Robert Shelton has resigned as executive director of the Fiesta Bowl, 2½ years after he took the job amid a scandal that rocked the foundation of one of college football’s major events.
Shelton said his leaving was a mutual decision by him and the bowl’s board of directors.
Shelton left his post as president of the University of Arizona to take over at the Fiesta Bowl on June 13, 2011.
He replaced John Junker, who resigned following a scathing internal report outlining lavish spending and a scheme in which bowl employees were required to make donations to certain political candidates and have the money reimbursed by the bowl.
Junker is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to federal and state felony charges in connection with the campaign finance scheme. This week, a federal judge set Junker’s sentencing for March 13. His sentencing on state charges is expected to come after that.
Under Shelton, the Fiesta Bowl repaired its image, expanded charitable contributions, retained its status as a Bowl Championship Series event, then landed future semifinal and championship games in the new college football playoff system.
“I think the community was waiting and they wanted to be behind us but they needed to see that changes had been made,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday. “Once we demonstrated that, once we reached out, people could see it was a new era of accountability, openness — all the buzz words — transparency.”
He praised his Fiesta Bowl staff and the event’s 2,900 volunteers and thanked them for their support.
Shelton, 65, called it a good time to make a transition to new leadership and for him to move on.
“The big heavy lifting, we’ve done,” he said. “That’s culminated with having a place in the new college football playoffs, culminated by getting the national championship game. From the bowl’s perspective, it’s a good breaking point.”