NCAA Comes Down On Arizona (Sort Of)Posted by nvr1983 on July 29th, 2010
Earlier today the NCAA announced that it was increasing the self-imposed sanctions that Arizona had issued itself back in February for violations that involved former Wildcat coach/legend Lute Olson regarding his association with the Cactus Classic, GoAZCats.com Showdown, and potential recruiting during a “quiet period” in the recruiting calendar. At the time, Arizona put itself on two year post-season probation immediately, took away one scholarship for the class of 2011, and reduced the number of visits that recruits could take to Tucson. Today the NCAA added to those penalties by further reducing the number of on-campus visits that recruits could have, taking away one scholarship for the class of 2012, moving back the probation to start today instead of this past February, and vacating the Wildcats’ 2007-08 season for having two ineligible players. Let’s go through the impact of each of these points one by one:
- Reducing the number of recruit visits: This is the one with the most teeth, theoretically. The NCAA reduced the Wildcats’ number of potential visits from their self-imposed limit of eight and 12 (the max) to six and six over the next two years. I am not deep enough into recruiting to know what impact losing two additional visits this year will do to the program, but the combined impact with losing half their visits the following year could put the Wildcats in a hole with recruits and negatively affect their program for the next few years. Still, it just means that Sean Miller and his recruiting team will have to use those visits more selectively.
- Taking away one additional scholarship: Not a huge deal because this would probably be spent on some second- or third-tier recruit or even a former walk-on as a token of appreciation for carrying everyone’s bags and water for three years.
- Moving back the probation: All this means is that the Wildcats will have to be on their best behavior for an extra five months. The Wildcats will not have to deal with a TV or post-season ban, so it is essentially the NCAA taking a meaningless punitive shot by saying that the punishment starts when they say it starts.
- Vacating the Wildcats’ 2007-08 season: Although the NCAA did not say who the two players were, a little detective work suggests that they are Jamelle Horne and Zane Johnson as they were the only Wildcats on that team who played in the 2006 Cactus Classic. While Horne has had a solid if unspectacular three years at Arizona (Johnson transferred to Hawaii after his sophomore year), we will always remember him for his pair of bone-headed decisions as a sophomore against UAB and USC. As Dana O’Neil noted, the new trend towards vacating wins is essentially meaningless unless it takes away a title (looking at you, Pete Carroll) or moves a team/coach down the all-time rankings. This does neither. In fact, in an ironic twist, this gives Olson the opportunity to stab his long-time assistant turned interim successor Kevin O’Neill in the back one more time as the wins are not taken away from Olson, but instead from the acting head coach at the time (O’Neill) even though it was Olson who committed the wrongdoing. As an added bonus (h/t Dauster) we get to ask the following question: if two teams that never existed played a game, did it really happen?
What does all this mean? Essentially a whole lot of nothing (or hot air, if you prefer). The Wildcats lose one more scholarship, a few more recruiting visits, are on double-secret probation for a few more months, and have to put another asterisk behind their 25 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. Given the relatively minor nature of the crime it seems appropriate that the NCAA handed down a relatively minor punishment.