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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Sanctions demystified

Jake Lacey/Arizona Daily Wildcat

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

Stemming from former head coach Lute Olson’s alleged NCAA recruiting violations in 2008, the UA announced that it will self-impose sanctions on the men’s basketball team Friday.

Although officials cannot comment on the ongoing investigation, the Arizona Daily Wildcat obtained documents that explained the NCAA accusations along with the university’s response after its internal investigation.

According to the documents, the event that began the investigation involved a letter Olson later said was electronically signed. The letter was sent to about 20 members of the Rebounders, an athletic booster club, around March 28, 2008. It asked for financial support for the Arizona Cactus Classic, an Amateur Athletic Union basketball tournament held on May 9-11, 2008. Questions were raised because coaches are not allowed to promote funding for potential recruits.

The letter directed the members to contact event director Jim Storey, an entrepreneur and former publisher of the recruiting Web site GOAZCATS.com, if they wanted to give donations for the tournament.

Storey resigned his publishing duties of GOAZCATS.com to current publisher Josh Gershon on April 17, 2009, to “”focus on other business endeavors.””

Olson denied knowledge of the letter. While he was involved in an initial writing of the letter — he helped draft it with his secretary, who later wrote, over the phone — NCAA Bylaw 10.1 says the violator must “”knowingly”” give false or misleading information. The university said it does not feel Olson knowingly sent a letter that went against NCAA regulation.

After writing the letter, Olson’s secretary, Monica Armenta, who is now deceased, sent the letter to director of basketball operations Matt Brase because Olson wasn’t available, and Brase made a few edits. Brase, Olson’s grandson, also showed the letter to Storey, who told Brase the letter was fine. Brase then returned it to Armenta to be sent.

On April 10, 2008, associate athletic director Scott MacKenzie told associate athletic director for compliance Bill Morgan of the letter, concerned over possible violations.

Morgan met with Olson twice, on April 16, 2008, and again on April 23, 2008. Each time Olson said he had no knowledge of the letter. Olson also never read a draft of the letter, his secretary told investigators.

Taking Morgan’s advice, Olson then wrote a retraction letter and sent it to the members who had received the original letter. During this time, he also confronted Armenta, among others in the athletic department, asking about the letter and consistently maintained that he did not sign it.

At the time, Olson was also suffering from the effects of a stroke, which the university said could have hurt his decision making.

After the UA had knowledge of the letter, it asked Storey not to accept donations prompted by the letter, and Storey told investigators he did not. Though some members of the Rebounders club gave money to Storey, the university statement said there was no proof it was directly because of the letter they received and thus, not against NCAA rules.

Other allegations

• Olson attended a Rebounders board meeting on April 15, 2008, one day before Morgan met with him to first discuss the problematic letter. At the meeting, which was “”special”” and not scheduled — thus unknown to Morgan and MacKenzie — Olson called for the members to raise money for Storey’s Cactus Classic. Storey followed Olson with a short presentation. Former interim head coach Kevin O’Neill also said Olson asked for boosters’ support at an October 2007 Rebounders board meeting.

The fact that Storey often solicited and raised funds to support his events was not a violation of any NCAA rules, but it was the fact that Storey used money — $197,000 was raised by the Rebounders through three Cactus Classics and one McKale Center high school game sponsored by Storey’s GOAZCATS.com — that was raised with some assistance from Olson.

• Furthermore, the NCAA alleges that Olson arranged for two incoming assistant coaches to be present at the 2008 Arizona Cactus Classic during May 9-11, 2008. The assistant coaches, Mike Dunlap and Russ Pennell, spent time observing games during the event. The university agrees that both Dunlap and Pennell were present at the Cactus Classic in 2008, but that they were there “”during a ‘quiet period’ in the men’s basketball recruiting calendar”” when it was prohibited to evaluate talent.

But the university believes there is not enough evidence to show that Olson “”arranged”” for the coaches to be present at the event.

It does, however, acknowledge that violations of NCAA Bylaws occurred based on the explanations of the date that the “”incoming assistants effectively became the responsibility of the University.””

According to a discussion between interim athletics director Kathleen “”Rocky”” LaRose and Olson, the head coach said the visits of the incoming coaches to the campus were unrelated to the 2008 Cactus Classic. The university said the violations that did occur were minimal.

 • Another allegation was that that former UA assistant coach Jim Rosborough overheard Storey and two UA assistants coaches regarding which teams or players would be at the 2006 Cactus Classic. The UA said that allegation could not be confirmed because, while Storey often talked with assistant coaches, it was not clearly heard by Rosborough. In his interview with investigators, Storey said he made all of his own decisions in choosing whom to invite. Former assistant coaches Josh Pastner and Miles Simon both told investigators they hadn’t specifically instructed Storey to invite certain players.

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