It’s no secret around these parts that Lute Olson has experienced a volatile year since he decided to take a leave of absence from his Arizona Wildcats last November. There were already the rampant rumors that Olson was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, or at minimum, some other undisclosed health issue, accompanied by the not-so-private saga involving a divorce from his second wife, Christine. Throw in the embarassingly open secret that Olson was unhappy with his replacement, Kevin O’Neill, in addition to the loss of several key players either in or coming into the program (Jerryd Bayless, Brandon Jennings, Emmanuel Negedu) and it’s safe to say that the Silver Fox had a stressful year. All that said, Olson has gone on record to exuberantly state that he expects to remain the coach at Arizona at least through his current contract, ending in 2011.
Happier Times for Lute and Christine Olson (photo credit: azstarnet.com)
Well why not? – so long as you intend to wilfully flout the NCAA rulebook in an attempt to get recruits to Tucson. From the AP report:
The University of Arizona has reported a possible NCAA recruiting violation by men’s basketball coach Lute Olson, who called it “an unfortunate and regrettable error.” Athletic director Jim Livengood said Monday that Olson had sent a letter to basketball boosters asking for a donation to Jim Storey’s Arizona Cactus Classic basketball tournament, held last May at Arizona’s McKale Center. NCAA rules prohibit institutional representatives or boosters from arranging financial assistance for potential recruits. “A ‘personal and confidential’ letter was sent to Rebounders Club board of directors over the electronic signature of Lute Olson, requesting that they provide financial assistance to Jim Storey’s Cactus Classic AAU Tournament,” Livengood said in a July 2 letter to Ron Barker, Pac-10 associate commissioner in charge of governance and enforcement. “The letter expressed how important this tournament is to the Arizona basketball program’s recruiting. The letter also stated (correctly) that ‘The athletics department can’t assist in any way.’ Which would include requesting that donors make financial contributions.”
Forget the one-and-dones, Olson has apparently decided that he will simply have his boosters finance players into Tucson. (sidenote: the #2 PG in the class of 2009, Abdul Gaddy, also commited to the Wildcat program today – was he at this camp?).
To be fair, Olson disabused reporters of the notion that he knew anything about this letter, which had an electronic signature on it. Yet numerous poeople within in the program have gone on the record to state that Olson wanted this letter sent out. Some Arizona fans are suggesting this is a setup propagated by the AD, Jim Livengood, who (the assumption goes) wants the powerful Olson out of the picture.
There’s one thing we can remain certain about – the Lute Olson stories are getting exponentially more interesting the older he gets. Stay tuned for more out of the desert.