NCAA adds to self-imposed sanctions
PHOENIX -- The NCAA added to self-imposed sanctions by Arizona's men's basketball program on Thursday, vacating 19 wins from the 2007-08 season and removing an additional scholarship for violations involving Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson.
The university announced its sanctions in February, including the loss of a scholarship for 2011-12 and numerous cutbacks in recruiting visits over the next two seasons.
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The NCAA upheld most of those self-imposed sanctions but determined the school had used two ineligible players in 2007-08 and would have to vacate all wins involving those players and eliminate their statistics. It also took away a scholarship for 2012-13 and pushed back a two-year probation period for the program to Thursday instead of starting it in February, as the university had decided earlier.
"You take very seriously the sanctions the institution self-imposes, then you weigh that against the gravity of the case and you make a decision whether additional penalties should be imposed," said former Miami AD Paul Dee, chair of the NCAA's infractions committee. "We were pleased that they self-imposed what they did, but we went further."
Arizona's self-imposed sanctions included a reduction in the number of recruiting visits by coaches and prospective players, the disbanding of a booster group and implementation of a series of administrative and rules changes to prevent further violations.
The NCAA reduced the number of official visits by recruits to six each over the next two years -- Arizona had imposed 11 in 2009-10, eight for 2010-11 -- and cut an additional 10 recruiting days for coaches for 2010-11, giving the school a total reduction of 30.
The university said it will not appeal the ruling.
"We're satisfied that the process has reached a conclusion," Arizona director of athletics Greg Byrne said. "We have cooperated throughout and respect the findings of the committee. Now it's time for us to move forward with a focus on maintaining the highest standards of integrity within our entire athletics program."
Olson was not reprimanded.
The school noted in its report that the coach 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 took a leave of absence in the 2007-08 season and had intended to return for 2008-09 but announced his retirement after attending a few practices.
The NCAA found that Olson failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance at the university but decided against sanctioning the 75-year-old former coach because he is retired and has health issues.
"The committee determined that the coach had retired and any punishment in that regard would be inappropriate," Dee said.
"I cannot say his [health] did not come into play. When someone is ill you take that into consideration," he added.
The sanctions stem from Olson's involvement with the promoter of two tournaments that were held over a four-year span on the university campus.
According to the NCAA, Olson improperly helped promote the Cactus Classic and the GOAZCATS.com Showdown in 2007 by allowing the promoter to speak on four separate occasions at board meetings for Rebounders, an Arizona booster club. Olson also urged board members to "step up" and sent them a letter urging their support of the tournaments.
The NCAA's report found that $197,000 was donated to the promoter to assist in the four events, with some of that money being used to pay for prospective players' lodging, meals and local transportation.
The NCAA also found that incoming assistant coaches Russ Pennell and Mike Dunlap participated in coaching-related activities with two enrolled student-athletes near campus at Olson's urging prior to their start dates. They were also found to have evaluated recruitable prospects at the 2008 Cactus Classic during a quiet period in the NCAA's recruitment calendar.
Pennell went on to serve as interim coach upon Olson's retirement and is now head coach at Grand Canyon University, with Dunlap his top assistant.
"I know that our university and athletic department went to great lengths to demonstrate institutional integrity in handling this matter, which includes our self-imposed sanctions," said Arizona coach Sean Miller, entering his second year as the Wildcats' coach. "We are all looking forward to a bright future as we continue to develop and build our basketball program with integrity at the forefront of everything we strive to accomplish."
Prior to officially retiring, Olson took responsibility for the violation.
"I think that was my fault," Olson said during a 2008 interview with ESPN.com. "That wasn't anyone else's fault. It was my error and it was a big error. But I guess in 26 years you are allowed to make a mistake once in a while anyway and that's not to say I haven't made a lot of them but in terms of that, that was a big mistake on my part."
Information from ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz and The Associated Press and was used in this report.