe somewhat self-servingly, I thought, college president background, I think my background combined with the great tradition of the Fiesta Bowl will be a useful perspective to bring to the bowls over all.

Ted Simons: Are you seeing that? You mentioned isolated incidents, but Penn State obviously is just terrible business. We got Syracuse, Ohio state, Oregon, you got USC, Auburn.

Robert Shelton: Miami.

Ted Simons: If you win, you -- if you're not cheating you're not trying. How do you affect that mindset?

Robert Shelton: You have to incur serious financial penalties. Money talks. It really does. If there are programs -- Penn State situation is a very different situation, but if there are programs whose football or other athletic programs are out of hand I think you have to call to the NCAA and see serious financial penalties.

Ted Simons: Good to have you here. Congratulations on a good game.

Robert Shelton: Thank you. It was a real benefit for all of the Valley of the Sun. A lot of economic benefit. We'll be rolling those numbers out soon.

Robert Shelton:Fiesta Bowl Executive Director;

Senator Bundgaard Ethics Hearing

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates

Three main characters from mystery shows premiering this summer
airs June 16

It’s the Summer of Mystery!

Celebrate Juneteenth with Arizona PBS

A photo of Olivia Ford and the cover of her book,
June 26

Join us for PBS Books Readers Club!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch
with azpbs.org!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: