Arizona reveals self-imposed sanctions

Updated: February 6, 2010, 2:58 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Arizona imposed its own sanctions on the basketball program, including the loss of a scholarship for the 2011-12 academic year, for violations by former coach Lute Olson related to an offseason AAU tournament in 2008.

In announcing a two-year probationary period for the Wildcats program, the university said that in addition to taking away a scholarship, it will reduce the number of days coaches are allowed to recruit; reduce the number of official campus visits allowed by prospects; and reduce the number of coaches allowed at one time to recruit off campus for summer 2010.

The school has also disbanded a basketball booster group and undertaken a number of rules and administrative changes. However, the NCAA may modify the self-imposed sanctions.

"The university is deeply and profoundly committed to honoring not just the letter, but the spirit of the NCAA's efforts to foster fair and ethical competition," Arizona interim athletic director Kathleen LaRose said. "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."

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.

"It doesn't come as a surprise to me," first-year coach Sean Miller said Thursday night, before the penalties were made public. "I'm very confident that our university and our athletic department is handling it the way it should be handled."

Miller, whose young, surprising team (11-10, 6-4) next plays Saturday night at Washington State, said he's been aware of the situation since well before the former Xavier coach took the Arizona job in April.

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 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.

Arizona is the second Pac-10 men's basketball team to impose its own sanctions in the past month, though the Wildcats' penalties are far more minor than USC received from its university.

A USC investigation found rules were violated during current NBA player O.J. Mayo's lone season with the Trojans in 2007-08 under former coach Tim Floyd.

On Jan. 3, USC announced a one-year ban on postseason play following the current regular season, including the Pac-10 tournament; a loss of one scholarship for this season and the 2010-2011 season; a loss of one coach permitted to engage in off-campus recruiting during the summer of 2010; and the loss of 20 recruiting days (from 130 to 110) for the 2010-2011 academic year.

USC is also vacating 21 victories during the 2007-08 season, when Mayo competed while ineligible.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

ALSO SEE