Hansen's Sunday Notebook: UA president, secret donor think out of the box to keep Big 3

June 08, 2014 12:00 am  • 
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  • The genesis of a sports booster’s $17.68 million stock donation to the University of Arizona originated from the simplest idea: UA president Ann Weaver Hart wanted to ensure athletic director Greg Byrne could not easily be wooed by the highest outside bidder.

    Hart and the anonymous donor began working on the retention plan almost a year ago. Both sensed that the UA’s Big 3 — Byrne, basketball coach Sean Miller, football coach Rich Rodriguez — are in the prime of their career. At Arizona, now is the time.

    Losing any or all of them could cripple the school’s ability to compete effectively in the ambitious Pac-12 and on a national stage.

    The donor insisted on three commendable variables:

    One, this would not make him famous. He would not, like Oregon benefactor Phil Knight, step in front of TV cameras to take a bow and vainly become one of those all-too-familiar powerbrokers visible on too many college campuses.

    Two, the annual yield from his stock package, which is estimated to be about $4 million, would be absorbed by and distributed from the UA Foundation, and not necessarily the athletic department. That $4 million a year can be used at Hart’s discretion for the next eight years. Three, the $17.68 million would not be available to Byrne, Miller or Rodriguez until the 2021-22 school year. In a sense, it would be a remarkably good 401K, or retirement package for those men. I’m not saying that the Byrne-Miller-Rodriguez trio is the best the school has ever had. It would be difficult to surpass the excellence of AD Cedric Dempsey, basketball coach Lute Olson and football coach Dick Tomey from 1985 to 1994.

    But in the Pac-12, it is likely the top three-man crew, or close enough.

    Hart’s ability to raise what could be as much as $50 million from this project, an attempt to secure the school’s athletic future, should be viewed as progressive.It’s not the blatant money-grab Kentucky and Alabama exhibited last week when they combined to pay coaches John Calipari and Nick Saban a cumulative $107 million.

  • Bob Beal was a state championship wrestler from Phoenix Arcadia High School in the early 1960s, arriving at the UA, a walk-on in hopes of becoming a football player.

    By his senior year, 1965, he was given the Bear Down Award as his team’s inspirational leader.

    Beal, 69, died last week in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, while on vacation with his family. The cause of death has not been announced.

    After graduating from the UA Law School, Beal became a Tucson attorney. In his spare time, he began officiating high school football. By 1975, he was hired to referee WAC games. In 1978, he was hired by the Pac-10.

    He officiated the 1989 USC vs. Michigan Rose Bowl game, and was long considered one of the top officials in college football.

    Since retiring from the Pac-12 a few years ago, Beal was a regular at UA scrimmages and practices, volunteering his time to officiate at his old school.

  • After helping Ironwood Ridge to the 2011 state championship softball game, Robin Landrith signed with Baylor, where she has been a key part — 74 career starts — in two seasons with the powerful Lady Bears. In last week’s Women’s College Softball World Series against Kentucky, Landrith hit a two-out double in the seventh inning to force extra innings, a game Baylor won, putting it in the semifinals against eventual national champion Florida. Landrith, whose father, David, a catcher on Arizona’s 1980 national championship team, was a first-team All-Big 12 Academic selection this year. She is spending this summer as an intern at the Kinerk, Schmidt and Sethi law firm in Tucson.

  • The UA is in the process of erecting a memorial to retired senior associate athletic director Rocky LaRose on the Wildcat Walk that adjoins the Click Hall of Champions. It is adjacent to the statues of two Wildcats and a much-deserved honor for the ex-softball player, coach and for three decades part of the athletic administration.

  • Jim Livengood, athletic director at Arizona from 1994 to 2009, was voted into the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Hall of Fame last week. The work Livengood did in 10 years at Washington State, and at Arizona, was exemplary. I thought he did about the best he could, given what he had to work with at Arizona. He left the UA with a balanced budget and with Sean Miller as its basketball coach. Beyond that, he was a good man.

  • Lauren Amos, a former state tennis champ from Salpointe Catholic, helped 10th-ranked Middlebury College to the Division II NCAA tournament but lost in the NCAA regionals after making it to last year’s finals. Amos, who started in singles and doubles, has a 3.6 GPA in economics.

  • Arizona Varsity last week named its top five high school basketball prospects from Tucson in the Class of 2015. Here’s the list: 1, Nate Renfro, Sahuaro, who averaged 11.5 last year; 2, Terrence Johnson, Cienega, who scored 13.9 last season; 3, Deion James, Empire, who averaged 21.1 last season; 4, Dakota Kordsiemon, Catalina Foothills, 10.2; 5, Daren Biggs, Cienega, 9.9.

  • Rincon/University grad Michael Thompson, who finished second in the 2012 U.S. Open, won’t be in the Open field this week at Pinehurst No .2. Thompson shot a 75 in the sectional qualifying last week in Columbus, Ohio, and did not advance. Jeremy DeFalco, an amateur Tucson golfer, shot a 67 in the second round of the U.S. Open sectional qualifying in Memphis last week, a score topped by only two players in a field of 145 players. But DeFalco’s opening 80 cost him a berth in the big field this week.

