Weirdness Continues in Arizona

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Just as it had seemed everything had been settling down with normalcy returning, comes a secondary recruiting violation for Arizona.

UA on July 2 reported an apparent violation of NCAA rules regarding soliciting donations, said Athletic Director Jim Livengood in a statement Monday afternoon.

A letter was sent this spring to the Rebounders Club board of directors from Olson's office encouraging them to donate to an amateur basketball exhibition tournament at UA, according to Livengood's report.

The letter was printed over Olson's electronic signature and went out marked "personal and confidential," according to the report Livengood sent to Ron Barker, the associate commissioner of the Pac-10 conference.
The letter, which referred to the Arizona Cactus Classic, read in part: "This tournament brings some of the to players in the country to Tucson and is very critical for our recruiting. ... To ensure the future of this tournament, Jim (Storey) needs support from private donations."

Storey runs the Cactus Classic.

Olson "adamantly denied" knowledge of the letter being sent and later sent a retraction, Livengood reported.

In that letter to the Rebounders, which is not dated, Olson wrote, "A letter was sent from the basketball office under my electronic signature which I had never seen or approved in any way because it was a clear cut violation of NCAA rules."

It's a minor violation. Arizona self-reported it almost immediately and it won't have any noticeable impact on Arizona basketball. That needs to be stressed. But...

It really becomes a question of how did this happen?

Olson's in full denial of knowledge or culpability. I'm inclined to believe him since his record in this sort of thing is very clean. It's such an obvious violation of NCAA rules with recruiting. Institutions or their representatives are not permitted to solicit or arrange financial support or for paying the way for recruits or potential recruits.

At the same time, was there really someone in the athletic department at Arizona who was really that stupid? That they would either knowingly break the rules or not be aware of them, and would have the access to and use Lute Olson's name and electronic signature to do it. That also seems a little on the strange side.

Seriously, there is something really messed up at Arizona's Athletic Department. Especially with the men's basketball. Everything had finally settled down it seemed after more than a year of shake-ups with the assistant coaches, Lute Olson taking a year off, a messy and public divorce for Olson, successor named, reversed. Acrimonious dismissals and denials. Commits not qualifying or maybe qualifying and then choosing to play overseas for a year.

Again, this is a relatively minor recruiting violation. In that respect, it shouldn't be treated as a big deal. When taken in the totality of everything from the past 18 months or so, it is just another item that makes you wonder whether Lute Olson is still dealing with things and/or that the Arizona Athletic Department has some major problems.

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