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The Daily Wildcat

 

Basketball sanctions: Silence not the answer; someone must speak

Jake Lacey/Arizona Daily Wildcat

Mhoops VS UNC. 1st Half
Jake Lacey
Jake Lacey/Arizona Daily Wildcat Mhoops VS UNC. 1st Half

Six days have passed since the Arizona basketball program was sanctioned by the NCAA, and the silence continues.

There remains no explanation from Lute Olson, Russ Pennell, Mike Dunlap or Miles Simon, all of whom broke NCAA rules or were at least investigated for breaking them, according to a report by the organization.

The silence is comparable to Mark McGwire’s disappearance when everyone found out he cheated his way to baseball greatness.

In fact, college athletics has entered into its version of the MLB’s steroid era.

In the last few years, the programs of Hall of Fame coaches Lute Olson and Jim Calhoun have been caught cheating.

Five years ago, Arizona basketball fans would have looked at cheating the same way as the National Invitation Tournament; it just doesn’t happen in Tucson.

But with the NCAA’s final decision coming on Thursday, it’s obvious now that cheating did happen here.

At the end of the day, the NCAA let the Arizona basketball program off easy.

What’s the difference between what happened with the Southern California basketball program and Arizona?

One program’s cheating included its head coach paying one of his player’s handlers; another involved a legendary coach who used his power to fund a basketball tournament, full of recruits, handled by goazcats.com publisher Jim Storey.

In both scenarios, illegal monetary transactions took place. Arizona realistically should have received a minimum one-year postseason ban.

The NCAA should blame itself for allowing big-time recruits to play in a tournament on a school’s home court and expecting everyone to follow the rules. Does the NCAA have too much pride to admit that it had a part in this one?

People will be quick to point out that Olson’s judgment was impaired due to an earlier stroke. But did the others involved have strokes too?

At this point, NCAA sports have become like the MLB; everyone is under suspicion of cheating until proven otherwise.

This reminds me of the time that Barry Bonds was being hammered by the whole world, but when the other MLB players were exposed, the hate toward Bonds eased up.

Just as John Calipari is ridiculed for being a cheater while the programs of Olson, Calhoun and Pete Carroll were either sanctioned or accused of just as harsh penalties.

It seems the majority of college coaches cheat one way or another.

Former University of Nevada-Las Vegas coach Jerry Tarkanian has to be somewhere smiling at the fact that the NCAA is having so much trouble trying to tame all these cheaters, considering how he was the NCAA’s biggest foe in the ‘90s.

Since the discovery of all of these Hall of Fame-caliber coaches cheating, maybe it’s time Tarkanian is allowed in the Hall of Fame.

The NCAA may want to give MLB commissioner Bud Selig a call for some pointers on how to deal with all these cheaters.

And Olson may want to explain what happened or release a statement to take some pressure off Sean Miller, who shouldn’t have to address these sanctions.

If Olson doesn’t come forward, Miller will have to answer questions about the sanctions rather than moving into a new era.

I can imagine the questions when basketball season starts.

Have you talked to coach Olson since the NCAA made their decision?

How will the program make sure it follows the rules in the future?

How much do the additional penalties hurt the program?

Olson can save the program the trouble by doing an interview or releasing a statement, so Miller can move into the future without having to answer any questions about the mess at the end of the last era. His focus needs to be on how he will return Arizona basketball to prominence.

The NCAA, on the other hand, has a much tougher task at hand — they must find a way a to eliminate the middle guys who enable coaches to cheat.

The MLB has the answers — remember, Barry Bonds had Victor Conte and Rogers Clemens had Brian McNamee.

And Lute Olson has goazcats.com and Jim Storey.

— Vincent Balistreri is a journalism senior.

He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu

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