  • Arizona’s 2011 and 2012 All-American hurdler Georganne Moline, a finalist at the 2012 London Olympics, gave notice that she hopes to be a medal contender at the 2016 Olympics last week. Moline finished second in the Diamond League pro track and field meet in Rome, Italy, running the 400 hurdles in a season-best 54.26 seconds. She plans to compete in the IAAF European circuit all summer.

  • Ex-UA swimmer George DiCarlo won a gold medal in the 400 meter freestyle at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. He was back in Tucson last week, a proud papa, at the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center, as his daughters, Sydney, 14, and McKenna, 12, competed in the Nike Aquatics Camp operated by UA swimming coach Rick DeMont.

  • I had to laugh last week when Arizona Board of Regents member Mark Killian, a politician from Mesa, suggested that Arizona and ASU share their Pac-12 media rights money with NAU. Right. And someday Michigan will share its money with Eastern Michigan and Florida will give a cut of its surplus to Central Florida. That’s the very last thing that will ever happen in college sports. No one looks out for the little guy.

  • When the Los Angeles Dodgers selected Sahuaro outfielder Alex Verdugo with the 62nd overall choice in the MLB draft last week, it changed the pecking order of Tucsonans drafted over the last 30 years. Here’s how it stands: 7, Sammy Khalifa, Sahuaro, 1982; 15, Brian Anderson, CDO, 2003; 46, Chris Duncan, CDO, 1999; 56, J.J. Hardy, Sabino, 2001; 62, Verdugo, 2014; 63, Shelley Duncan, CDO, 2001. Sunnyside and Pima College shortstop Ramon Rosthenhausler was twice drafted in the first round, 1983 and 1984, Nos. 11 and 26 overall, in the old secondary phase.

  • Because the draft process has changed since it had a secondary phase through the 1970s and 1980s, the lists often omit Tucson High shortstop Eddie Leon, who was the No. 9 overall pick, Minnesota, 1965, and Rincon/ASU pitcher Don Hanna, the No. 16 overall pick, Montreal, in 1976.

  • Tucson High and Pima College grad Bryant Muñoz batted second in the lineup and started in left field as Bethune-Cookman won the MEAC baseball championship and advanced to the NCAA regionals in Miami last week. Munoz had two hits as B-C won its first-ever NCAA game, against Columbia. He hit .302 for the season, second best on the club.

  • If you drove by Arizona Stadium Friday and Saturday you saw 44 high school football teams in Rich Rodriguez’s annual 7-on-7 passing tournament/camp. It wasn’t just a bunch of locals, either. St. Bonaventure High of Ventura, California, one of the powerhouses of SoCal prep football, had 15 players and several coaches in Tucson for the RichRod festivities.

  • Rodriguez and his staff won’t go on vacation anytime soon. They have wisely become partners with Glendale Community College’s football team and will hold a camp in Glendale Thursday, with all of Rodriguez’s staff serving as guest instructors for high school players from the greater Phoenix area.

  • Pacers president Larry Bird last week said ex-UA standout Solomon Hill “is going to be valuable for us next year.” As a rookie, Hill did not suit up during the long playoff season and only scored 47 points in the regular season. He was paid $1.25 million and is owed $1.3 million next year. He will be part of the Pacers’ Summer League team.

  • I’m no Diamondbacks fan, far from it, but it was nice to see the D-backs do the right thing Friday night and play host to Jim Mentz’s Division III state baseball champions at Chase Field. Mentz, 11 Palo Verde players and two coaches all wore 517 T-shirts, emblematic of the day the Titans won their first state baseball title.

  • It’s good to see Sean Miller get involved with USA Basketball and the NABC, both of which Lute Olson used to create greater visibility and influence during his Arizona coaching days.

    Miller, who is on the coaching staff for USA Basketball’s Under-18 team this week in Colorado, also accepted a position on the NABC Board of Directors last week, a group that includes Washington’s Lorenzo Romar and Stanford’s Johnny Dawkins.

    I especially liked Miller’s reply when asked if he will be able to use his spot on the U18 team to his recruiting advantage. “It’s too big of an event,” he said, meaning that it would be unscrupulous to go to Colorado thinking of Arizona and not USA Basketball.

    Olson’s career was significantly boosted when he became head coach of the Jones Cup team in 1984, which he led to a gold medal in Asia. The Jones Cup is now essentially the U19 USA team.

    That led Olson to become head coach of the USA World Championship team in 1986, which won the gold medal, beating heavily favored Russia, in Madrid, Spain.

    Had not Georgetown coach John Thompson so stubbornly chosen an uneven roster for the 1988 Olympic team, leaving it without perimeter shooters, — blowing the Olympics altogether, and settling for a bronze medal, — I still think Olson would’ve been the Olympic coach in 1992.

    He was next in the pecking order.

    But after Thompson’s ’88 team flamed out, USA Basketball went to the Dream Team format, with NBA stars, and Olson was denied his chance on the biggest international stage.

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