Arizona reveals self-imposed basketball sanctions
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) – Arizona has placed its men’s basketball program on probation for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons for violations by Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson related to an offseason AAU tournament in 2008.
The school also announced Friday that the basketball program will relinquish one scholarship for the 2011-12 academic year and cut the number of days coaches are allowed to recruit for the next two seasons. The Wildcats will reduce the number of official campus visits allowed by prospects and trim the number of coaches allowed to recruit off campus at one time for summer 2010 recruiting.
Arizona also has disbanded a basketball booster group and undertaken a number of administrative and rules education changes. However, the NCAA may modify the self-imposed sanctions.
A final resolution of the matter isn’t expected for several months, the university said.
The school noted that Olson was dealing with a number of health issues at the time and it was later revealed by his physician and family that he had suffered a stroke that affected his decision-making abilities.
Olson had taken a leave of absence in the 2007-08 season and had intended to return for 2008-09. He came back for a few practices, then abruptly announced his retirement.
The school said the NCAA has issued a formal notice of what it believes were several violations of its bylaws.
According to a lengthy news release issued by the university, the NCAA alleges that Olson “improperly sent a letter to board members” of the Rebounders, a booster group, urging them to support the 2008 Cactus Classic, a letter that was quickly rescinded.
The NCAA also alleged that Olson improperly allowed the organizer of the event to speak to the booster club.
The NCAA contends that former Arizona assistant coaches Russ Pennell and Mike Dunlap violated bylaws by attending the Cactus Classic because, although they had not yet officially begun their work for Arizona, they should have technically been considered employees.
Pennell, now head coach at Grand Canyon University, went on to serve as interim coach upon Olson’s retirement, with Dunlap his top assistant.
In addition, the NCAA believes that Olson misled the university’s NCAA compliance officer regarding the origin of the letter to the Rebounders board members, and that he failed to adequately monitor some activities and promote “an atmosphere of compliance.”
Finally, the NCAA asserts that the institution failed to adequately monitor the basketball program because an associate athletic director attended at least one Rebounders board meeting where the Cactus Classic presentation was made.
“The university is deeply and profoundly committed to honoring not just the letter, but of the spirit of the NCAA’s efforts to foster fair and ethical competition,” interim athletic director Kathleen “Rocky” LaRose said in the release. “As an institution, we expect excellence on the field of play as well as in the conduct of our programs and will work diligently to ensure that these standards always are met.”
First-year coach Sean Miller had talked about the self-imposed sanctions Thursday night in Seattle after Arizona’s loss to Washington.
“I’m aware of it. It doesn’t come as a surprise to me,” he said. “I’m very confident that our university and our athletic department is handling it the way it should be handled.”