Arizona will be forced to vacate all 19 wins from its 2007-08 season, as well as eliminate another scholarship in 2012-13, after the NCAA Committee on Infractions issued additional penalities in the Wildcats’ case today.
However, the Wildcats were spared any postseason or television bans, the two penalties that can cause the most damage.
In all, most of Arizona’s self-sanctions announced in February were added to. UA had proposed losing a scholarship only for the 2011-12 season and fewer recruiting restrictions than the NCAA ultimately imposed.
"We take very seriously the self-imposed sanctions and you balance that with the seriousness of the case," said Paul Dee, chairman of the NCAA’s infractions committee. "I’d have to say we’re pleased to say they self-imposed what they did but we went further."
UA officials are expected to comment via news release this afternoon. UA athletic director Greg Byrne and senior associate AD Rocky LaRose are on vacation, while UA basketball coach Sean Miller is out of town recruiting.
The case centered around the Arizona Cactus Classic, an independent recruiting event from 2006 to 2008 organized by the then-publisher of recruiting website goazcats.com. Among the allegations was whether former UA coach Lute Olson impermissibly aided the event’s finances by soliciting booster support.
UA responded to the NCAA last February by quoting Olson’s doctor speaking of Olson’s depression and health issues, noting that Olson also could not comply with the investigation as a result.
But the NCAA ruled today that Olson was a long-time coach with many years of NCAA rules education and that Olson did not check with UA’s compliance office to see if his contact with the Arizona Cactus Classic promoter posed a problem.
Asked whether Olson’s health ultimately lessened the NCAA’s decision, Dee said "I can’t say that his condition did not come into play."
The NCAA determined that two UA players were ineligible during the 2007-08 season, because they accepted impermissible benefits during the 2006 Arizona Cactus Classic, and therefore the Wildcats’ wins they competed in will be vacated from UA records. Vacated wins do not give opponents a victory, however, and only are taken away from the winner.
The NCAA report did not specify which two players received the benefits in 2006, but the only two active UA players from the 2007-08 season who did participate in the 2006 Cactus Classic were Jamelle Horne and Zane Johnson.
Horne played in 26 of the 34 games, and all but one of the victories (at Houston on Jan., 12, 2008) and Johnson played in 15. Johnson played two minutes in the Houston game, meaning that game must also be vacated.
In addition, Dee said that the statistics for the two ineligible players must also be vacated. Horne, then a freshman, averaged 3.0 points and 2.7 rebounds though Johnson played just 74 minutes in 15 games.
The wins that season also must be taken away from the head coach, Dee added.
However, Kevin O’Neill was the interim head coach that season, not Lute Olson.
The NCAA also said UA must take away an additional scholarship for 2012-13 — UA had self-sanctioned a scholarship loss only in 2011-12 – and reduce official visits to six from the maximum of 12. UA had said it would reduce visits to 11 in 2009-10 and to eight in 2010-11.
The NCAA's original Notice of Allegations made six claims:
— Olson encouraged UA boosters and Rebounders club members to donate money to Storey's tournaments, and that money was used for food, lodging and housing for athletes.
— Olson had future assistant coaches Mike Dunlap and Russ Pennell attend the 2008 Cactus Classic.
— Former assistant Miles Simon initially refused an NCAA interview before eventually meeting with the organization.
— Olson lied when asked by UA compliance officer Bill Morgan if he wrote a letter asking for funds.
— Olson failed to monitor his program's compliance.
— Arizona didn't monitor the basketball program's involvement in the events. Storey paid a portion of high schoolers' lodging, meals and local transportation with Rebounders money.
The self-sanctions UA initially self-imposed were:
1 — Two years' probation beginning Feb. 5, 2010, when UA submitted its
official response to the NCAA allegations.
2 — Reducing official recruiting visits from the maximum of 12 to 11 in
2009-10 and to eight for 2010-11. (The UA said the higher number in 2009-10
reflects the number already used at the time of their response).
3 — Reducing recruiting "person-days" from the maximum of 130 to 120 in 2009-10 and to 110 in 2010-11.
4 — Reducing recruiting person-days from 60 to 52 this July.
5 — Reducing scholarships from the maximum of 13 to 12 for 2011-12.
6 — Institutional recertification that the UA's current policies and
practices conform to NCAA requirements.